Brand Blog

The Stetson Brand 

Dec. 13, 2017 By Bruce Chong

Proposed Brand Pyramids: Thrive, Character

Since the initial round of meetings in November there has been quite a bit of progress being made offline.

Patrick Davis presented two potential paths for the university based on the initial feedback received in the two days of discussions. They are in the form of brand pyramids that support the two directions, “Thrive” and “Character.”

Those two potential brand pyramids have been reviewed by three potential creative groups, Joe Bosack & Co. (the agency handling Hatter Athletics brand refresh), Nelson & Co., (a university communications/marketing group in Virginia), and by Joel Jones, Stetson University’s AVP for Marketing and the university’s creative/brand leader for the past seven years. Each creative group has been assigned to develop a mood board and creative concept for each of the two paths.

This design “showdown” will result in six potential brand directions the university can move toward. The Stetson Brand Steering Group will review the six potential directions and narrow the selections down to one or two for, “Thrive” and “Character.”

The next steps section has been updated to reflect this process.

After the steering group narrows the concepts down they will be tested internally at the DeLand campus with two-three focus groups of FTIC students and in Gulfport with a student focus group and a faculty/staff focus group.

The information gathered at the two focus sessions in January will be used to finalize a survey instrument to test the concepts again our pool of prospects and suspects. The goal is 1,000 responses total, which should give the university a clear indication of which of the two potential paths will resonate the most with our target groups.

Then we can move to the next phase, finalizing a fully realized brand concept and integrating that with all aspects of the university’s internal and external.


Nov. 25, 2017 By Bruce Chong

In early November, the Stetson Brand Project really started moving forward. Patrick Davis, founder of Davis Brand Capital and a Stetson University alumnus, came to campus to meet with the Stetson Brand Steering Group.

The purpose of the meetings was to determine if the Stetson University brand position needed updating and the best paths to get there. The initial meeting brought together Patrick Davis, myself, and the following people into a steering group.

President Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D.

Provost and EVP Noel Painter, Ph.D.

CFO and EVP Bob Huth

VP of Enrollment Management Joel Bauman

AVP of Development Communications Amy Gipson

Dean of the School of Business Administration Neal Mero, Ph.D.

Director of Communications, College of Law, Lisa Diliberto

Chair, Faculty Senate Patrick Coggins, Ph.D.

AVP of Marketing Joel Jones

There are a few definitions of what a steering group is, what it does and what its purpose is.

My preference for what a steering group does is this:

“(a) Steering Committee often exists as a group of individuals who should share a common purpose but whose opinions and agendas may not always be aligned.”

For the steering group purpose and function, the definition is:

“…two guiding principles by which it should function are simple: give strategic direction, and support the project.”

The meeting lasted from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Patrick led the group through a discovery discussion, walking through what was functional and emotional about the education received through Stetson University. He discussed the social benefits that a Stetson University graduate gave back to his community and talked with us all about what we believed our personality was: “If Stetson University was a person, how would people experience that person and how would we describe them?”

During the meeting there was a historical review of the Stetson University brand from a brand management and creative viewpoint, and a review of the work that had been done, and was continuing, within the School of Business Administration to reflect the university’s brand position.

The following day, Friday, Nov. 10, there was a focus group meeting (transcript here) with students, faculty and staff, members of the steering group and Patrick Davis. This session followed approximately the same process, discussing with them their experiences and how they might describe Stetson University in terms of its benefits, both functional and emotional.

These were the participants:

Assoc. Professor of Math and Computer Science Hari Pulapaka

Assoc. Professor of Marketing and Program Director of Sport Business Scott Jones

Prof. of Music and Director of Choral Activities Tim Peter

Director of Admission-Graduate/Transfer/Adults Jamie Vanderlip

Director of Enrollment Operations and Communications Dana Simmons

Director of Financial Aid Beth Anne Kieft

Student Government President and political science student Alyssa Morely

Student Government Vice President and communications student Veronica Faison

Cameraman and digital arts student Daniel Viruet 

In attendance from the steering group were: 

President Wendy B. Libby

Provost and EVP Noel Painter

AVP of Development Communications Amy Gipson

Director of Communications, College of Law, Lisa Diliberto

Chair, Faculty Senate Patrick Coggins 

Around lunchtime on Friday, the steering group gathered again with Patrick as he provided his initial feedback and thoughts from the two days of meetings. The end result of the final steering group meeting that day was an outline of the next steps and a timeline for achieving those.


Nov. 1, 2017 By Bruce Chong 

The Stetson University brand and Stetson’s value proposition were recently the focus of a couple of days of interesting discussions at the Oct. 18-19 Stetson University Board of Trustees meeting. Brand value, messaging, campaigns and strategic planning, and how all of these things need to work together, were just some of the areas of conversation and discussion.

I should note that this was predicated by two years of lower-than-projected entering classes (2016, 2017) after one of the biggest classes in Stetson history (2015) and the resulting impact on budgets.

These pages are designed to provide information and a shared framework for our discussions on Thursday, Nov. 9. I’ve included here:

  • A databank of information from Enrollment Management that illustrates who our students are and where they come from, and what our opportunities may be.
  • The most recent versions of more than a year of work from the provost and the deans of the College of Arts and Science, School of Business Administration and School of Music to discover, address and iterate the Stetson Value Proposition. What is it about how we teach and interact with students that make us different?

The first day of the board meeting kicked off with a half-day discussion with data and analytics consultant Paul Hamborg. Paul has been helping support Enrollment Management’s annual recruitment planning for Stetson since 2009 and has the benefit of eight years of student data. I am hoping Paul’s data points will be part of our meeting.

After reviewing Stetson’s data and comparison to peer institutions, the board broke into four groups to tackle some of the big questions facing the university and then brought them back together for full board discussion. The groups are listed below with some of my notes.

Group #1

We have seen that attracting more students with the ability and willingness to pay for a Stetson education is one of the key components to increasing revenue in the freshmen class. What can we invest in so that we are more attractive to more of these students?

Group recommendations:

  • Add engineering and allied health
  • Invest in performing arts (drama and technical arts), athletics and facilities
  • Invest in development to generate additional scholarships
  • Invest in graduate programs similar to Stetson Law’s Master of Law program

General board suggestions:

  • Guarantee internships and study abroad
  • Invest in programs we are already known for
  • Focus on what we do well which is undergraduate education (i.e., SoBA accounting with the highest pass rate)

(Paul Hamborg: The highest income students go into business programs and lower income students go into biology, political science and preparatory programs for medical and law school.) 

Group #2

Moving outside of traditional direct-from-high-school enrollment, what can we do to generate enrollment and revenue?

Group recommendations:

  • Adult Degree Completion, executive education programs, transfer students, post-military students, students with learning disabilities, study abroad and online programs.
  • The top recommendation was to greatly increase transfer students (100-300) but we would need to work with faculty for Stetson to become transfer friendly.

General board suggestions:

  • Be prepared to handle adult students
  • Address military friendly, could have veteran’s benefits
  • More likely to be commuter
  • They may have good capability to pay
  • Automatic acceptance or welcoming
  • Welcoming atmosphere
  • Work out the transfer credits issues
  • Work out curriculum so transfers can complete in two years
  • Have faculty involved in the process

Group #3

There are tradeoffs between access, diversity, quality indicators, geography, discount, etc. What should we prioritize? How should these be weighted?

Group recommendations:

  • How do the tradeoffs compare to our mission? What do we prioritize?
  • Create incremental programs of significance (i.e., athletics, RGIP) and balance out our access, diversity, quality, geography and discount.

General board suggestions:

  • Take your priority program (say transfer students) and use margin to fund incremental programs that increase the value proposition.
  • What is the process for faculty to bring up potential programs?
  • The faculty have been challenged to bring forward programs of distinction.
  • Should the university lower the overall number of low-income, low-achieving students?

Group #4

As you know, our total net tuition revenue has grown significantly over the past eight years. A successful component of this strategy has been to increase total net revenue for first time in college (FTIC) students by increasing the number of FTIC students. In the near term, the team’s current strategy to grow total net revenue for FTIC students will be to continue to grow enrollment through 2020 to between 3200 and 3300 students. We believe this growth will avoid capacity constraints. However, our current capacity capabilities will limit our ability to continue to grow FTIC enrollment longer term.

Given these trends, how can we ensure we continue to grow FTIC total net tuition revenue longer term?

Group recommendations:

  • Develop pipelines from key high schools
  • Allocate resources to programs of distinction
  • Establish niche or underserved needs
  • Enhance reputation and market ourselves
  • Differentiate ourselves (travel abroad, internships, experiential education)
  • Students go where friends go so make Stetson their first choice

General board suggestions:

  • Other credentialing opportunities (use of facilities during down times)
  • Offer enhanced programs in online format
  • Be strategic with the academic calendar (think 12 months not 9 months).
    • Address Friday class time (accelerate curriculum)
    • Alumni recruitment support
    • Use the physical plant during times the UG and G classes are not in use

The board was very engaged in questions around building reputation and the value proposition and asking for better clarity around the DeLand campus points of distinction (i.e., similar to College of Law’s reputation for Advocacy and its 19 out of 22 years as the #1-ranked advocacy program in the nation by USN&WR.)

When the trustee discussion turned to, “What are the characteristics of our graduates?” there were some interesting responses.

“Stetson students/graduates are known for stewardship, for making things better for their family and community.”

“I feel like I’m here for others. It’s about service. It’s not about me, but about what I do. For students, it’s not about what they bring, but what they leave.”

“Our students and graduates are leaders in their communities.”

“If it’s leadership and facing challenges, then doesn’t our current, ‘dare to be significant’ campaign still resonate?”

“What are the differentiators? Embry Riddle is known for aeronautics, but more than half of their students aren’t pilots, but in management programs.”

“What are the points of distinction for the undergraduate programs and how do they relate to outcomes and jobs?”