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Strategic Plan Update: Building a Base for Our Brand

The Office of Communications and Marketing is delving deeper into a brand analysis, aimed at determining College identity and direction and development of a consistent visual identity.

Geneseo is continuing to implement the highest priority (Phase I) action items that were identified in the Geneseo 2021 Strategic Plan. Out of a pool of $1 million dollars identified to advance those items, $350,000 was directed to time-sensitive student recruitment efforts. Last September, project leaders in charge of seven other action items shared proposals during a campus forum to secure funding available from the remaining $650,000 fund balance. Based on recommendations from the Budget Priorities Committee, made in consultation with the Strategic Planning Group, President Battles allocated various amounts across all seven action items. In the coming weeks, One College Circle will update each funded area.

Building a Base for Our Brand ($25,000)

A key focus in Geneseo’s strategic plan centers on resilience and sustainability. Accordingly, the Office of College Communications and Marketing is charged with continuously assessing and addressing the external world and key audiences’ perceptions of the College. Central to this work is enhancing the profile and public awareness of Geneseo — not only by telling the Geneseo story through news media and communication channels—but doing so through consistent messaging, identity and communication design, and execution. To that end, the College is now delving deeper into a brand analysis which will be a “two-pronged approach,” according to Gail Glover, chief communications and marketing officer.

“At the very core of any of our story-telling is to truly know ourselves—what we stand for, or our brand reputation—and how we visually represent ourselves, our brand image,” Glover noted.

On one track, supported by the $25,000 funding investment through the strategic plan implementation process, a brand reputation study is being conducted involving a small team that includes Glover and Jeff Gutenberg, associate professor of management, who teaches marketing in the School of Business; Julie Rao, director of institutional research; and Brian Bennett, director of strategic initiatives.

According to Glover, the aim is to “develop an understanding of who we are and where we see ourselves going as an institution.” The project involves conducting an audit of surveys — including drawing responses from the recent Geneseo Employee Opinion survey, student opinion and outcomes surveys, prospective student and family perception data, and other pertinent statistics and information, and assessing findings to get a better sense of the Geneseo community and its collective vision for the future.

In further support of this analysis, Gutenberg — past president of the Rochester chapter of the American Marketing Association — has engaged his students in research studies specific to this initiative. He has assigned a team of students from his MKTG 331 —Market Research course—Supriya Juneja ‘18, Deborah Bawe ‘18, and Brenna Kunzler ‘18—to develop a brand reputation survey that under Gutenberg’s guidance is currently being tested with the idea of sharing with the broader Geneseo community.  

“Our findings will help determine information “gaps” and identify common themes that we can incorporate into a brand ‘architecture’ or messaging that can be used across all of our platforms to better articulate the distinctiveness of the College,” said Glover.  

The other track—which is closely connected to the reputation project—will focus on the College’s visual identity and is being funded separately through Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) and the College’s licensing program. This track involves taking a closer look at the current Geneseo wordmark and possibly adding some form of distinctive element that would better reflect a range of Geneseo attributes including the College’s sense of tradition, culture, prestige, and the association as a “public ivy.” Guided by the College’s in-house creative talent under Bennett, a team, which includes Mark Scott, executive director of CAS, Gutenberg and Rao, has engaged SME, a national branding firm, to provide concept support, design consultation, best practices and market research on possible concepts.

According to Bennett, an enhanced wordmark will 1) serve as a catalyst for creating consistency and versatility across the entire SUNY Geneseo brand identity architecture and, 2) strengthen the current visual identity so that it fully reflects the values and standing of the institution.

"We have worked very hard to ensure that SME utilized our own internal research and design prototypes in terms of what content and design could work as an icon to combine with the logo/wordmark,” said Bennett. “And over the past few months in conjunction with SME, we have collectively worked on and begun testing versions that we believe clearly represent and reflect Geneseo. We are really looking forward to sharing those concepts with the campus community in the coming months."

The brand image team is also drawing upon Gutenberg’s research students for this project. Megan Avenia ‘18, Nicole Boyle ‘19, and Amanda Delle Donne ‘18 developed a review survey that they have begun to share with peers. The review will also be shared more broadly with the campus community.  The brand image team will hold focus groups lead by SME on campus May 2 and 3 to share concepts and gain feedback that will guide the final design.

When finalized, the evolved logo will then be included in the College’s brand style-guide and incorporated across Geneseo’s various platforms, including the website, brochures, marketing materials, videos, social media, PowerPoint templates, and advertising.

What the students had to say:

"I was drawn to the brand image project because of its permanence. The evolved logo will be something that represents Geneseo as an academic institution, as well as the generations of students who have made this place their home. I will always look back fondly on my time at Geneseo and am thrilled to have taken part in a project that will help emblematize the school I love." - Amanda Delle Donne ‘18

"I was interested in pursuing this research due to the lasting effects it would have on the College. It was exciting to know that the data we gather now will have a real impact on the image that represents SUNY Geneseo for years to come."  - Megan Avenia ‘18

"This project allowed us to implement what we have learned in the classroom, into the real world. It gave us a new view and appreciation of marketing research and the necessity of it. Being able to work with the Office of Communications and Marketing is such a great experience as college students. We are gaining real-world business and marketing knowledge that will undoubtedly help us in our futures. We also wanted to be a part of this uniquely Geneseo project and hopefully, to be a part of College history! I have a new appreciation for marketing research from assisting in this project. It is clear how vital marketing research is to the success of a business, an office, or a brand." - Nicole Boyle ‘19

“The brand reputation project really allowed me to get a glimpse of what exactly students, faculty and staff think about Geneseo in a more abstract way. A section of the survey we developed used images. And since each respondent has had their own unique experience at Geneseo, it reflected in the images they chose. Yet they all seemed to gravitate to the pictures of community and growth, which I believe, in itself, speaks volumes about Geneseo's brand.” - Supriya Juneja ‘18

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SUNY Geneseo
Office of Communications & Marketing
(585) 245-5516