Renea Morris

Renea Morris

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Branding OHIO: Identity and personality

In communication, identity mostly refers to your true inner self - as an organization or a brand. An effective brand identity is a clear, tangible description that can be summarized succinctly. It should resonate with target audiences, be differentiated from competitors, and represent clearly what the organization can and will do over time.

One of the key findings from an Ohio University brand perception study conducted last fall with prospective students in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland was that in those markets, OHIO has limited brand awareness and familiarity, two key metrics for attracting interested students.

The survey revealed that familiarity is driven, to a large extent, by the distance that students live from the University. And, institutions most familiar to high school students are markedly different from one market to the next. Becoming better at expressing what OHIO stands for and the value it brings can help elevate the University’s levels of awareness among core target audiences to continue attracting interested students. Implications of having a focused brand identity include opportunities to:

  1. Re-allocate marketing, recruitment and advertising efforts to better balance familiarity by market

  2. Recognize each market’s unique competitive set

  3. Establish a consistent and unified approach to marketing and branding throughout the University.

What adjective would you use to describe the personality of Ohio University?

The concept of brand personality combines identity and image. A personality has roots in the identity but is more externally focused. It is not ‘be who you are;’ it is ‘become who you should be.’

As part of a brand perception study, members of the university community were asked to describe the personality of Ohio University. The number one adjective used to describe Ohio University from nearly 1,500 responses from faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and board members;


Other popular adjectives expressed were “well-rounded,” “proud,” and “engaged.”

Gaining insight into the personality of the University is just one of the components of a strategic branding process in which we’ve been involved over the past several months to reveal from the institution’s inventory of capabilities, achievements, and culture, an identity that is meaningful, differentiating, and relevant.

I’ll describe the components of the brand essence model in the next Branding OHIO.

Sources: Brand Leadership, David A. AAker and Eric Joachimsthaler; Visual Branding, Tom Dorresteijn