University at Buffalo, a thriving public research institution with countless proof points that illustrate its tenacious spirit, global perspective, empathetic approach, and role as a bold participant in issues all over the world, was poised to define its story of distinctiveness. Its nomenclature had been fragmented. The athletics identity had been changed with mixed reviews. There wasn’t a unifying brand story to tie back to, so many schools and units were creating their own. The brand wasn’t cutting through the clutter of a crowded competitive space. And above all, the university wasn’t getting credit for being the amazing AAU powerhouse it is.
It was clear a compelling brand story could address all of these issues and more. Partnering with Marshall Strategy and Ologie, UB launched a large brand and identity strategy initiative to finally tell a story that was all its own. And the timing was never more perfect.
Extensive research and interviews with faculty, alumni, staff, and community members pointed to the traits that make UB so impressive. It is home to entrepreneurs, inventors, big thinkers, and bigger doers. It’s a place that reveres hard, honest, smart work, all defined not just by what is made, but how it’s made. It became clear that many of these traits mirrored the essence of the city the university calls home. And the big idea was born from that.
This creative platform became the lens for how all creative communication decisions were made. From the graphic elements, to photo selections, to stories shared on social media, the “how we do what we do” is at the heart of the messages being pushed out.
We established an overarching messaging framework for the master brand, so that we could communicate the new strategy and creative platform effectively across campus departments and units. That effort involved extensive, interactive training sessions to ensure that the messaging took hold. In all, we ended up with 22 unique message maps: one for each school and unit that serves UB’s 30,000 students.
A well-planned internal launch, including campus installations, branded swag, and multiple events, was followed by an orchestrated external launch that caught the eye of many media outlets.
With spot varnish on the cover, half-sheets for student outcome stories, and a choose-your-own-adventure style envelope, we made this piece stand out in the 60,000 mailboxes it was sent to.
Starting with regional placements, UB ads appeared in TV, print, radio, and digital channels. An extensive NPR run and buys in The New York Times Magazine and Chronicle of Higher Education rounded out the national launch.
The strength of this spot comes from the fact that we didn’t try to fit too many stories into 30 seconds. That way, the handful of stories we did choose could unfold in a way that was natural, not forced. And by layering in animated graphics to make more connections, we were able to tell more complete stories—like spider venom that helps treat muscular dystrophy.