Indescribable Distinctiveness of the Alma Experience Shapes College's New Graphic Identity
There’s only one Alma College.
That self-evident yet intriguing realization will shape the College’s future marketing initiatives and visual identity.
A comprehensive, yearlong review of the distinctive strengths, themes and experiences that characterize the Alma College experience has resulted in a new visual identity designed to enhance the College’s profile with its many audiences.
A new tagline that acknowledges that there is “Only One Alma” combined with a modernized pinecone logo provides a consistent image that conveys impressions of quality, prestige, distinction and recognition of the experiences that students have to reach their full potential.
“As a graduate, I often have a difficult time describing the Alma experience to others,” says Carol Furrow Hyble ‘78, vice president for advancement. “Alumni have a deep belief and respect for what happens here, a lifelong connection with faculty and classmates, and enthusiasm for learning that extends beyond the classroom. It’s just an extraordinary place that’s hard to describe unless you have been here.
“‘Only One Alma’ best illustrates that indescribable sentiment that distinguishes Alma College from other colleges and universities,” she says.
College publications, stationery and business cards will prominently display the logomark – the graphic design that consists of the college name, logo and tagline. The College Web site incorporates the new look on its page banners. The logomark also may be applied to tasteful apparel and novelty items.
The new logomark replaces all previous College wordmarks and logos. College designers also are developing new Athletic Department identity symbols that will complement the new logomark. The College seal remains unchanged but is reserved for formal documents such as diplomas and transcripts. A communications standards manual provides basic guidelines for use of the College’s identity symbols. The Marketing and Public Relations Office will oversee the appropriate applications of the new visual identity.
In the summer of 2004, the College launched its pursuit of a new brand identity by contracting with Richard Harrison Bailey/The Agency, a South Bend, Ind.,-based marketing firm with past linkages to the College.
“We felt that an outside firm would embrace our efforts and provide an expertise to help guide us through the process,” says Hyble. “Bailey’s has worked with us in the past on several projects, including the creation of the official Alma Tartan that celebrates our Scottish heritage. The firm knows Alma College and was extremely helpful in leading us through the logo process.”
A key element of the process was its inclusiveness. In October 2004, Bailey’s came to campus to lead a series of discussions that involved in-depth interviews with students and individuals they identified as their key influencers, such as faculty and staff members, family members, fellow students and others who helped them formulate their ideas and plans for the future.
In the spring, Bailey’s returned to campus to conduct external focus groups and one-on-one interviews with Alma College trustees, faculty, administrators, students, alumni, high school counselors, Presbyterian pastors and prospective students. Drawing on existing research and the perspectives and ideas expressed by the focus group participants, Bailey’s devised key messages, themes and positioning statements that were then tested for authenticity with various Alma College audiences.
“Our long relationship with Alma helped us appreciate the contribution of history and tradition to the process,” says Rick Bailey, agency president. “The development of the new identity and tagline came through our discussions with Alma people. They led us to recommendations that resonated with the Alma College community.
“We liken our approach to the same theory behind global position systems, the Theory of Navigational Triangulation,” he says. “GPS works on the principle that three satellites circling the earth can pinpoint your position on the planet. Where those three satellite beams intersect will indicate precisely where you are. In our case, the three satellites are three questions: What is the Alma experience from the inside? How does Alma describe the experience to others? What do those on the outside looking in perceive about the Alma experience? Those three ‘satellites’ help us hone in on an accurate message.”
The process included interviews with hundreds of Alma constituents. Bailey’s tested dozens of options for taglines during the process. Most of the ideas had significant flaws for one reason or another.
“Near the end of our research, we heard some hints of the theme that there was simply no place quite like Alma, and that the College’s future would be brighter if we could find great ways to unite all the facets of this wonderful place and experience into a cohesive whole,” says Bailey. “‘Only One Alma’ helped to say both of these. First, that while it’s difficult to put a finger on just what makes Alma wonderful, it is indeed a one-of-a-kind College. And second, Alma is at its best when, as a community, the College is singular in its outreach efforts. While there are many facets of the Alma experience, it’s still one diamond.”
Accompanying the launch of the new logo and tagline will be an integrated marketing communications plan that includes advertisements in national news magazines and 30-second spots on targeted cable television channels.
“We are determined to communicate to others what we know about the distinctiveness of an Alma College education,” says Hyble. “There are more than 3,800 colleges and universities in the United States, but only one Alma. No one else can make that claim.”
– Mike Silverthorn