New messages, new branding
As institutions grow and change over the years, the symbols they use and the messages they deliver should reflect that growth. After all, Apple’s logo was once a busy image of Isaac Newton sitting under a tree. It evolved over time into a multicolored apple and then into the sleek, instantly recognizable silhouette we know so well.
JCCC is changing too and has just completed its first rebranding effort, a purposeful look at the college’s current perceptions and attributes and its aspirations for the future. Through Bernstein-Rein, a top branding agency in Kansas City, Mo., the college talked to current students, alumni, future students, faculty and staff, and community members in a series of world cafes and focus groups. From participants’ responses, the agency crafted a new college logo and helped set JCCC on its way with a new message.
“It was time to take a new look at the college’s brand to determine how well it reflects the current – and future – college experience,” said Terry Calaway, JCCC president. “We wanted to improve our understanding of our stakeholders to determine the changes we need to make to our marketing for a new audience.”
However, a college’s “brand” is more than just its logo; it reflects its institutional identity and values and describes a stakeholder’s experience or impression. If a brand identity no longer accurately represents what JCCC means to and does for its stakeholders, then it’s time the branding was updated and refined. The goal was to understand what stakeholders thought about JCCC and to see the gaps between where it was and where it wanted to be.
“From that,” Calaway said, “we would work to better meet our goal of becoming a first-choice college focused on student success. That includes deriving a logo that reflects where JCCC is in a new century instead of where it was in the middle of the last one.”
Among the reasons for seeing JCCC as a first-choice college was its 93 percent approval rating in an environmental scan conducted by the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce Foundation in January, the fact that JCCC is now the largest institution of higher education in the state, the high GPAs of JCCC students who transfer to four-year schools, and the outcomes reported by students who complete JCCC’s career programs.
The intention, then, was to create an updated identity that reflected a contemporary, vital JCCC. JCCC’s old brand identity included its sunflower logo with a single open petal, which dated from 1969. Its official colors were brown and gold, although maroon and either gray or gold had been in use since the ‘80s. The college’s new logo retains not only the sunflower’s petals, but its single open petal, signifying the college’s openness to new ideas. A major change, though, is the array of colors – beginning with gold, shifting through green and teal, and ending with a dark blue.
In the focus groups conducted by Bernstein-Rein, the petal logo was the most well-liked design among those shown; it was the overwhelming favorite among both current students and alumni segments. The new colors reflect the attributes and perceptions uncovered in the world cafes. According to current color theory, greens express the idea of self-investigation and intellectual experience; blues communicate creative viewpoints and future-based planning; and yellows and gold convey comfort and warmth.
In the process of creating the design, Bernstein-Rein worked with JCCC graphic design students and faculty; the students contributed to the more than 70 designs that were initially created. Bernstein-Rein has also hired JCCC graphic design graduates, several of whom worked on this project.
The college will retain the Cavaliers as mascot; however, the athletic teams will start to transition to uniforms of dark blue and yellow, the anchor colors of the new logo.The college began the transition to its new logos and colors this summer.