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RIT, Dunkin’, Wegmans and the Yankees: The power of branding Alumni, Branding, PR musings

So what makes a good 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 overall 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. I’m an Orioles fan and we lost our identity when Cal Ripken Jr. retired. We lost our brand. And now we just plain lose!

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

Yet President Bill Destler wants to enhance the brand message further. He announced in his Welcome Back Remarks that we have engaged a branding firm, based in Philadelphia, to assist us in telling RIT’s amazing story to the world. The firm is 160 over 90.

The firm has vast experience with consumer branding (Nike, American Eagle, Athlete’s Foot, Sony Pictures), as well as higher education (Michigan State, Dayton, Loyola, American University, New Haven, Miami of Ohio and others).

An early peek at the Michigan State new branding campaign can be found on YouTube.

In terms of background, you may recall that RIT engaged the firm Art & Science, based in Baltimore, a few years back 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 160/90 to utilize the Art & Science data and work with us 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 new book about branding in higher education, The Real URobert Moore describes branding 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.”

Over the next year, with your input, we will roll out a refined brand message first internally at RIT, and then externally. Please help us refine this message by providing feedback as requested throughout the year. Members of the RIT family are key brand ambassadors. Stay tuned for more updates as we move along on this project.

  1. Powers
    Sep 07

    I'm all for it, as long as we keep our incredible wordmark. =)

  2. Pete
    Sep 13

    I think it is important for everyone reading Bob's message about branding to remember that the RIT brand goes so far beyond the Orange & Brown, the Tiger, and the RIT lettermark. I suppose that they are the identifiers that people associate with RIT, but the things that really define the RIT brand is our career-focused, technological, and specialized academic atmosphere. That is what RIT is known for. Lets not forget how important other factors of RIT's brand are either. Things like our global approach, our community, and our creative and innovative approach to learning. RIT is such a diverse place with a richness of history and an unimaginable successful future ahead. Its great to be a part of this university for more than a decade for myself and I can't wait to see what the next five decades can bring.

  3. David Page
    Oct 03

    Visual branding plays a very important part in how well we are remembered. Take the Red off of the Red Sox uniforms or the pinstripes away from the Yankees—they become less recognized in their efforts.

    That is exactly what has happened at RIT.

    For example, at a recent national Photo Marketing Association in Vegas, the RIT faculty were dressed in PURPLE "RIT" attire. "It is the RIT photography color..." I was told.

    Did you know that the RIT flag and colors of orange, brown, white and black are the real colors of the RIT tiger. Our technical school is the only university that is technically correct color wise. Not Clemson's purple and orange or Auburn's blue and orange and certainly not LSU's yellow and purple.

    In the mid 60s, RIT students, including many with strong RIT-taught visual skills, came up with these new brand colors as we switched from blue and gray. I personally wanted orange and black, but was correctly reminded that Princeton has a lock on that visual brand (as well as hundreds of high schools nationwide).

    Recently as student government strived to keep the color brown alive, RIT sports teams abandoned brown and have recently added gray to their Uniforms. Our sucessfull SAE Race car team has gone a step further and runs a car with black, two shades of gray and a little band of orange.

    Perhaps we have some good branding (being technically correct) and are just failing to present it in a uniform and repeated fashion by allowing each segment of the university to ignore it and substituting their own whims.

  4. Bob Finnerty
    Oct 05

    Thanks for the comments David. Purple?? Wow.

    And good perspective on other colors around the university.

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