Branding campaign aims for national audience

President Beverly Warren speaks to a large crowd at the university rebranding event on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. Last year, Kent State unveiled “Undeniably Kent State” as the brand name, but this will soon change to “On With Purpose.”

Karl Schneider

Kent State launched their $2.3 million branding campaign Monday with a two-minute anthem video. The video marks the brand’s first effort in a three-year contract with marketing agency 160over90.

The launch party at the Student Center ballroom attracted more than 1,100 students. So many students that the fire marshal was called into the building, according to President Beverly Warren.

The branding effort will move to an external launch on Feb. 7 with a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl, according to Rebecca Murphy, vice president of University Relations. While the ad will not run nationally, it will air in the Cleveland and Erie, Pennsylvania areas.

“(The) brand is really about telling the Kent State story and telling it in a compelling way,” Warren said. “That would really help us attract talent to this university.”

Ideas for the new brand began 18 months ago when Warren started her listening tour at Kent State.

“What I heard most of all through all of that listening tour was the fact that we really have that great sense of community,” Warren said. “People describe Kent State as a place that feels like home.”

Warren said that most people know of Kent State through the May 4 protests, but wanted the new brand to focus on academics.

“People want more of the world to know more about the data points about all of the academic excellence and quality of life here at Kent State,” Warren said. “Once I heard that, over my first 12 months, it seemed the natural progression to then try and address that. To communicate that sense of community in a bold, broad way.”

Kent State is “scaling up (advertising) in core markets,” Warren said. The new brand will also extend to new markets in South Carolina.

“We worked closely with our admission folks. They do a lot of analysis on where the inquiries were coming from and where potential student may be,” Murphy said. “They definitely saw a great opportunity in the Carolinas and they now have a person doing some work on the ground recruiting in the Carolinas as well.”

The new brand is also geared to garner attention for incoming faculty.

“My assessment was (that) we were doing remarkable work in the area of student recruitment,” Warren said. “And we were doing less intentional and intensive work in the recruitment of faculty and the telling of our story around the excellence in our academic programs and the research excellence we see.”

The university bumped up its advertising budget from the previous 2009-2015 campaign of $1 million. The new contract of $2.3 million will be spread throughout the next three years.

Karl Schneider is an administration reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].