Bentley University

How we helped Bentley stand out from a crowd

Bentley University is a small New England school with a 100-year history of turning out well-prepared business graduates. Despite its success and recognition, it struggled to make its voice heard among its peers in Boston, one of the most challenging higher education markets in the country with more than 100 colleges and universities.

With a new president and marketing team, Bentley came to us in 2011 for research that would form the foundation of a new long-term brand. They wanted this brand relaunch to be enduring, and our research was to be the bedrock it would be built on.

We were excited to work with them because of the opportunities their unique brand offered: a business education fused with technology and a rich liberal arts tradition. And they were savvy enough to have a strong set of market research and advertising partners to guide strategy and creative execution at the table from the very beginning.

The SimpsonScarborough team developed an omnibus study to assess awareness and perception, conducting qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys with eleven key internal and external audiences: undergraduate students and their parents, graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni, high school counselors, prospective undergraduate and graduate students, higher education peers, and Bentley’s corporate partners.

While Bentley got thumbs up for job placement, hands-on experience, and its strong accounting and finance programs, overall awareness among recruitment audiences was low. Among those audiences, prospective students identified themselves as aspirational. They saw themselves as potential leaders and visionaries, and they wanted innovation and prestige in their school.

Drawing on our findings, Bentley and its creative partner developed three brand concepts, each based on a different value. Again, they turned to us for deep-dive research. Our subsequent concept testing with prospective and current students, faculty, staff, alumni, corporate partners, and high school counselors found one of those concepts —Prepared — resonated strongly across audiences as it stresses the value of a Bentley education and the agility of its students and alumni.

Building on the positioning work, the Bentley team developed a refreshed brand identity system including a new logo and launched a brand campaign that encompassed paid, earned, and owned media elements including content marketing, advertising, video content, and spirited events designed to introduce the campus community to the new brand.

Each element of the robust integrated marketing campaign underscores the Prepared brand proposition, which resonates with prospective students so much so that 90% of admitted students cite Bentley’s emphasis on career preparation as a factor in enrolling.

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Images by Bentley University Marketing and Communications