Cornell’s story is unlike any other. And it’s only beginning.
How do you tell the story of Cornell University? You get out of the way and let Cornellians speak for themselves.
That’s just what the University did when it chose to name its $5 billion campaign using founder Ezra Cornell’s own words: To do the greatest good.
To build the campaign brand, we simply followed the University’s lead.
We presented three distinct concepts that were vetted with not only University leadership and Cornell’s Board of Trustees, but also the extended advancement, university relations, and alumni relations teams in charge of running the campaign. They collectively decided to proceed with our Concept 2 —Let Cornell speak for itself — which tells the campaign’s story through a collection of alumni quotes that, together, form a single, cohesive narrative. And one that is uniquely Cornell’s.
For Cornell’s largest campaign to date, they entrusted us with giving it life.
The simple fact that we could build such a powerful case for support using only public domain quotes from Cornell alumni speaks volumes as to the University’s collective achievements, while strongly reinforcing community pride. A strong call to action about the timely — and timeless — good Cornellians do pulled it all together.
Standout elements from the other concepts were integrated into the brand. Of special note is the block “C”graphic element, which was wildly popular and widely adopted across campus. We created over 40 versions for Cornell’s schools and colleges.
Scope of Work
A month of discovery sessions that ultimately led to the development of the campaign’s platform, priority audience messaging, and a content strategy that included everything from ideas for rollout to anchor stories to video series recommendations.
To do the greatest good is a bold campaign. To ensure the brand’s verbal and visual tone reflected it, we conducted multiple creative workshops with various audience groups across campus to ascertain what “bold” means to Cornell—is it spirited and proud, edgy and innovative, radical and experimental? All of the above, or something else entirely? At the same time, we worked on the campaign logo, bringing Ezra Cornell’s original handwritten “to do the greatest good” into the digital age, while also ensuring that it remained true to his hand.
Campaign concepting, creative execution, and activation—including a bold campaign website, campus and event environmentals, a library of assets, and videos, including a campaign anthem and upwards of 40 individual videos. Also, campaign guidelines, trainings, and toolkits for the University as well as for its schools and colleges, which needed to start their own campaign materials prior to the public launch.
We won’t have the full story for a few years, but here’s what the university has seen so far.
The campaign enjoyed a successful launch, despite plans dramatically changing just a month out: The original plan was an 800-person gala on campus, but given the pandemic, it was decided a virtual event was more appropriate. We immediately shifted from curating and creating assets for a live event to creating content: videos shot on multiple locations with President Martha E. Pollack, the campaign chair in New York City, Ezra Cornell’s family in Kansas, and students and faculty on Cornell’s three campuses. The result was a seamless worldwide broadcast.
- Audiences from over 75 countries logged in to view the live, virtual launch, of which 61% were alumni, 22% parents, and 8.25% faculty and staff.
- Alumni engagement is a top priority of the campaign. While they've only just passed the halfway point of the Campaign, they are already 80% of the way toward their goal of engaging 200,000 alumni during the course of the campaign.