Those are just a few of the words students and alumni invoke to describe their experience at Florida Gulf Coast University. We know because we asked them. Dozens and dozens of them over the course of several months.
“FGCU inspired me to dream.” “FGCU taught me who I am.” “FGCU taught me how to be a better student, citizen and person.”
Testimonials like these embody and amplify the university’s new branding campaign, The FGCU Effect. It’s about inspiring those who then inspire others.
You’ve probably heard the expression “the butterfly effect,” the notion that one small change in a situation (a flutter of wings) can affect the outcome of something somewhere else (like a hurricane). The idea originated in a chaos theory metaphor involving meteorology, but we really don’t need to go there.
In our branding scenario, The FGCU Effect conveys how the university transforms students by challenging their minds and engaging their hearts. In turn, graduates leave FGCU empowered to change lives, change their communities, maybe even change the world. That’s The FGCU Effect.
This homegrown brand grew out of months of research, creative brainstorming and concept testing by the University Marketing and Communications team – not an outside consulting firm. Who would know the institution’s values, strengths and priorities better than our own proud staff?
For some team members, it was their first experience working on a major marketing and branding campaign. Others brought decades of experience and acclaim in higher-education marketing to the table.
Although The FGCU Effect originated within the team, the campaign’s direction was guided by the university community. We listened to dozens of administrators, faculty, staff, students and alumni. We picked the brains of high school guidance counselors and chatted up prospective students on tours. We drew on the research and recommendations of Neustadt Creative Marketing’s study commissioned in 2014 as well as those of a new Marketing Collaboration Team at FGCU.
The first client to benefit from our efforts to develop a new brand? Admissions. The folks who recruit and counsel prospective students were a natural starting point for proving our brand concept. The university had raised the bar for admission to pursue a higher caliber of student than in the past. It was time for a change in printed and digital communication, too.
At the same time, this brand would have to be comprehensive enough to expand beyond Admissions. It had to be integrated as a campus-wide brand that could increase awareness of FGCU’s programs and impact. Raise the academic reputation of the institution. Inspire support from alumni, the community and government leaders. It had to have “legs.” Emotion. Simplicity. Relevance. Originality. Attitude. It had to be smart. Unique to FGCU. Unexpected. Honest. Memorable.
No pressure there.
“It was challenging, but we really wanted to raise the bar and think beyond the way we’ve done this in the past,” said photographer and graphic designer James Greco, who has worked on Admissions marketing materials for years. “We kicked around a lot of good ideas, but none of them came close to resonating the way The FGCU Effect does. We knew it would work in a lot of different ways.”
To minimize distractions, the creative team sequestered itself last spring in a self-styled “creative loft” in the Campus Support Complex. We needed a place to get away from the daily grind. Hang inspirational images and messages. Think outside the box.
To understand the essence of FGCU, some of us rode along on campus tours. Eavesdropped on conversations in the Cohen Center. Snapped pictures of sunny landscapes as well as students immersed in the living laboratory that is our campus. Tossed around themes both earnest and witty, predictable and surprising, literate and slangy.
After testing three concepts via print brochures, advertising and social media campaigns, we settled on two to present to the Admissions staff in May. In a unanimous show of support, our colleagues wholeheartedly embraced The FGCU Effect (it was our clear favorite, too). As we presented the concept to other campus leaders, responses were equally enthusiastic:
“What I’m most proud of is that we did this outstanding work ourselves — in-house, with our own folks.”
-- President Wilson G. Bradshaw
“A good branding effort is like building a big circus tent that everyone can fit under. The FGCU Effect makes room for everyone.”
-- Vice President and Chief of Staff Susan Evans
“The FGCU Effect absolutely captures my FGCU experience as a student and it hits what prospective students care about.”
-- Alumna and undergraduate recruiter Lauren Schuetz
With a strong, clear mandate we dove into production work on various Admissions publications. Refined our messages. Expanded the campaign’s color palette beyond FGCU’s signature blue and green. Videotaped dozens of graduates at Spring Commencement talking about how FGCU has affected them. The chalkboards they scrawled words on became a recurring visual touchstone for the campaign.
You’ll will see the results of these efforts all over this website. And some day in your mail. In your newspapers and magazines. On your social media streams. As you walk through Southwest Florida International Airport.
And, as incoming students become aware of The FGCU Effect, they’ll be asking themselves how FGCU will inspire them. And how they can inspire others.
That’s The FGCU Effect.