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North Central College

Being one of the best at
anything is enviable.
Unless it’s one of higher ed’s
“best-kept secrets.”

The Challenge

The Opportunity

North Central College had a lot going for it when our engagement began in 2019: an enviable location in the growing Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois; rigorous academics and notable athletics, especially in STEM and cross-country; and state-of-the-art research facilities, including a first-of-its-kind coffee lab (a major perk during campus visits). But if your college or university’s most recent brand refresh happened before digital marketing burst onto the scene, as did North Central’s, you’d probably have a lot of questions as to what, if anything, you’re known for and what the audiences who do know of you really think.


The Solution

We knew one thing from the start: North Central was such a well-kept secret, even those who lived in the surrounding areas didn’t know it existed. Our research uncovered so much more—91 pages of research findings, in fact, including that the College possessed a unique ability to push students beyond what even they themselves thought possible. We landed on “Exceed your personal best” as both the foundation for the brand strategy and inspiration for creative. It didn’t hurt that the line’s also the mantra of Al Carius, the legendary coach of North Central College’s famed cross-country team.

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One of the things market research revealed was the profound impact North Central College has in helping to elevate students’ confidence and realize their direction in life.

Bill Muck, Professor of Political Science and Co-chair of the Market Research and Brand Strategy Advisory Committee
Logo Iterations
Viewbook Design
Students at Homecoming
Mood Board
Brand Guidelines
Brand Guidelines
Brand Guidelines
Scope of work

Scope of Work

Scope 0

Conducted online surveys, in-depth phone interviews, and multiple campus workshops to gather the opinions and study the insights of nearly 3,000 internal and external shareholders, including current and prospective students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, peer institutions, guidance counselors, employers, and community partners. Our findings provided great clarity, while also going a long way toward building consensus on next steps.

Scope 1

Developed a powerful new brand strategy and platform and designed a new institutional logo and campus-wide identity system. Close to 30 logos were presented and three finalists were tested, the results of which helped with buy-in across campus. Ultimately, we landed on a more contemporary, digital-friendly logo that reflects two hallmarks of a North Central education—tradition and innovation—and is based on Old Main, the College’s most iconic building.

Scope 2

Concepted and created a new brand, executing on it across everything from brand anthem and logo reveal videos and campus environmentals to launch and marketing materials, such as a viewbook, admit pack, and digital and traditional advertisements.

The Results

North Central hadn’t refreshed their brand since the 1990s. Now, with a contemporary, digital-friendly logo that reflects the two hallmarks of a North Central education, they have a brand that’s built to endure...hopefully not for 20 years, but for a good, long time.

Statistically speaking, North Central saw impressive results in a variety of ways:

  • Out-of-home ad campaigns that generated more than 59.6 million impressions, raising awareness and increasing name recognition within Naperville and the Chicagoland area.
  • A 103% YoY increase in content page views; their search-optimized blog posts accounted for 26% of all organic traffic to the College’s website and 35% of organic new users.
  • A continual decrease in the percentage of audiences who “don’t know” North Central and their best-known programs (uncovered by the 2022 brand replication study). Audiences were also more likely to indicate North Central is best known for business, one of their key programs.
  • 58% of prospective students have seen and/or heard a North Central ad in the last two years. Audiences were able to recall messages that have been in the market the longest.
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North Central College is considerably different than it was 20 years ago. This was an incredibly important process for us to go through to ensure that we accurately and effectively represent the College in a way that resonates with people both within and beyond our campus community.

Troy D. Hammond, President

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