College Homecoming – that unmistakable combination of crisp fall air, changing leaves, and deep nostalgia for days gone by. But there's also something about being on a college campus that feels like you're watching the future unfold – like you can get a glimpse of what's coming next. Last month, on one of those crisp fall mornings, we had the opportunity to glimpse into the future at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, as they launched their new brand: Exceed your personal best.
And let us tell you, the North Central community demanded our personal best that weekend! Everyone thinks that a brand launch is that penultimate moment that represents thousands of hours of strategic planning and careful execution. And it is that – but it's also a mad dash to the finish line, complete with last-minute revisions, vendor mishaps, and inevitably adding your clients to the favorites contact list on your phone. When that day finally comes, few know all the work that went into getting to that point. Honestly, they're not supposed to.
They're just excited about the free t-shirt with the cool new logo, and we were thrilled to be there with our North Central team to oblige them! We passed out swag and shirts to the excited college community as the marching band hyped up the crowd for the big game. We took photos of students with Chippy the Cardinal in front of a backdrop that featured their new visual expression.
And we watched, with proud-parent-eyes, as our North Central team debuted their new brand video to an enthralled campus community at their annual homecoming reception. Oh, and we danced at that reception. Because when you launch a data-driven brand in under a year, you get to dance a little.
So, what does it take to get to the homecoming dance floor?
It's early mornings vetting the results of a 91-page research deck. It's sunrise to sunset shooting for the brand launch video. And it's around-the-clock discussions about how to make the North Central identity applicable to digital platforms. Of course, none of this would be possible without the countless cups of coffee roasted onsite at North Central's coffee lab.
Most of all, it's the close partnership between agency and institution that allowed us to do the work needed to develop an authentic, aspirational brand sure to inspire and endure. While we couldn't possibly place a metric on how much we value our relationship with North Central, we thought it might be fun to try.
13 (and counting!) On-Site VisitsWe're staunch believers that brands are not developed in a vacuum. In order for North Central's new brand to be a success, it was imperative that everyone was brought along on the journey. From vetting assessments and research findings to debating brand strategy; from discussing how the brand would be brought to life creatively to workshopping marketing plans for both internal and external audiences, there were countless conversations, presentations, and check-ins. There has to be. It's how this works.
One of the many reasons North Central was such a great partner is because they valued data as much as we did. Every strategy, tactic, and concept was rooted deep in research. That research came from gathering the perceptions and opinions of more than 3,000 people, both inside and outside of the institution, through online surveys, in-depth telephone interviews, and campus meetings.
4 Board Meetings
The best brands are championed from the top down, and North Central is an exemplary model of that: From the beginning, their President, Board of Trustees, Cabinet, and Leadership have been involved with every major aspect of the project. In fact, we've been present at every Board of Trustees meeting since October of last year.
6 Brand Refinements
Our brand strategy went through six iterations before we landed on the final brand platform that felt as authentic as it did aspirational. With every revision came an even stronger set of brand pillars until we arrived at elevated confidence, inspired instruction, and realized direction as the brand pillars that tell the strongest, most distinctive story about North Central.
Our teams sketched, contemplated, and debated more than 27 different options for the new North Central logo that would be the institution's primary identity mark moving forward. After many conversations and revisions, we landed on the three concepts to test (yes, you must test your creative) in an online survey that would lead us to the one logo eventually chosen to represent North Central.
How do you measure a year? In emails? In Zoom calls? In wine toasts? In cups of coffee? ... We don't need to finish the lyric for you to get the picture. No amount of time or energy would have made this work a success without the equal amounts of work that our clients gave right back to us. When we say that this work is more than a consultancy, but a partnership, that's what we mean.
There you have it, some by-the-numbers that doesn't come close to reflecting the hard work that goes in to researching, strategizing, designing, and launching a brand, nor does it possibly reflect our excitement for where North Central is poised to go. If we were you, we'd keep a close eye on this place. We have a feeling their personal best is yet to come. Cardinals Rule!