Western Washington UniversityCommunications and Marketing
DATE: January 26, 2011 12:12:11 PM PST
Western Creates a Clearer Focus on its Identity

Contact: Steve Swan, vice president, Office of University Relations, (360) 650-3482

BELLINGHAM – As higher education continues to undergo significant change, Western Washington University has been engaged in work to better position itself to consistently communicate Western’s image and strengths with prospective and current students, parents and other stakeholders.

“Western has changed in remarkable ways over the past decade, but some still identify us as the university we used to be many years ago. This positioning effort will help people better understand what Western is all about today,” said Western President Bruce Shepard. “Effectively telling our story means critically understanding just what it is that we are, and are especially good at. This has a critical connection to a pressing issue: having the resource base to continue to do what we do so well. And competition for limited resources will continue to intensify.”

A goal of Western’s new marketing strategy is to increase the overlap between how Western’s campus community perceives itself and how others see the university. After extensive research, an overall marketing strategy was developed that emphasizes the university’s strengths – Inviting, Engaging, Adventurous, Collaborative and Distinctive. A new tagline, “Active Minds Changing Lives” and a new University logo were influenced by what was learned through research and the identification of its character strengths.

“This enhanced image can translate into many benefits for Western, including in the areas of enrollment, fund-raising, stronger partnership with the Legislature, recruitment of faculty and even the ability of our graduates to get jobs,” said Steve Swan, vice president for University Relations, who led the new marketing effort for Western.

The new positioning initiative has been ongoing since the arrival of President Shepard in 2008. It started with listening sessions with members of the campus community, followed by the 100 Community Conversations held with stakeholders across the state, region and country.

For many years the University had been working on marketing but those efforts have tended to be small and narrowly focused by individual offices or departments. The listening sessions, 100 Community Conversations and subsequent research revealed a strong need for consistent and integrated overall marketing and images for the University.

With this feedback, Western then partnered with Lyric Inc. of Seattle to further help research and re-imagine a new positioning for the university. Western brought together a Project Leadership Team comprised of students, faculty, staff and off-campus representatives.  Surveys of university stakeholders, including prospective and current students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters, were then used to help identify and verify Western’s core characteristics, and develop a new tagline and logo.

During research, Western’s strong sense of place­ – its beautiful location near the Cascades and beside Bellingham Bay and the Puget Sound – was a primary quality about Western that inspired prospective students and others. As such, the abstract logo design – by Western student Branson Anderson – captures Western’s unique sense of place: the soaring beauty of Mount Baker and the waves of nearby waters.

This marketing initiative is being funded with non-state (or taxpayer) appropriated resources.       

John Thompson, manager of marketing and assistant director in Western’s Office of University Communications, will oversee the phased-in implementation of the new marketing efforts. A website has been developed to assist campus users in consistent use of the new logo, the new tagline and visual applications such as color and graphics. A new Western Brand Guide will provide direction for appropriate use of Western’s new brand. As the new images are phased in across campus, university offices are being urged to first use up existing stocks of stationary and other print materials, as a cost-saving measure, before transitioning to the new logo and other new graphic elements.

For more information, please visit http://www.wwu.edu/identity/.

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