Current Issue

Telling the DU story

Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone the news — not yet, anyway. The University of Denver is quietly undertaking a branding initiative. A brand befitting our University is a far cry from a hot iron on cowhide. The right brand for DU captures our essence.

To make our brand, or identity, authentic, DU is investing in a communal process to define what makes us special. When we bring coherence to the identity of this complex place, we can speak with an intelligible voice. Years of extraordinary progress have brought DU to the edge of greatness. We graduate outstanding students, yet our recognition outside of Colorado is still limited. That complicates the recruiting of future students and faculty and impacts alumni pride.

The University has a wonderful story to tell, and building a brand will assure it is heard. Our brand is what all of us — alumni and students, faculty and staff — can rally around. It captures DU’s distinctive approach to education as well as the University’s role in the broader community. It differentiates us from our current and future competitors.

In setting this ambitious goal, we cannot overestimate the role that every DU individual plays in creating and communicating our brand. It equals the experience people have when they are on our campus, in our classrooms, at our events. Faculty, custodians, student-athletes, accountants and, indeed, all members of the University community, shape the DU experience. Our identity becomes clear only when all of us accept its ownership. We must think of that identity as fundamental to the way we approach our work or studies.

We began the brand-building process last year by asking students, alumni, faculty, staff and others what they thought of DU. Their views were positive but unremarkable: a quality faculty dedicated to learning, a livable campus and education relevant to real-world success. With opinion research complete, we looked to the vision that drives planning and budgeting across DU: dedication to the public good, an extraordinary education, a daring search for knowledge and a diverse, dynamic community.

This spring we developed the University’s brand language, then tested it. DU’s essence is “Pioneering Excellence,” meaning that DU’s environment empowers greatness. Supporting that environment are four attributes: excellence, innovation, integrity and engagement.

Next, we took a deep breath and delved deeper inside the organization. We appointed 10 teams of faculty and staff who work together in their schools and departments. Through hours of facilitated workshops, we challenged them to use these attributes to bring the brand to life in their areas. Changing how we think of our work is difficult, yet also empowering and even fun. We appreciate the first teams forging the way as we build our brand from the inside out. We are encouraging them to continue, and we will utilize their experiences to refine the process for new teams in the next academic year.

The term “brand” is a cliché for many who consider it synonymous with marketing. Superficial approaches to branding spur skepticism. Some colleges and universities consider brand building complete when they have created a new logo, coined a tagline and launched an advertising campaign. Not DU, which is why I wanted to explain our deeply committed approach.

Building the DU brand will remain mostly internal, for now. Make no mistake, this is the start of something big: People upon whom DU’s success depends are taking responsibility for aligning the culture of their school or department with the identity DU deserves, nationally and internationally. Ultimately, the shifts will be significant and positive. I believe we will succeed in building our brand, and that it will be one of the most important steps DU has ever taken.

Comments are closed.