Winthrop is working with higher education marketing agency for rebranding

Winthrop is in the process of an university-wide rebranding initiative with FMB Advertising of Knoxville, Tennessee, an agency with 30 years of higher education marketing, according to Katie Price, director of marketing at Winthrop.

“While many schools look at how they are presenting themselves to the world every few years, we had not done so since 1992,” Price said.

FMB helps clients with strategic marketing, brand development and advertising in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to their website. Their services include advertising campaigns, audiovisual work, collateral and digital media engagement.

For the last two years, Winthrop has engaged in rebranding itself with emphasis on student-focused opportunities, the physical campus, tradition and history.

The discussion of rebranding started in 2015, entering Winthrop into a consultation contract through the State of South Carolina Procurement Office. Winthrop began working with FMB in 2016.

The process began with a variety of research methods from FBM to identify the perception of Winthrop internally and externally. On-campus discussions involved over 100 constituents, or participants in the research, between 11 focus groups and various on-campus groups.

“The research confirmed that Winthrop is perceived to be a diverse, close-knit campus that affords the opportunity for strong faculty-student mentor relationships, support for success after college, and a community where students are welcomed, accepted and valued,” Price said. Research from the United States News peer assessment scores supports these findings.

While Winthrop has many appealing qualities as a higher-education institution, their “brand message has lost some focus,” according to Price.

The next step is improving Winthrop’s brand positioning and evolving the visual identity. This includes evaluating logo marks, fonts, colors, photography and other aspects of Winthrop’s brand.

FBM is also looking for a way to market Winthrop’s “focus on student-centered educational experience and beautiful campus,” a couple of the university’s strongest assets according to the research from constituents.

“We need a more consistent message that will stand out and resonate with our audiences, a message that captures why students would want to become part of the Winthrop community,” Price said.

When the phases are complete, Winthrop will slowly transition to the creation of a media plan to roll out new branding, including a redesign of the main website.

“But one fact was clear from the start – Winthrop would keep the garnet and gold!” Price said, a common consensus among on-campus constituents.

The process is long-term and will take “much work and thoughtful consideration,” according to Price. The challenge for rebranding is finding a balance of appeal to prospective students while maintaining history and tradition.

“Consistency across the university is important in how we present ourselves moving forward,” Price said.  “We will take our time as we transition from one look to another and will work to make the process as seamless as possible.”

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