By: Chris Sampson, Director of University Communication
360° Temperature Check
Six months in, new brand finds success promoting traditional UW-Green Bay strengths
The University of Wisconsin’s 360° of Learning branding initiative appears to be heating up. Heading out on a steady course. Off to an all-around promising start.
Forgive the metaphor mash-up, but when you pair the number 360 and the word “degrees” it is hard to resist.
The new phrase can suggest charting a course in the compass and navigational sense. It can describe a full pirouette to take in all that is around you. It can suggest being surrounded (by all things good and educational, of course). It can also be heard as temperature, although it would have taken an entire week of Green Bay weather this chilly spring to reach 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
Don McCartney, a veteran faculty member in the Austin E. Cofrin School of Business and a respected consultant and teacher of marketing, says it can be any or all of the above, and that’s good.
“Brand language needs to be repeated time after time to gain recognition, but then the risk becomes that your target market tunes it out as it becomes familiar,” says McCartney. “The fact that 360° lends itself to variation is a positive. You’re saying the same thing, but keeping it fresh.”
He describes himself as a fan — “360° of Learning is a great brand because it explains interdisciplinarity” — and says the University followed a solid process in conducting research and reaching out to various constituencies.
“It was important as an institution that we do this,” McCartney adds. “Some might have wondered why — ‘We’re UW-Green Bay… Isn’t that our brand?’ — but with all the competition today, that no longer works. I’m not sure parents and families and students knew what we stood for. Or maybe they associated us with ‘Eco U’ even though they wanted to major in accounting. It will take time, but the new brand is a step in the right direction.”
360° of Learning in action
Visit UW-Green Bay and you’ll see 360° promotional pennants hanging from light standards along the main entrance roads. Inside the academic buildings are the usual array of signage and event posters, even rugs that (in the Outreach offices) that feature references to 360° of this or 360° of that. University publications, recruiting material, web pages and this magazine carry the new brand’s graphic signatures.
When the brand debuted just before Thanksgiving, the Cofrin Library launched an online effort to get 360 UWGB students, faculty, staff and alumni to share their favorites in a “360° of Books” promotion. Adult Degree jumped in with a “360° of Perspective” gallery of submitted images reflecting all-around learning. The Kress Events Center promoted a “360° of Fitness” campaign.
The academic program in Music immediately organized a new concert series, 360° Thursdays, that coupled performances and dialogue. The idea was to engage campus and community audiences with new perspectives on musical styles, history and meaning.
In the College of Professional Studies, Dean Sue Mattison says 360° of Learning is best exemplified by the fact students traditionally have been surrounded by learning opportunities on campus and in the community.
“All of the programs in Professional Studies embody 360° in this way,” she says. “The programs and the people in them have close relationships with the community, however we may define community.”
Education faculty, pre-service teachers and graduate students connect with local schools and educators, Mattison notes. Social Work faculty members interact with social service providers in the community, while their students provide more than 40,000 hours of unpaid internships across a range of organizations. Faculty members in the Nursing program work with their educational counterparts across the UW System as well as with multiple clinical sites, and students complete clinical time in various health care settings. In the Cofrin School of Business, faculty members create numerous connections with community business partners, and student internships are popular. The NEW Partnership provides training for social workers and foster parents, and the Institute for Learning Partnership provides professional development for teachers with a goal of enhancing student learning.
Praise, and skepticism
Scott Furlong, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, believes most faculty members tend to feel the 360 ° of Learning brand rings true, that they can work with it. That’s his personal view, too.
“I can envision a commercial with a student at the center with supportive faculty and staff in every direction, each offering something different or from a slightly different perspective,” Furlong says. “And I also think it can convey effectively that we put problems at the center. For me, it works.”
For others… well… college faculty members can be doggedly independent.
“There are always people who don’t want to be branded,” Furlong says. “They simply don’t think it’s possible to reduce all we do in a four-year education to a pithy four-word phrase.”
Some have told him the metaphor doesn’t work because 360° can also suggest “going around in circles,” or that you’re winding up right back at your starting point.
According to Sue Bodilly, the University’s director of marketing, that’s OK. Some of these late adapters (or never adapters, perhaps) are individuals who are nonetheless committed to UW-Green Bay’s special mission. They remain enthusiastic about the institution’s academic cornerstones of problem-focused learning and interdisciplinary education.
They’re carrying out the essence of the brand, and always have — even if the only time they might say “360” is if they’re describing a car spin on an icy road.
“On balance, the reception has been very good,” Bodilly says. “People seemed to appreciate that this would be a better way to describe what UW-Green Bay is all about. It also helped that the 60-second video and first TV spots were engaging, high-energy and, ultimately, award-winning.
“You’re always going to have people who will sign on immediately to a new tag line or brand language, especially if they believe it can better market their programs. Others are going to hang back.”
Admissions staff optimistic
Pam Harvey-Jacobs and Jennifer Jones are full-out supporters. They say they are delighted that UW-Green Bay finally has a brand promise that is sharpened by market research, shaped by self-analysis of what the University does best and can consistently deliver, and comes wrapped in an appealing package.
Harvey-Jacobs is the University’s longtime director of admissions. Jones, the assistant director, supervises the advisers, Student Ambassadors and tour guides who are front line in introducing prospects and their families to UW-Green Bay.
“We’ve waited for this for a very long time,” says Harvey-Jacobs. “This has always been a great place, but it wasn’t easy to describe the advantages of our academic approach here in a succinct and consistent way.”
Jones, like Harvey-Jacobs a UW-Green Bay graduate herself, leaves no doubt she loves interdisciplinarity in practice. But the word?
“It always felt clunky — the word itself was clunky — especially with the first-generation students and families that have always been at least half our target audience,” Jones says. “360° gives us a much better platform to start the conversation. We’re seeing that already.”
Harvey-Jacobs says the best way to describe problem-focused, interdisciplinary education has always been to relate examples of individual student success stories and the projects, research and study tracks they might not have experienced elsewhere, at least as undergraduates. She’ll still share those examples, but believes they’ll have more impact and will better hang together on the 360° of Learning hook.
“That message is going to resonate,” Harvey-Jacobs says. “It will benefit from going through a few recruiting cycles and getting more families and school counselors familiar with it.”
Adds Jones, “It used to be that if you asked 100 different people who work here what’s special about the University, you might get 100 different answers. Now, I believe, the faculty and staff and those who already believe in UW-Green Bay are going to be that much more effective if they’re relating these common strengths in the same way.”