This article appears in the Summer 2019 issue of Stetson University Magazine — the Go Beyond issue.
By strict definition, a brand is “a public image, reputation or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted.” So says Merriam-Webster.
If only it were that simple.
“A brand is really the truth or essence of a thing,” said Bruce Chong, vice president for University Marketing at Stetson.
Stetson’s new brand campaign is built on the foundation of 136 years of learning and higher education that has taken place in DeLand, as of the 1950s in Gulfport, in 2001 in Celebration and 2004 in Tampa.
Introducing “Go Beyond” — the university’s new anthem for communicating what Stetson should mean to current and prospective students, in particular, along with the entire university community and all of Hatter Nation.
Go Beyond Expectations. Go Beyond the Classroom. Go Beyond Yourself. And more.
That’s the sentiment, true way back when and, quite apparently, still today.
“Go Beyond” was constructed based on five core university attributes that were thoroughly researched and surveyed. In reality, however, they are time-tested across the history of Stetson. The more the student experience was explored, the greater Stetson’s legacy shined.
“We’ve tested the brand points several times, and they continue to resonate with the potential students we’re attracting,” described Chong. “The brand points are based upon the history of the university — coming from the core of what Stetson University actually stands for. So, that’s where Go Beyond came from. This is a refreshing of the brand, not a redo of it.”
Those brand points begin with this position statement: At Stetson, students thrive.
That proposition was built on a brand pyramid that consisted of those five core university attributes, or “Reasons to Believe,” leading to the benefits they bring.
• Reasons to Believe
1. Sense of community and place
2. Intense learning experiences
3. Socioeconomic inclusiveness and mobility
4. Standout programs across schools
5. Servant leadership and social responsibility
• Functional Benefits (opportunities to find an authentic, clear and strong voice that will be heard)
• Emotional Benefits (connected and guided to be confident and independent)
• Social Benefits (responsible citizens prepared, motivated and inspired to contribute, advocate and lead)
“With the brand platform of ‘thrive’ — that this is a place where students go to not just get a degree but to thrive — we developed ‘Go Beyond,’” explained Joel Jones, Stetson’s assistant vice president of University Marketing. “We developed different positions within Go Beyond, with the main position of ‘Go Beyond Expectations.’
“Stetson is unexpected. When you step on this campus, you don’t expect a place to look this beautiful. You don’t expect a place to look this historic. So, there are a lot of expectations that Stetson breaks. And, it’s also going beyond the expectations that you have of yourself. That really talks about comfort zones and pushing yourself, and expecting more than just being successful.”
With the introduction of “Go Beyond,” the university moves away from “Dare to Be Significant,” which emerged in 2010. Jones had arrived at Stetson a few months earlier and led that branding, but alumnus Patrick Davis ’88 also was instrumental. Davis, founder and CEO of Davis Brand Capital in Atlanta, consulted with the university in 2005 and delivered the first contemporary brand platform in 2006.
“His contributions cannot be overstated,” said Chong about Davis, who returned to Stetson to assist the university in 2017- 2018. “His insight into Stetson has been consistent now for more than a decade, and we continue to leverage what he brought to the university.”
Davis donated his time to the university, and the savings his contributions represent are significant, Chong added.
Davis’ clients have included Progressive, Barnes & Noble, Busch Gardens, Johnson & Johnson and Verizon, among many others.
“Times have changed. Students have changed. And Stetson has changed,” said Davis. “But there is an immutable quality to the intellectual and personal growth students experience, the liberal-arts tradition, the challenging academics and majors, the personal connection and support. Those remain unchanged.”
With “Dare to Be Significant” starting to wane in effectiveness, the first meeting about a new brand position occurred in fall 2017.
The end result: Call it a bit of back to the future.
“At the core of the ‘Go Beyond’ campaign is the ‘outcome of Stetson University.’ Students will be guided through their educational career to become independent, connected and confident,” Chong said. “It’s a really traditional university experience, and that’s what we lean into in terms of building the university brand.
“What we’ve been doing for more than 100 years is offering a total educational experience — a learning and growth experience. That’s what the brand is built around. And it’s consistent with everything the university has been saying about itself since it was established.”
Stetson students, in turn, are enabled to Go Beyond.
Note: The Stetson University Brand Guidelines web page will reflect these changes soon!