The branding initiative: UB works on better defining university’s brand as a part of UB 2020


UB is working on a four-phased branding initiative to answer the question: “Who is UB?”

When UB announced plans for UB 2020 back in 2011, the university had plans to redesign how people viewed the school. This brand initiative planning first began in 2013 and included the creation of the downtown Medical Campus and a focus on a more research-driven approach to learning. While the initial phase just ended, phase four is set to be completed mid-fall semester, according to John Della Contrada, UB spokesperson.

This brand initiative will provide UB with an opportunity to show value, said Nancy Paton, vice president for University Communications.

Ologie, a Columbus-based marketing company teaming up with Marshall Strategy Inc., a San Francisco-based branding company, is the vendor for the project. UB is paying Ologie $314,000 for the contract for the initiative. The average bid for the project was $527,450 and the selection process of Ologie involved 60 university representatives. The money for the contract came from investment funding – not students’ tuition, Paton said. 

Phase one was discovery and definition, according to the new UB Identity and Brand Strategy website. Phase two is positioning, messaging development and application. Phase three is market testing and the launch and phase four is measuring success.

This initiative is important for higher education. With higher learning and technology evolving, it is key for UB to evolve along with it, which is why this brand initiative is “the right thing for the university to do at this time,” Paton said.

The brand initiative is geared toward bringing “inclusiveness” to UB. A survey was distributed during phase one and brought in about 4,500 responses from students, alumni, faculty and staff, exceeding the original goal of 1,650 responses.

Even with a greater response than expected, some students aren’t aware of the branding initiative. Alyssa Fortuna, a junior biology major, said she was not aware of any such plan.

“I think they could give out more information about this, through email or even do seminars about changes they could be making and how they would benefit the students,” Fortuna said.

While many associate branding with a logo or name, Della Contrada said that’s not what the initiative is about. The goal behind this brand initiative is to make UB more relevant and allow the university to stand out among other universities.

Paton said there will be a greater awareness of UB coming out of this initiative.

“There will be a heightened distinction about who we are and the excellence we provide,” Paton said. “It will lead students who may not have previously considered us to consider us.”

She said the branding initiative will bring more faculty and research programs to the university as well.

In 2013, UB Athletics was rebranded in order to bring awareness to the fact that UB is the largest public university in New York State. Although athletics and academics are connected, this branding initiative isn’t associated with that change, Paton said.

As the value in higher education increases, the hope for this initiative is to increase the value of UB as well.

The brand initiative is set to draw in more students and faculty by bringing an “understanding of current awareness and perceptions of the university among critical local, national and international audiences,” Della Contrada said.

While phase one – which just ended this past week – was more research-based, phase two – which is set to begin in June – is about what can be learned from the research obtained during the initial phase.

A new website – UB Identity and Brand Strategy Initiative – was launched on Thursday and will be actively updated with any news regarding the initiative. The website even allows for anyone to contact by email with any questions, ideas or concerns regarding the initiative.

Paton said this branding initiative is what will drive UB to even further success.

“If we move forward on this strategy, it will really be critical to our success,” Paton said. “I’m really excited about that.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Ologie is helping fund the branding initiative. This story has been updated to clarify that Ologie is being paid by UB for the branding initiative. 

Marlee Tuskes is the assistant news editor. She can be reached at