Branding firm 160over90 aims to raise Kent State pride

Christina Godfrey

160over90, a Philadelphia-based branding agency, has started to conduct focus groups on campus to begin the process of forming a cohesive vision for Kent State.

The firm, responsible for the images of Ferrari North America, American Eagle Outfitters and the Philadelphia Eagles, will help develop a draft of the university’s new vision, said Kent State President Beverly Warren.

“For us to do it internally, sometimes you are blinded by some of the features of who you are and who you could be,” Warren said. 

She said the university contracted the branding agency to be an unbiased third party to help develop a draft of Kent’s new vision in collaboration with the Strategic Visioning Advisory Committee, which will lead Kent State’s branding effort. 

“We need to develop a suit that is going to fit for Kent State,” said John Campanella, Chief Strategy Officer and Principal at 160over90 who presented about his company with two of his colleagues at the Board of Trustees meeting March 11. “You have the stories. It’s just a matter of putting the right platform to get the stories out.”

Campanella said the firm and his two colleagues are in the environmental assessment stage of the branding process, conducting research about Kent State and discovering the big picture of the university. 

He said this is to develop a mission statement so all those affiliated with Kent State — from professors to athletic personnel to students and the administration — can identify with one vision and the Kent State experience.

Warren said hiring outside of the university instead of using Kent’s own resources was a conscious decision.

The Strategic Visioning Advisory Committee, or SVAC, is Warren’s self-appointed committee consisting of a diverse group of faculty, staff, students and administrators, led by co-chairs Charlene Reed and Melody Tankersley.

Warren said the first step in understanding Kent State as the new president was her Presidential Listening Tour, which helped illustrate the positives, necessary improvements and the future of the university. 

Over the course of the Listening Tour, Warren said she repeatedly heard Kent is the best-kept secret, and although the university is known for many great programs individually, the aim is to be marketed collectively as a successful university.

“The fact that we have so many excellent programs here…we know many good things: Fashion does a great job of saying how great they are, and they are; aeronautics does the same thing and architecture,” Warren said. “But if we said what’s Kent State, I don’t think we tell that story well.”

After 160over90 conducts research at all eight of Kent State’s campuses, they’ll return to SVAC who will “validate (those findings) from their perspective,” Warren said.

“I think it’s the external validation that’s really important than just relying on our own thoughts,” Warren said.

Warren said the goal is to have a drafted vision and a set of priorities to focus on by May 2015 and an unveiling of the official narrative as early as September.

“Hopefully by September, we’re starting to launch this idea, so that all of us would be telling this story — because it’s what 160over90 heard, what I heard over and over — but we’ve got to tell all of that in one cogent way,” Warren said.

Contact Christina Godfrey at [email protected].