Work — Northwestern
Research proves brand strategy through replication
In 2014, we conducted comprehensive, qualitative and quantitative research with prospective students, counselors, current students, faculty, staff, and alumni to measure their perceptions of Northwestern. Our branding directive was to improve reputation rankings, strengthen “win rate,” increase engagement and giving with alumni, strategically align all the colleges and entities university-wide, and create an ever-stronger sense of pride among students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Our research uncovered that Northwestern was “clustered” in key brand health metrics, such as aided and unaided identification. There was a wide gap between the most elite schools and the next group of top institutions, which included Northwestern.
When testing attributes associated with Northwestern, and its key competitors, our research unveiled that Northwestern was strongly associated with attributes of future outcomes—students are prepared for career success, high job placement among graduates, and excellence across disciplines.
When testing positioning themes for Northwestern, ideas of multidimensional and adaptive thinkers; pioneering innovation across all disciplines; and innovation at the forefront were seen as top associations of Northwestern.
All of our conducted research would serve as the foundation for Northwestern’s new brand strategy and creative execution.
In 2017, we replicated the study to assess the extent to which impressions of the University were remaining stable or changing, measure the impact of recent marketing and communications efforts and measure awareness of new marketing around the “Take a Northwestern Direction” and “And is in our DNA” messaging.
Compared to 2014, Northwestern’s key brand health metrics remained constant, except for a significant increase in Northwestern’s net-promoter score, NPS, among its internal audiences.
Additionally, compared to key competitors, Northwestern is now more highly associated with recognized research, notable alumni and having greater financial resources.
While the most recent campaign had only been in market for about a year, there was a high percentage of awareness and recall among internal audiences, and even among external audiences for the messaging given the short period of time.