Participants in the afternoon content and design tracks of the IU brand orientation workshops took on a difficult task: promoting a new IU school. OK, it was the fictitious IU School of Architecture; nevertheless, the exercise served as an effective test of our visual and messaging brand guidelines. The results far exceeded our expectations. IU Communications learned a lot from seeing IU communicators and marketers apply the guidelines outlined in the brand book and website, and participants picked up some great strategies for branding their work while promoting their unit’s unique qualities.
In groups of four or five, participants in both tracks worked on a marketing piece for the new school based on one of 10 prompts, which included a web landing page for an ad campaign recruiting master’s students and a specialty item to give away on campus to raise awareness of the school.
This is what happened in the content track.
Groups were instructed to: choose a promise, choose tone attributes based on the IU brand voice, choose a call to action, write a headline, write headings, and write or at least outline body copy. They assembled their work with graph paper and Post-its.
What we talked about
The conversations we had during the exercise answered several key questions. “Do I have to use a promise as my headline?” No! In fact, we recommend that you use the promises for inspiration rather than including them word for word. “Should I pick a promise that best captures my campus or unit?” Not necessarily. We suggest that you choose a promise based on the specific project you are working on. The promise you choose for a view book will likely not be the one you choose to communicate with alumni.
Review messaging strategies in your brand book or on the IU Brand website.
There were a total of 30 groups from the three workshops. Groups chose seven of the 15 brand promises to work with:
- Something bigger than yourself
- A brighter future for all
- An environment of endless curiosity
- A legacy of strength
- Degrees for dreamers, doers, and leaders
- Helping Indiana thrive
- A culture of perpetual discovery
Participants came up with project-specific tone attributes based on the IU voice, whose attributes remain consistent. Tone attributes ranged from “inspiring, confident/reliable” (for an invitation to a fundraising event) and “career-minded, fun, competitive” (for a postcard recruiting new undergraduates) to “Informal, aspirational, visionary, trail-blazing” (cover concept and one spread for an undergraduate view book).
Headlines included “Discover the future of sustainability” (for a bus ad), “Let’s build a future together” (magazine ad targeting prospective undergraduate and graduate students), and “The blueprint for your imagination” (a welcome-week flier for an informational session targeting new students).
Learn more about structuring content.
Seeing how groups with the same prompt used different promises to emphasize particular features of the new school was particularly gratifying. As one participant put it:
This was an almost visceral demonstration of how flexible the promises are.
The same holds for the variations on tone based on the IU brand voice.
With this exercise under their belts, participants left the workshops well prepared to put the brand to work in their marketing and communications efforts. We came home assured that the brand guidelines work, and with lots of ideas for additional resources to help us all bring the IU brand to life.