Cottey's New Brand

by Stephen Dill
Special Assistant to the President for Marketing

What is a brand?
The brand of a company, team, organization, or country is the impression that organization wants people to have when they hear the company name, see its logo, or experience its products, services, or culture. That brand impression can be factual as well as emotional. Over time, the brand becomes associated with brand attributes of credibility, quality, value, and customer satisfaction.

Brands change to appeal to new generations or to reflect new directions for the company it represents. Brand can be expressed in imagery, language, a slogan, colors, fonts, and sounds.

Why the new Cottey brand?
When Dr. Jann Weitzel assumed the role as president of Cottey College she heard over and over that the institution was a “best-kept secret.” She didn’t want Cottey to be a secret – the time had come to let the world know about this remarkable institution.

The design firm of Geile/Leon in St. Louis was commissioned to design a new brand for Cottey. They began by conducting extensive interviews with faculty, staff, students, and alumnae to understand what Cottey meant to them. After distilling those notes, a brand architecture was crafted that positioned the brand, defined the brand attributes, declared the brand promise, and provided the key talking points to describe the brand to others.

The challenge was then to translate the brand architecture into a logo and slogan, something that over time would be associated with the college and the experience of attending the college. Recognizing the use of the double C for Cottey College, two Cs were connected to suggest strength and confidence. The tagline “Creators of Incredible Futures” was identified as best representing the perceptions of the many who were interviewed. Around those two foundations of the brand the visual elements (images, image treatment, colors, and fonts) were decided next and the entire ensemble was presented in a brand guidelines book. 

What does it look like?
Every brand wants positive brand recognition, usually triggered by a visual or verbal clue. So Geile/Leon designed a visual system to help Cottey stand out in a field of similar colleges, as well as to be memorable every time it was seen. From the brand guidelines: “The powerful portraits highlight the strong women of Cottey. They are confident and sure of their future. The clean backgrounds and bold colors demand your attention. The portraits should feature authentic and unique students or faculty.”

These portraits are used primarily in what Cottey Marketing calls “first-touch scenarios.” The strong, saturated colors extending across covers of collateral are bound to look different than most other materials that may arrive in the mail or be picked up at college fairs. When habits are interrupted, the brain comes alive to question why. In that short interval before the prospect goes back into routine and instinct, we have an opportunity to make an impression – a brand impression.

If they dig deep, they learn more and begin the journey of discovery. If nothing more than the initial thought, “What is this?” we have made an impression. With enough of those impressions being neutral or positive, the prospect’s memory of Cottey is a positive one and they are going to be more open to considering Cottey when the name comes up again in the context of where to go to college.

Once a student arrives on campus, she joins the staff, faculty, alumnae and supporters of Cottey in seeing the “insider’s view” of the brand. This view is not about interruption as much as it is about conveying the spirit of the community, the look of the campus, and the energy of the people of Cottey. Messages to inside audiences really only need to remind people of the brand; the simple use of the logo or images can be enough to recognize the campus.

How to support the brand?
The single most important way to support the brand is to remove from circulation any lingering elements that were used before the new brand was launched. Any old materials, slogans, or images can confuse the person becoming aware of Cottey College for the first time.

The second most effective way to support the brand is to remember the concept of “first touch” and “insider.” For so many who are considering Cottey, their exposure is sporadic and sometimes unexpected. Until they are in seats taking classes we want them to have a consistent experience of a few rich colors, women looking confidently toward their incredible futures, and hearing a relatively narrow selection of phrases to describe what we offer.

Of course, wearing one of the new Cottey shirts would inspire some questions – pick one up next time you are in the Bookstore. And to most questions, suggesting that they visit cottey.edu is a safe way to get their questions answered. Finally, telling your Cottey truth is a powerful way to support the brand. The passionate telling of your own story and how Cottey influenced it goes well beyond the influence of images, colors, logo, and tagline.

Learn more about Cottey's brand identity by clicking here.

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