“For all business alumni who graduated before the college was named, this elevates their degree. They are all part of the Ivy College of Business family.”
– David Spalding
Being the first named college at Iowa State University comes with a tremendous amount of excitement.
As soon as college leaders knew a $50 million naming gift was coming, the work to organize a large-scale announcement was under way. On September 11, 2017, the gift was announced to students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. Reporters lined the back of the Richard and Joan Stark Lecture Hall in the Gerdin Business Building. There was live media coverage, and news reports went around the country.
It was a historic moment for the college. Once the glitter faded from the announcement, a new level of work began.
“After receiving that transformational gift from alumnus Jerry Ivy and his wife, Debbie, we knew we needed to act quickly to let the world know about our new name and to share the powerful work that is under way at our college,” said Raisbeck Endowed Dean David Spalding. “We already had a good reputation, so our next step was to build on that and refresh our brand as the Ivy College of Business.”
Since January 2018, Spalding and his marketing and communications team have been working with an advertising agency to create a refresh of the college brand.
“We explored this new adventure with excitement — and, honestly, a little trepidation,” Spalding said. “We are the first ones at the university to venture down this path. We want to do this correctly because our sister colleges on campus will look at our work when they become named colleges — something we know will happen!”
With funding from the Ivy gift, Spalding hired an advertising agency, Liquid Iron, to work with the college marketing and communications team. Together, the two teams developed a public awareness campaign targeting future students, their influencers, and transfer students across the state of Iowa.
Once the campaign was developed, but before it kicked off publicly in early February, a special prelaunch party was held for Ivy faculty and staff.
“It was important that we first shared this with our internal stakeholders,” Spalding said. “We wanted everyone in the college to know what had been planned, why it was created, and where it would be used. We had a tremendous outpouring of support from our faculty and staff.”
Refreshing the brand: step by step
Members of the Liquid Iron advertising agency interviewed a variety of key stakeholders to learn more about our culture, brand perception, and current needs. They interviewed more than 23 people who were identified by the college, including faculty, staff, members of the Dean’s Advisory Council, the ISU Foundation, current students, alumni, and two business deans from other AACSB-accredited schools.
The agency conducted a competitive analysis on the state, regional, and national level. “We learned the category of business schools is struggling for position and there is a sea of sameness with a few programs attempting to be seen as different. So it appears business education is ready for someone to stand out. We want that to be the Ivy College of Business,” Spalding said.
Priority one: educating the AACSB deans
We identified our key audiences for a public awareness campaign. Our goal was to reach AACSB deans, prospective students (undergraduate and graduate), alumni, employers, and donors.
“That is our focus. Our goal is to communicate what sets Ivy apart from other business schools through a powerful, memorable
expression of our brand story,” Spalding said. “It was important that we first promoted
this great news to AACSB deans because they are the ones who rank us in the annual U.S. News & World Report survey every spring.”
In March, the fun began! Our first task was to create several marketing pieces that target those AACSB deans.
“The oversized postcard promotes recent national successes in our supply chain management program, with additional prominent rankings listed on the back side,” Spalding said. The second piece was a brochure that was mailed to all AACSB deans. This highlighted the transformational gift and how it impacts our students, faculty, and our programs. This was our first time using all of the zeros – which was great for impact.”
We created a highly targeted social media campaign. We zeroed in on deans on their LinkedIn and Facebook pages. Those ads linked to a web page written specifically for this audience so we could track it. We had good results and feel this was successful.
We mailed a personalized invitation to all AACSB deans, inviting them to come to campus and experience the power of this transformational gift for themselves. It was an unusual approach, but it worked. Several came to campus, including deans from Drake University, Creighton University, Oregon State University, and Marquette University. Several other deans have indicated interest in future visits. In addition, Spalding received many emails from deans across the country who received the invitation but could not visit in person.
“However, they took the time out of their busy schedule to stop what they were doing and send me a personal email congratulating us on the gift. That really meant a lot to me,” Spalding said.
It was time to share the campaign plan
After working with the advertising agency for more than a year, meticulously preparing our refreshed brand and our key messages, we held a launch party for Ivy faculty and staff to introduce them to the brand and get their support. We treated this like a red carpet event — it was just before the Oscars, after all!
Phase one of the public campaign
This first public phase began in early February and continues through June.
At that time, it will be evaluated for effectiveness. The initial focus is to promote our new name across the state of Iowa with ads reflecting “We Are Ivy” so everyone in the state is aware of the new college name. After that, we will transition to our long-term brand, “Explore New Paths,” which aligns well with the Iowa State University adventure campaign.
Social media ads
Next, we published ads on Facebook and Instagram. We altered the copy and images slightly to measure the performance.
We also created two ads for Snapchat to reach high school students who may consider attending Iowa State. One ad promoted the new college name, and a second promoted the college offering more than $1 million in student scholarships. Both ads have moving graphics and images. This is our first time advertising on Snapchat, so we’re excited
to see the data.
To help our faculty and staff keep all of these details organized, our marketing team developed a few helpful resources:
• A printed brochure with all brand resources and guidelines. This is a handy resource for faculty and staff.
• We also created an online marketing and communications services page on our website that provides those details about our brand guidelines. This is where all updated materials, tips, and resources are stored for faculty and staff. It is continually updated.
And let’s not forget the many little details
Changing a brand or business name means you also have to change a lot of materials that everyone uses, including business cards, name tags, stationery, letterhead, and all of the pens you order with the college — or company name. There are so many details that most people don’t think about.
Reflections from the marketing team
Michele Appelgate, director of marketing and communications, Ivy College of Business
“This was one of the most important, detailed branding projects for the college. There were so many moving pieces throughout the first 16 months of establishing this refreshed brand. It was one of the most exciting projects I have ever worked on. I look forward to our continued work in spreading the news that We Are Ivy.”
Emily Bowman, graphic designer, Ivy College of Business
“After the initial excitement of the gift announcement had quieted and the refresh work began, it was easy to get swept up in the day-to-day tasks that this job requires. We are definitely a college on the move! So, for me, the most rewarding part of this process was revealing the new brand to Ivy faculty and staff and seeing that excitement hit them all over again. It has been a joy and a privilege to be part of this historic time in the college’s history.”