Work — Cal Poly
A 117-year old brand, a single year in the branding
- James Maraviglia, Vice Provost for Enrollment Development & Chief Marketing Officer
In January of 2018, SimpsonScarborough launched an exhaustive and fully-integrated branding process that included research, strategy, and creative for both the Cal Poly institutional and capital campaign brands. The goal was to provide Cal Poly, for the first time, with an authentic, unique, and comprehensive brand that would provide consistency in their day-to-day communications efforts for years to come, as well as assist in strategic planning, programming, and campaign fundraising. Just a little over a year later, we helped to launch, less than a week apart, a new brand and capital campaign.
It began with research. For us, it always does.
Our research work with Cal Poly included both qualitative and quantitative testing with more than 3,300 respondents from prospects, faculty, staff, current students, alumni, board members, academic peers and more. The insights were critical in informing our strategy but also in providing KPI’s to measure brand strength moving forward. We also conducted deep-dive qualitative research on both the existing and proposed creative strategy and identity to inform and support the institution’s decisions in moving in new directions.
The research enabled buy-in from a cross section of the campus and served as a catalyst for people to look at the brand collectively. It also lifted marketing up, demonstrating the important strategic function it serves.
To help define goals to assist Cal Poly in developing a new identity, we needed to understand where they stand in perceived academic quality among their peers in order to identify opportunities and room for growth.
Evaluating Cal Poly's internal audience perceptions led to key insights into the strengths of school among its stakeholders.
Through our research and discovery, we learned that Learn by Doing was at the heart of everything Cal Poly does and an owned part of the experience alumni had as students. Our approach in crafting a messaging strategy and narrative called for Cal Poly to take ownership of the idea as a founding principle of the institution and use it to elevate awareness and reputation for the institution. And by connecting Learn by Doing with the brand expression — Ready Day One — we showed that it's more than a mindset. It is a tangible, marketable skill and an earned expertise, both hallmarks of Cal Poly graduates.
We regularly worked side-by-side with University Marketing’s Creative Services, our two writing and design teams seamlessly collaborating to bridge insider knowledge with an outsider’s perspective. After honing in and testing a new brand identity, we sought to apply it across campus through new print materials and generate a greater brand awareness through environmental tactics, including their first Welcome Center. Additionally, using the new identity as a jumping off point, we infused it into a new webpage and mobile experience, both updating and modernizing Cal Poly’s web presence.
It was really important to feel like we had a true partner. We’re the type of client that gets really hands-on, that gets in the weeds. This partnership’s proven to be exactly what we’d hoped it would be, one in which we truly worked together.
Defining a new identity for Cal Poly was an involved and detailed process. Informed by our research, a refreshed look and feel started to emerge.
To support the new look and research data, new messaging had to be developed. This new messaging would help to carry both the new identity and Cal Poly's strategic goals through extended tactics.
In one week, we had our brand reveal and announced our campaign. That’s special. Quite frankly, we probably did two years’ worth of work in one. I’m very proud of what our two teams accomplished.
In addition to our extensive brand work, Cal Poly also turned to us to assist in the building of The Power of Doing: The Campaign for Learn by Doing. Leaning upon the brand and identity as a framework, we provided naming and strategy, as well as fresh designs that could stand on their own as a fundraising platform, while also complementing the new brand. To date, the campaign has raised $642,518,743 of the $700 million goal.