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RIT, Dunkin’, Wegmans and the Yankees – the power of branding

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Bob Finnerty is RIT’s chief communications officer.

What makes a strong brand? Let’s start close to home with Wegmans. When you think Wegmans, here’s what comes to mind: customer service, fresh food, convenience, a great place to work and high quality.

Dunkin’ Donuts sells more coffee than donuts after it repositioned 
its brand with the “America Runs on Dunkin’ ” campaign. 

Even sports teams have a brand. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox both have strong and similar brand traits (tradition, passionate fans, winning), but they evoke different emotions and are distinctly different. 

So what do Wegmans, Dunkin’ and the Bronx Bombers have to do with RIT? To start, RIT already has a strong brand. We are technological. We are global. We offer hands-on experiences. We are innovative and creative.

Yet, President Bill Destler wants to enhance the brand message even further. That is why the university has engaged a branding firm, based in Philadelphia, to assist us in telling RIT’s amazing story to the world. The firm, 160 over 90, has vast experience with consumer branding with clients like Nike, American Eagle, Athlete’s Foot and Sony Pictures. It also has 
clients in higher education: Michigan State, Dayton, Loyola, American University, Miami of Ohio and others.

A few years ago, RIT engaged the Baltimore-based firm Art & Science 
to conduct market research and a brand positioning study for the university. The work of Art & Science provided RIT with valuable marketing 
intelligence to move us forward on many platforms. It is now a natural 
progression for a creative firm like 160 over 90 to utilize the Art & Science data and work with RIT to enhance our brand message, expression, image and promotional materials on many platforms.

A brand is much more than a logo or tagline. In his book The Real U, 
author Robert Moore describes branding at colleges and universities as “simply a believable and compelling narrative…stories.” Moore adds: “Great brands resonate in the mind. They set up an echo chamber in 
which the brand promise reverberates with the needs and expectations 
that people hold for the brand … Strong brands are magnetic.”

Why does all this matter? Strong brands …

  • Engage constituents in a richer experience

  • Build loyalty

  • Command generous support

  • Improve the user experience

  • Flourish in difficult times

Over the next several months and into 2011, we will roll out a refined brand message—first internally at RIT and then externally to the community and the world. Members of the RIT family are key brand ambassadors and we will look for your input as we move forward.


Bob Finnerty is RIT’s chief communications officer.