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Identity and Brand Strategy Initiative

Frequently Asked Questions

Published April 15, 2015

The University at Buffalo has embarked on a very important initiative to identify the distinctive strengths of the university and build a comprehensive identity and brand campaign upon those strengths.  In a very competitive marketplace, this initiative will advance the reputation and brand position of the university by highlighting the talents and achievements of our faculty, students and alumni.

Why is the university undergoing an identity and brand strategy initiative?

Higher education is undergoing significant change. Societal trends, shifts in funding priorities and emerging technologies are creating increased competition for the best students, for top faculty, for funding, for leadership and for reputation. Against this backdrop, branding and identity are increasingly important.

These environmental shifts require that UB differentiate itself from other institutions. It’s critical for the university to tell its story in a way that not only establishes distinction but also inspires.  

The successful development and implementation of an identity and brand strategy will clearly articulate UB’s differentiated meaning and promise, and will catalyze the university’s reputation—a reputation that is built on a strong foundation of academic excellence—research and scholarly distinction, transformative student experiences and engaging public service. 

What are the goals of this identity and brand strategy initiative?

The primary objective is to establish a distinctive, compelling and relevant position in the minds of our university stakeholders and key publics.   We will accomplish this by defining the university’s strategic identity:  who we are, what we do and why it matters. 

How will we know that this initiative is successful?

Implementing a successful identity and brand strategy will produce several benefits to the university.  These include:

  • A demonstrable, strengthened university reputation,
  • Heightened pride and engagement with the university among students, faculty, staff and alumni,
  • Increased interest in our university from prospective students, faculty and staff, and
  • Alignment and embodiment of the new identity and brand strategy throughout the university.

What are the key outcomes of this initiative?

This initiative will result in:

  • An understanding of current awareness and perceptions of the university among critical local, national and international audiences.
  • A positioning for the University at Buffalo that is singular, differentiated, sustainable and inspiring, and broad enough to be relevant and appropriate across the university.
  • Brand attributes that identify the key traits that should be conveyed visually and/or verbally across all communications.
  • Key audience messaging created to resonate with all internal and external audiences.
  • Comprehensive guidelines for interpreting and executing the positioning, messaging and visual design.
  • A communications plan for internal and external communication initiatives, including tools, templates, priorities and schedules for rollout and governance.

What is the timing around this initiative?

Developing an identity and messaging strategy for the university is expected to take approximately nine months.

Phase One: Discovery and Definition (January 2015 to April 2015)

  • Determine the university’s current market position
  • Define the university’s brand identity position
  • Engage key stakeholders throughout the process

Phase Two: Positioning, Messaging Development and Application (May 2015 to July 2015)

  • Position the university for distinctiveness
  • Establish the university’s key messaging
  • Express the university’s identity and brand verbally and visually
  • Demonstrate the broad applicability of the university’s identity and brand

Phase Three: Market Testing and Launch (July 2015 to September 2015)

  • Market test the new messaging for the university’s identity and brand
  • Finalize the identity and brand positioning messaging

Phase Four: Measure Success (September 2015 to October 2015)

  • Deploy the new messaging, identity and brand across the university

Why is the university working with external firms?

An engagement of this magnitude far exceeded the in-house expertise the university had at its disposal, and bringing an objective third party consultant in to co-lead this initiative gives the University at Buffalo the best chance to develop a contemporary identity and brand that has the appropriate balance of authenticity and aspiration.

The university sought a strategic and creative partner specializing in higher education with whom to collaborate in the development of a comprehensive identity and brand strategy. The firms with whom we are partnering have an exceptional track record of collaborating with large, complex public research institutions, and delivering compelling identity and brand strategies that have helped to catalyze their respective reputations.

Who is UB partnering with on identity and brand strategy development?

The contract was awarded to Ologie who has partnered with Marshall Strategy.

Ologie and Marshall Strategy have collaborated successfully with some of the nation's leading research universities and medical schools. These firms bring a track record of accomplishment in successfully helping higher educational institutions define their purpose and tell their stories in engaging ways.

UB will benefit from the firms’ collective talents.  By partnering with Ologie and Marshall Strategy, UB is benefiting from:

  • A seasoned team of research and strategy experts with wide-ranging experience in higher education.
  • A creative and technical team with extraordinary skill in helping to define a university’s identity and brand how a given institution’s identity and brand function in a wide array of media.
  • A portfolio of successful, results-oriented, award-winning work.
  • A culture of teamwork and collaboration with their clients

How much will this initiative cost?

The contract was awarded to Ologie in the amount of $314,000. Ologie was the second-lowest bidder among vendors submitting proposals, and the average bid of proposals submitted was $527,450. Ologie and Marshall’s collaborative proposal was consistently ranked highest by three collective university groups representing senior academic and administrative leadership, faculty chairs and members, staff and alumni.  The selection process involved 60 university representatives. 

What was the bid selection process?

The contract was awarded in compliance with UB and SUNY procurement policies.

Progressive Bidding Process

This was a progressive bidding process consisting of three phases:

Phase I: Evaluation Criteria

Firms were ranked based on scores using specified evaluation criteria. The university selected five firms scoring the highest point rating to progress to Phase II, using an evaluation committee of senior communications leaders representing administrative and decanal organizations who reviewed all proposals. Cost, although a consideration, was not the sole determining factor. Firms described how they will provide their services to satisfy the stated requirements and/or conditions.

Phase II: Evaluation Criteria

The five highest ranked firms gave an on-site presentation, based on their proposal, to a committee of senior academic and administrative leadership. Each bidder was given 45 minutes to present on their qualifications, experience and project plan. Members of the committee held a question-and-answer period at the end of the presentation to clarify the bidders’ capabilities and fit to be successful in this mission-critical initiative. Cost was not discussed as part of the bidder’s presentation or during any subsequent question-and-answer period.

Three firms scoring the highest point ratings in Phase II Evaluation Criteria advanced to the final selection round.

Phase III: Evaluation Criteria

In this final phase, three firms were asked to present to the university’s senior leadership, which consists of the president, provost, vice presidents and the president’s chief of staff. Each firm was given 1.5 hours to present on their qualifications, experience and an in-depth discussion of their proposed project plan. Firms were also asked to present a relevant case study to demonstrate their success in achieving identity and brand strategy objectives. Committee members conducted a question-and-answer period at the end of the presentation to clarify the firm’s capabilities, expertise and understanding of the unique considerations of defining and actualizing an identity and brand strategy for a premier public research university.

The bid was awarded to the responsible bidder/contractor, qualified by experience and in a financial position to do the work specified.

How do I learn more about this initiative?

The university’s identity and brand initiative is a highly collaborative effort involving a wide cross-section of UB stakeholders. Information about the initiative will be communicated through a variety of channels and mediums, including a soon-to-be launched website.