Truman’s rebranding campaign moves forward

SME Marketing, the firm Truman State University hired last year to lead a rebranding campaign, was on campus about three weeks ago to conduct a second series of focus groups.

The seven focus groups consisted of students, faculty, staff, alumni and Kirksville community members. The participants were shown two different creative directions for Truman’s brand and asked for their input. SME is now working on transcribing and analyzing that data, Truman’s Marketing Coordinator Keaton Wagner said. 

Tyana Lange, vice president for enrollment management and marketing, said the executive leadership team and SME are setting up a meeting some time within the next few weeks to review the firm’s findings. 

Assuming the data collected from the focus groups is definitive and the original timeline is kept, Wagner said the University would expect a brand book in October. However, he said from the focus groups he attended it did not seem like there was a clear direction of where to take the rebrand, meaning the process might be longer than originally anticipated. 

Lange also said there will likely be another round of focus group testing.

This latest round of focus groups were done in person, which is different from past series in which some focus groups were done through video conferencing. Wagner said these focus groups were done in person because SME was sharing sensitive information that wasn’t ready to be released, but the use of in-person focus groups meant fewer focus groups could be done.

Lange said the information given to participants of the focus groups remains confidential as it hasn’t been tested, copyrighted or trademarked.

After SME analyzes the data from the focus groups, Wagner said there are a few possible outcomes. SME could come to a definitive decision on which creative direction it would recommend the University take, or the firm might decide to look in a new direction, prolonging the rebranding process. 

“So as of right now, as far as a timeline is concerned, I can’t say, ‘We’re going to have the new brand on this date,’ just given the nature of how this process works,” Wagner said. 

The ultimate decision of whether or not to take SME’s recommendation falls on the executive leadership team at Truman, consisting of University President Sue Thomas and the vice presidents. Wagner said when the University receives a brand book the rebranding will be assessed and implemented over the course of several months. 

Wagner said from his perspective the rebranding campaign is extremely important given recent enrollment and retention trends. While the main focus will be on getting new students to enroll at Truman, the rebranding will also be an internal push to make students feel more connected to campus.

Lange said the market for new students is crowded, so Truman is trying to distinguish itself from other colleges in the area. She said the consulting firm allows the University to utilize research on marketing and appealing to new students, which the current staff does not have the expertise to do.

“Launching [the new brand] — being able to maintain that, using that in our messaging, making sure that we’re consistent — that kind of thing we do have the expertise to do and we’ll be able to manage that,” Lange said. 

She said Truman should be able to conduct the next marketing campaign by itself, but an entire rebranding or new identity requires help.

Wagner said the rebrand needs to be institutionally applicable, which entails making sure the brand works for recruitment, retention, alumni engagement and fundraising. 

“I think that there’s a lot of opportunity to leverage the rebrand for retention purposes as well,” Wagner said. “I can see a lot of ability to reach people on an emotional level.”

Currently, Wager is working with SME on project management and organizing focus groups, but once the brand launches he will become more prominent in training on the new brand and the internal communication that goes along with it. 

Training on the new brand would consist of learning how to use the new logo and tagline appropriately, how to adopt the brand language and speak with the unified voice of the brand. 

Lange said she has been impressed with SME’s efforts since she started her position this year. She said the firm is knowledgeable about Truman students and the culture surrounding the school, which gives her confidence in the rebranding.