FLORENCE – Companies have used branding for many years to sell products or services. That concept has now breached the walls of higher education as universities across the country adopt image campaigns as a way of making themselves more visible in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Francis Marion University is no exception, rolling out its brand this month under the banner “FMU: Join the Revolution.”
The tag line, accompanied by a photograph of a bust of Revolutionary War hero General Francis Marion for which the university received its name, will be displayed on FMU publications and any print and electronic releases.
“Our brand is an expression of our unique personality – our traditions, history, culture, values, mission and aspirations,” said FMU President Fred Carter. “It is the collection of words and symbols we want people to experience when they think of Francis Marion University.”
When Kathy Andrews, joined the FMU staff as marketing director one year ago, she said the university image was undefined because each college and department used its own logos and marks.
"We had more than 15 different logos university-wide," said Andrews. “We were struggling with too many identities, which created a lack of one, strong university identity."
The first step taken by the FMU public affairs department was to develop a university logo that represented the university’s pride in its past, the progress it’s made up to the present and the promise of its future.
“The new brand is so deeply rooted in our history – we reached back to our origins, our namesake– that in some very important ways, it really isn’t new at all,” Andrews said. “The words and graphics that comprise our brand feel familiar and comfortable, but they are also fresh and inviting.”
To establish a strong, unified brand, FMU is also beginning to phase out other campus, college and program logos and marks. Only through this consistency will the university be able to establish the brand of Francis Marion University to people both nationally and throughout the state, Andrews said. Graphic guidelines were also developed that address how to uphold the desired image and recognition through correspondence, Web sites, brochures and signage.
Libby Cooper, vice president for public and community affairs, said the brand ties FMU together with a common purpose and identity and sets it apart from other universities, creates awareness and establishes relevance with those it serves.
"Our brand identity helps shape every decision we make at Francis Marion," said Libby Cooper, vice president for public and community affairs. "It should be the guiding force for what we do, what we say, and how we say it."
To further promote the new image, the FMU public affairs department has created image and billboard ads that are eye-catching and a bit edgier than a typical ad for higher education.
"We will continue to look for opportunities to build our university's image," said Cooper. "Image impacts everything we do, including university recruitment, retention, future donations, enrollment, and alumni participation.”
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