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What we heard and what we did

Over the past four months we have benefited from almost 9,000 contacts across all stakeholder groups providing feedback and reactions throughout the process. 

The Communications and Marketing department collected and organized all feedback received from discussions with those who:

  • Participated in 12 consultation and preview sessions between October and February.
  • Sent messages directly to the Branding Update website.
  • Attended various presentations across the campus.
  • Responded by direct emails.

Reactions and feedback from social media, external stakeholders, and those with long-standing affiliations with the institution were also reviewed as part of our process. The intent was to provide a very open process with an opportunity for all interested stakeholders to be part of the process while voicing their opinions as we progressed.

All feedback and reactions were organized into three general themes and areas by C and M. These themes were reviewed with the Brand Advisory Group as we moved through the process to develop a short name and the visual design to support the new brand.

At the same time, a comprehensive external market research study was conducted by an external firm (Academica Research). This helped inform the final decisions as we balanced feedback from our stakeholders and the objective of advancing the institution’s awareness in our market.

The following three themes emerged in the feedback and were addressed in our final direction:

  • Brand name

    The initial proposal for the moniker ONTechU was not well received. Feedback surfaced several concerns with this approach including an approach without precedent, an unclear positioning of the institution, and various new challenges introduced with the pronunciation of this short form. It was also clear that this term just didn’t connect or resonate with our campus community, so was removed from consideration. 

    Feedback from stakeholders surfaced Ontario Tech as the strongest approach as it is consistent with how other technology-focused universities brand themselves internationally. Some feedback indicated that this model, while known internationally, may not be well understood in Canada and may not position us with sufficient gravitas. As a result, we used our market research to understand the scope of this potential issue. We learned that 78 per cent of people in our direct market had heard of at least one of the following highly reputable institutions: Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, CalTech, Georgia Tech or Texas Tech.  As result, we concluded that our market is familiar with this naming model and it would create the basis of an effective brand name.

    The Brand Advisory Group recognized the voice of the university community and the need to clearly position us as a university. As a result, it was determined that University would be added to the institution’s brand name.

    Finally, we tested Ontario Tech University in market research. The research concluded that the new name appealed to our audiences and that less than 10 per cent felt this new name conveyed challenges associated with being unprofessional or lacking reputation. In contrast, while some preferred the current name, many felt it was an improvement and was simpler/easier to use. Also of note was that high school students found the new name the most appealing―a positive when it comes to attracting new students necessary to supporting the university’s future enrolment growth goals. 

    It’s important to recognize that most of those opposed to the use of Ontario Tech University signalled the desire to continue using our existing name and brand. Their feeling was that a change would disregard the progress made so far in our history and create unnecessary confusion. Their feelings are recognized and at the same time have been balanced with the need to advance the awareness of the institution for the future. Our research indicated that despite a 17-year history, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology suffers from the lowest awareness levels among those universities surveyed by a significant margin and the change to Ontario Tech University is a necessary action. Still, the negative feedback some have continued to provide about the entire process indicates that we need to better communicate the value of the new brand and demonstrate how the identified challenges are being addressed as we manage through the change process.

  • Logo design

    Feedback from the community was used to develop and refine our university’s official logo and athletic/spirit marks.

    Initial feedback indicated a strong desire to modernize our existing shield as a design element as well as leverage the paw as our primary athletic mark. These were primary design considerations as we developed our initial proposed visual identity introduced to the campus community for consultation and feedback.

    Feedback on the proposed marks from our New Brand Preview Week in February was generally very positive. While most negative feedback was related to criticisms of the entire new brand initiative, other feedback was constructive in improving our logo design.

    Primary Logo 

    The university’s main logo was generally very well received, most felt it was bold, modern and agreed that while it stood out from the logos of other universities, it also felt like it belonged and was worthy of our institution. The vast majority liked the inclusion of the orange into the colour palette, feeling that it helped the identity stand out and create some positive energy.  Some did not initially appreciate the meaning behind all logo elements, but upon understanding felt it was strong:

     Three pieces of the university shield broken down: Triangle/arrow, shield and arc

    We learned the importance of continuing to reinforce the meaning of the new shield in our communications as we introduce the new identity externally and execute. This is an increased focus in our brand introduction video and ongoing communications.

    We also heard some feedback about the proposed faculty identities not being bold enough and diverging from the primary logo design. As a result, we adjusted these as new Signature Identities to help reinforce our faculties as core disciplines offered at the institution.

    Faculty logos - before and after

    Market research on the new logo indicated that 60 per cent liked the new identity on first impression and only 26 per cent claimed to dislike it. The research also demonstrated that the new logo better communicated our positioning vs. the existing logo and significantly outperformed our existing logo on the messages of being unique, modern, interesting, intriguing, approachable and engaging. Overall, the research results indicated significant appeal and communications value for the new identity among key external audiences.

    Athletic/Spirit Logo

    The vast majority of feedback about the athletic/spirit marks was positive. Stakeholders liked the use of the more action-oriented paw and the inclusion of the italicized shield to demonstrate motion, positive momentum, and a clear connection to the university’s official logo.  The new proposed dog mark was also well-received, although some feedback suggested that it was not as realistic as the previous mark. However, the more stylistic proposed design was understood to apply better to all spirit communications going forward and was the preferred direction.

    Feedback reinforced the desire to ensure the paw remains our primary mark for athletic purposes with the dog used as a secondary sprit mark. Our final identity guidelines will make this usage clear. Feedback was also expressed to make both the paw and dog available for use without the shield. This too will be identified in our visual identity guide, along with use allowed use cases. 

    Specific feedback on the athletic/spirit marks was also used to refine our final designs:

    Variations of the paw logo

    Variations of the hunter logo

     

  • Implementation

    Over the course of our consultations, we also heard significant feedback related to our approach to implementation. This included:

    • Concerns about costs of the rebranding at a time of constraint.
    • Questions about how the transition would work and what various areas of the university would need to change in their area (and when), and what support will be provided.
    • Many still see this as a new logo/short name, but don’t fully see how it can help them do things differently and share our story.
    • Desire for clarity about the transition and timing.

    The university is committed to proceed with a financially responsible implementation over the next several years. At the same time, the new brand represents an investment in support of our identified strategic priority to help share the university’s story. This is important in continuing to support strategic enrolment growth while building our external awareness and reputation in the market. A strong reputation helps attract more resources and support necessary for our continued success as an institution.

    While campus signage will be updated as a result of the new brand, it’s worth noting that most of our signage is highly temporary in nature and already is in need of update for improved brand identity and wayfinding value. As the university grew quickly and the campus has evolved over the past 17 years, we haven’t made the important investments in signage across our campus as other institutions have. Much of our signage is outdated and printed on flimsy materials not intended for long-term usage. Now that we have our new branding firmly in place, we can thoughtfully plan and implement a new campus signage and wayfinding approach with best practices of strong branding and a commitment to accessibility in mind. 

    Much of the branding will occur as a standard part of our normal business cycle of producing and updating marketing content and as such, does not require incremental resources. Our focus remains on redirecting existing resources toward our new bold and integrated brand identity―this approach helps us “punch above our weight” in terms of overall brand impression while also generating longer-term marketing efficiencies. 

    Finally, our implementation approach will follow that of an agile transition. Over the next six months (April to September 2019) we will focus our energy on transitioning our most impactful assets to reflect the new brand and we will phase further implementation over the next several years as part of the university’s strategic planning process. Our Brand Central website is the campus community’s one-stop source for the latest information about our implementation.