College to refresh Emerson brand

by Laura King / Beacon Staff • December 11, 2014

In 2015, Emerson’s New Year’s resolution will be to change its public image. By next fall, the college hopes to develop several options for a new brand, including a new logo, according to Andrew Tiedemann, vice president for communications and marketing.

The project will first analyze how Emerson and its competitors are viewed by the college community and the general public, then use those findings to design a new graphic identity and website, in a process that Tiedemann said will involve students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Emerson has hired two firms to assist with the project.

The college’s identity has not been evaluated through comprehensive market research since 2004, Tiedemann said, before the school opened Emerson Los Angeles and appointed M. Lee Pelton as president. Now that Pelton has settled in and defined his own goals for Emerson, marketing professor Donald Hurwitz said it is a good time to reevaluate the school’s image.

“As a general matter of best practices, any organization should step back periodically and ask itself what messages it’s putting out into the marketplace,” said Hurwitz.

The message of the college will likely still highlight storytelling and entrepreneurship, said Tiedemann, but will also include more of a focus on Emerson’s global reach and academic quality, in line with Pelton’s vision.

“It’s a rare moment in an institution’s history when we get to really examine who we are and where we want to be,” said Tiedemann.

Freshman Cole Jaeger said that he thinks the essence of Emerson’s tagline, “bringing innovation to communication and the arts,” still fits, since the college is proud of its diversity.

“I think that Emerson students really embrace being different,” said Jaeger, a visual and media arts major.

Amanda Gomez, a senior journalism major, said she thinks Emerson’s website is too generic and doesn’t convey the school’s eccentricity and focus on opportunities for students.

“It’s your first impression, especially for people who aren’t from the area,” said Gomez.

The rebranding project was originally supposed to begin in December 2013, but Tiedemann said that choosing branding agencies and getting the budget finalized took longer than expected. He declined to comment on the cost of the initiative.

The two companies that Emerson decided on are Ologie, which Tiedemann said will provide project management, and SimpsonScarborough, which will provide resources for research. The pair of firms has worked together in the past for the rebrandings of Smith College, University of Arizona, and Purdue University, according to Tiedemann.

The first stage of Emerson’s branding initiative, set to start in January, will gather data about perceptions of the college through focus groups and surveys of the community, said Tiedemann. The process is expected to take five to seven months, followed by a period of analysis.

The research will, in part, then go toward developing a new graphic identity for the college, Tiedemann said. The team will evaluate Emerson’s logo—an illustrated “E”—and tagline. The college hopes to present potential new graphics to the community in Fall 2015, said Tiedemann. He said input from staff and students will be encouraged.

“Part of the project is not just who Emerson is today,” said Tiedemann, “but who we want to be.”

Tiedemann said he is leading the project with Michael Sarra, assistant vice president of enrollment marketing; Brian Geer, director of development communication; Jeffrey Schoenherr, vice president for development and alumni relations; and Nicole Sullivan, special projects manager & senior administrative associate to the vice president for communications and marketing.

Tiedemann said he and the other four project leaders met on Tuesday, Dec. 2 with staff from Ologie to begin planning logistics. At the meeting, he said they agreed to form a committee of about 12 to 16 people who will meet quarterly. Tiedemann said the committee will include students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni.

“It’s going to be an inclusive, community-wide effort,” said Tiedemann, “and I’m very excited to be part of it.”