Some have asked, “why did we take the actions we took in order to brand the school?” The answer boils down to establishing a unique niche leading to a competitive corner amongst the hundreds of choices potential students have when considering higher education. It used to be that a community college could count on its local residents to attend the local institution. Those citizens who needed retraining or were planning on spending their first two years of a baccalaureate program at a community college naturally found themselves gravitating towards the local community college, primarily because of cost and accessibility.
Today, however, all that has changed. While some students will attend the local institution due to ease and price, no longer does any one institution has a market niche based on these two variables. With distance learning and niche programs sprouting up all over the country, students today have more choices than ever and it is no longer feasible to sit back and count on local students to register at their local community college simply because it is in the same region or, even the same town. This is especially true if the college itself has not established its image as a premier institution where one’s cost equals the value one will derive from the educational experience offered.
To believe that an institution can depend upon its local citizenry to be its lifeblood, regardless of its image, is to be foolhardy, at best, and negligent at worse.
Last week I wrote about how we “set the stage” for establishing a “brand identity” for Florida Keys Community College (FKCC). We did so by soliciting feedback and determining how our constituents (and potential constituent groups) perceived the college and its accompanying logo’s (letters quite literally in boxes of primary colors), taglines (Start here, go anywhere), and services. We then set about determining consensus on a shared vision and mission statement. Those statements were defined as follows:
Enriched by its unique island location, Florida Keys Community College provides student-centered post-secondary degrees, life-long learning opportunities, and workforce development initiatives which enhance the educational, recreational, economic, and cultural environment of the Florida Keys .
The college will be the premier educational and cultural center of the Florida Keys.
With this focus on the islands, the tagline was clear: Island Living, Island Learning. Unlike the former tagline, this statement elicited a unique concept that fit the college’s program mix, which follows and contributes to the island economy.
The island concept lent itself naturally to new colors – we moved away from the primary red, blue, yellow, and green blocks to vivid aqua blue and bright, tropical green.
Original FKCC Branding
Island Living / Island Learning
The new branding image was received from Students, Faculty and Administrators alike and our enrollment numbers soared.
Before we could undertake a full and effective branding process at FKCC, we first had to step back, take a long hard look at how we were perceived and who we wanted to be.
To do this necessitated numerous focus groups, facilitated by objective third-party consultants. In all cases representatives of the college participated although they remained in the role of observant listener rather than actively engaging in the dialogue. This allowed our consultants - everyone from business leaders to students, to potential friends of the college, to freely communicate. As for the representatives, by listening with an open mind they were able to learn much of which they were previously unaware.
A primary, recurring themes was the lack of awareness of opportunity at the college. Indeed, one person commented he had never been to the campus and wouldn’t have come expect for the that the president had followed up each invitation with a personal phone call.
Many people, especially students and prospective students felt the exiting primary colors (red, yellow, blue, and green) appeared to be more representative of a preschool than a college.
After hearing all this, we ran a session to define our mission, vision, values, and strategic plan. leveraging our unique island locale, we appropriately entitled the plan – Island living / Island Learning. The branding began….
Stay tuned next week for more on how we move a college from a 10 year enrollment decline to the fastest growing school in the Florida State College System. Branding was a critical component. which I will describe in more detail next week.