Aspire to Rise: OU redefines its brand

Hundreds of graduated high school seniors enroll at Oakland University each year to begin their college education and experience. New classes and exciting clubs await these incoming freshmen, who will dedicate their time and money to the university to participate in said classes and clubs. However, since OU has never defined its brand or has had a specific tagline, students might wonder why they invest their hard work and money. Until now – because OU has begun to take the glorious journey to better define its brand.

Oakland University has been growing and thriving since its grand opening in 1959. It has never clearly defined its brand, which has caused confusion to stakeholders, boosters, and students.

OU recently decided to change this and is quickly beginning its journey in redefining the OU brand.

“Based on both external market and internal stakeholder research, it was clear that in order for us to solidify our place in the minds of our various stakeholders and our community we had to strengthen awareness in an authentic manner that builds on known core attributes that lead to a quality academic reputation,” John Young, associate vice president for University Communications and Marketing, said.

OU has made it a top strategic priority, he said, to discover the core authentic attributes of its brand and to use those to develop a brand identity and message based upon OU’s distinct competencies. A more defined brand will lead to enhanced academic reputation and a better understanding among stakeholders.

There are three components in the way that OU is communicating with the public to define its brand, according to Young.

  • First: “Telling our story.” This means focusing on the strongest points. It gives OU something to stand for, and makes everything sound stronger.
  • Second: “Design with purpose.” Everything OU designs must be with purpose, such as the pictures, fonts, and images. OU must work to make its story powerful and identifiable.
  • Third: “Bring it to life.” This simple message means to move forward and always have OU’s new mission statement at heart: Aspire to Rise.

When first beginning the planning stages of OU’s latest change, the communications board took a step back into the past to discover the original mission statement from when OU first opened. This statement defined OU from the beginning and will define OU in the future, said Young.

“The opportunities to here develop an institution of higher learning of great significance to the region, the state, the nation and the world are almost without bounds. Here again in the words of Andrew Carnegie, there will be erected ‘ladders upon which the aspiring can rise’,” Matilda Dodge Wilson, founder of Oakland University, once said about the opening of the school.

This is OU

OU will not stop until it masters its brand, and social media plays an important role in specifying that brand.

Colleen Campbell, Digital Public Relations Manager, said that everything she and the rest of the marketing team puts out on social media follows the OU brand. She believes it is important that OU has the same voice and look on a social media post, such as on Facebook or Twitter, as it does on a billboard.

“Social media is our tool to share the unique stories that make up our brand,” Campbell said. “Our tagline is ‘Aspire to Rise,’ which you will see on a billboard, hear on the radio, on commercials, et cetera. But on social media, we elaborate on that tagline with real-time content marketing and telling those stories.”

With social media being so popular within the community and students, Campbell believes it is a perfect way to define OU’s brand.

“We also have the Social Media Street Team that is a made up of ‘brand ambassadors’ for Oakland University,” Campbell said. “These are the very active, very involved students, staff, alumni and faculty who are out there living the brand and then sharing their experiences with our hashtag #ThisIsOU.”

While OU is still on the journey to define its brand, it has taken the first step and will continue improving in order to make OU a place where students can “Aspire to Rise”.