We know why our students chose the Lundquist College of Business for their degree. Our present challenge is communicating that message in a unifying brand story that succinctly, elegantly, and emotionally differentiates the Lundquist College’s unique identity and makes clear our value proposition from that of our competitors.
Earlier this year, we retained Songlines Communications to help us to do just that.Songlines is currently helping us to answer the question “Why Lundquist?” or “Why Oregon’s business school?” relative to all the alternatives. Moreover, the firm is helping us leverage and blend our message with the overall University of Oregon brand story and positioning.
After examining prior research, mining college and UO documents, surveying how other business schools describe their mission and competitive advantage, and conducting more than forty in-depth interviews with faculty, staff, students, alumni, board members, recruiters, employers, and other stakeholders, we are one step closer to our goal of developing a brand identity that will:
- Provide a clear sense of the Lundquist College’s organizational identity based on our mission, values, culture, core competencies, and strategic objectives.
- Articulate—in an authentic and compelling way—this identity to external constituencies in a clear and consistent manner.
- Serve as a guide for long-term strategic planning and a set of guardrails for moment-of-truth judgments and decision making.
As we begin to digest Songlines’ findings and recommendations we must remind ourselves that characteristics such as academic excellence, experiential learning, and a world-class faculty—while highly desirable—do not differentiate us effectively from our peers. The challenge, therefore, is to capture these truths in a brand story, but also to express them in a way that is different, exciting and memorable. Over time, a brand idea that meets these criteria can identify a specific organization without even stating its name.
Have it your way. Just do it. Don’t leave home without it.
To this end Songlines created a number of “story themes”—each different in emphasis and capable of supporting a broad spectrum of stories that reflect the core strengths and values of the Lundquist College of Business. What differs in each is the central focus of the theme but all these themes share the overarching notion of thought leadership and have application in all areas of study at the college.
For example, one theme is A New Business Model. This is the idea that at the Lundquist College of Business we are thought leaders creating a new business model for the twenty-first century by integrating concepts such as responsibility, sustainability, and a focus on values. Another theme is the New Oregon Way—which leverages the pioneering spirit that characterizes much of Oregon and the UO, emphasizing our reputation in innovation, creativity, and life balance.
In the weeks to come, we will work with Songlines, our faculty, and our communications and external relations staff to refine the list. As we do so, we should heed Songlines’ advice:
“First, whatever brand theme is ultimately selected, what is most important is that the college ‘pick a lane.’ What distinguishes great brands from other institutions is the fact that they know who they are, they embrace a set of values that reflect their unique identity, and they commit to behaviors consistent with who they are and what they believe.” In other words, they know exactly what they are, but also what they are not.
There are consequences to picking a lane, the most important of which is the commitment to stand for something. This commitment is what defines and builds a community. It also builds the power to influence. It engenders loyalty and draws in those who share the point of view. But because these decisions describe what an organization is not, they also alienate. When presented with a clear choice and point of view, some people will select the organization and others will not. Committing to a lane requires discipline and courage.
As we proceed down this path, it is also imperative that we do so with purpose and confidence.
As Songlines noted in its study, “Our research has convinced us that the Lundquist College of Business is special and unique. It offers a combination of educational advantages and opportunities not offered by any other institution. It may be the Oregon way to be humble and modest, but we would encourage the college to be proud of its curriculum and accomplishments and to express pride in all it communicates to its constituencies.”
We concur and hope you do, too.
Cornelis A. “Kees” de Kluyver
Dean and James and Shirley Rippey Distinguished Professor