Occidental’s Communications, Marketing, & Community Relations department is in the preliminary phase of a conceptual and visual makeover of the college’s image to bolster its reputation in the collegiate community and the general population.
“We don’t really trumpet ourselves all that much,” Brett Schraeder, Occidental’s vice president for strategic initiatives, marketing and communications, said. “We have to be a little bit more forward about talking about this place and how good it is.”
Schraeder said that a brand is much needed to create a “thesis” that would tie Occidental’s individualities into an overarching theme, because its departments currently do not have a defined common scheme for public relations and visual media.
Schraeder aims to convey an appealing and genuine depiction of the college to those who may not be able to experience the campus firsthand, such as alumni and prospective students.
“The social consciousness aspect will get into the brand somehow because that’s very real here at Oxy,” Schraeder said.
Occidental’s prime location, distinguished International Programs Office and connection to President Obama are also assets that Schraeder thinks will be flaunted in the revamped image.
The college’s various logos may be refreshed, but Schraeder predicts that any changes would be subtle. Image rebranding will focus more on the fonts and colors in literature presented to the off-campus community in order to bring Occidental’s virtues to light.
Occidental administrators are in the process of hiring a marketing agency to develop and execute a brand for Occidental, Schraeder said. He hopes to choose an agency before the end of the academic year so that students and faculty can have an integral role in the brand development, and that the entire process would take about six months once an agency is elected.
“This is an attempt to put together a set of messages, and also some visual elements, that everyone on the campus can use,” Schraeder said. “It’s about tightening up what we say about ourselves so there is more consistency across the platforms.”
Ologie is at the top of Occidental’s list of potential branding agencies and has provided Schraeder with a portfolio and preliminary brand platform.
As it did with clients such as University of California, Berkeley, Ologie would help Occidental define what it stands for and what sets it apart from other colleges with a “brand story.” For example, Ologie weaved together UC Berkley’s diverse elements into a greater visual and verbal platform titled “Reach Further.”
According to the agency’s website, the brand would enable communicators across campus to tell a consistent Occidental story to the outside community
Currently, students within the Occidental community find it hard to describe their school. Greg Capra (junior), Jeh Johnson (sophomore), Jesse Wong (senior), Kyle Dalton (sophomore) and Robbie George (junior) threw around terms such as “progressive,” “diverse,” “accepting” and “critical” when trying to encapsulate the school’s image, but could not agree on a brand.
“Right now, I think most people recognize Oxy as ‘the school that Obama went to,’ or ‘the school where there were sexual assault issues,’” Chris Weeks (junior), president of the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC), said.
According to Weeks, Occidental does not have a prominent image like other top-ranked liberal arts schools and barely appears on the radar of high school students in the college-selection process.
“When people think ‘liberal arts school on the West Coast in Southern California,’ they generally think of the Claremont schools,” Weeks said.
Weeks, George and Wong all said that they were introduced to Occidental late in the game, only after a friend or family member suggested looking into it.
“There was never a brand that attracted me to Oxy,” Weeks said.
Wong thinks that Occidental is playing catch-up in terms of public image. To him, the college is only now beginning to match the promotional efforts of other esteemed academic institutions that have already employed professionals to create a brand for the school.
“Oxy is probably a little odd in that we never engaged any kind of outside consultants to help us think about the messaging, institutionally, that we put out there for students,” Schraeder said.