What should NIU’s brand be?

Competition for Students: logos of other colleges and universitiesTwenty-six of the best community colleges in the United States scattered throughout northern Illinois. A dozen private and independent colleges tucked into suburban communities and the Chicago Loop. Quality state universities in Chicago and Champaign-Urbana and Big 10 powerhouses such as Iowa, Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan within a short drive. 

High school juniors and seniors searching for their personal college experience don’t have to look far before they are bombarded with options. And let’s not forget the for-profit colleges aggressively marketing throughout northern Illinois.

NIU’s new Division of University Relations was organized in August 2009 to bring together all of the major communications and production units on campus to develop a collective marketing and branding initiative to share our NIU story throughout our service region. President Peters charged this new division (Media Relations & Internal Communications, Web Communications, Media Services, Publications, Government Relations, Board of Trustees Operations) with developing a brand identity and a corresponding marketing strategy for NIU to allow us to compete and flourish despite the increasing cacophony of higher education options for potential students.

Kathy Buettner
Kathy Buettner

A campus-wide branding and marketing subcommittee has been working toward identifying a common theme and message during 2010 around which the university’s communications efforts can be framed. Deans, faculty, staff and communications professionals here at NIU have devoted countless hours to define a framework around which a campus dialogue can be held that will help shape NIU’s brand identity over the next few years. As Tim Aurand, associate professor of marketing in the NIU College of Business, said so eloquently, “There are over 3,500 colleges and universities. Why would a prospective student choose NIU over all the others? What does NIU promise, and deliver that our competitors do not? We must be able to answer the question, ‘What makes NIU superior?’ ”

The subcommittee has virtually completed its work; now it’s time for the NIU community to add its voice. Extensive surveys and focus groups have been conducted with faculty, staff, students, alums, guidance counselors, parents and prospective students in 2010. The results of this research, along with a list of the top 12 brand taglines under consideration, can be found on our new university branding initiative website.

Please take a few minutes and review the website, marketing and branding research and the top 12 taglines. Share your opinions or, if you prefer, suggest another tagline for consideration. The NIU community can also view the university’s first fully integrated Fall 2010 advertising initiative, the Power of Education … the Power of NIU … developed to jump-start the university’s marketing efforts to graduating high school seniors in 2011. 

Many members of our NIU community have devoted tremendous time and talent to move the university’s marketing efforts to this point. Now we need your help. I urge you to complete the online branding and marketing tagline survey by Friday, Nov. 19.

Kathy Buettner
Vice President
University Relations

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