Butler University

Our research and strategic messaging helped build a brand strategy reflective of Butler’s academic and athletic reputation

When Butler University came to us in 2014, the school was best known around the country for basketball. Back-to-back appearances in the NCAA championships, in addition to joining the Big East conference, catapulted Butler into the national spotlight.

Butler wanted to build on that exposure, to expand its reach beyond its Midwest home, so the University partnered with SimpsonScarborough on a research project designed to understand key audiences’ perceptions of Butler and to hone its brand.

We developed a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative research plan to assess and refine the brand:

  • Online surveys and focus groups were conducted with prospective undergraduates, alumni, current undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff to discern their awareness of Butler and gauge the long-lasting benefits of a Butler education.
  • Butler’s distinctive characteristics were identified and compared to a select set of competitors to determine a unique differentiator and competitive advantage.
  • Brand objectives and baselines were established to measure brand equity and assess long-term reputational objectives bi-annually.

The data dove-tailed perfectly: The things prospects are looking for are exactly Butler’s strengths. And point for point, we found, Butler could contend head-on with the larger, nationally recognized universities it meets on the basketball court.

Small classes, opportunities to engage directly with faculty, and real-world experience through internships and community engagement give Butler students the knowledge and skills required for success in the real-world. That’s why the school has a 95 percent post-graduation placement rate.

Combine that with Butler’s culture and it is clear why their graduates are prepared for successful careers and meaningful lives. We heard over and over that Butler grads get where they’re going with a can-do yet humble spirit borne out of a close-knit community.

SimpsonScarborough crafted the Butler positioning strategy — “The right outcomes. The right way.”— which became the foundation for Butler’s comprehensive rebranding effort including a refreshed visual identity. Butler’s internal team and creative partners developed a branding campaign and integrated marketing strategy that saw the new brand implemented across campus. An overhauled website, advertising, and recruitment materials were key elements to the success Butler has experienced.

Since the launch, Butler again partnered with SimpsonScarborough to conduct a study to track key brand measures, as well as assess the impact of recent marketing and communications efforts. Brand equity goals among prospective students for key measurements including excellence, familiarity, and consideration were met in a majority of the key regions, showing progress and messaging resonance among targeted prospects.

Reinforcing the brand strategy, experiential learning and job placement are among the top themes that prospective students and their parents say describe Butler, as evidenced by new research questions added in 2016.  Butler will continue to monitor the extent to which these key messages are resonating among its key audiences as it looks to replicate this research again in two years.

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Images by Butler University Marketing and Communications