Q&A: Purdue's new brand campaign

October 15, 2010

As part of its Homecoming celebration, Purdue has unveiled a new brand campaign, "Makers, All." Teri Lucie Thompson, vice president for marketing and media, answers questions about the importance of a brand strategy in guiding messaging and marketing, the process of developing and implementing a "brand roadmap," and how the campaign will further enhance Purdue's beloved Boilermaker tradition.

1. How does the new brand connect with our Boilermaker heritage?

It is born of the Boilermaker heritage and will continue it. The best way to describe its impact is through the words that guided the development of this campaign:

It all started with an insult.

The more "civilized" institutions labeled Purdue’s football team a bunch of "blue collar bullies."

The comment was unenlightened. But the name stuck.

Perhaps because there was some truth to it. Boilermakers are strong-willed. Hard working. Skilled at not just simple trades, but masters of the often insurmountable challenge of making something -- out of nothing.

This culture has gone unchanged on our campus, from our founding to today. Once, we forged things from steel. Now, we build things even stronger. Faster. Smaller. More intricate. Awe-inspiring. Artful.

We make things because we know the idea alone isn’t enough. It must to be proven. It needs to be made real — whether it’s a word on a page, or a chemical reaction. What we make moves the world forward.

We are Purdue. Makers, all.

2. What is a brand strategy and why does Purdue need one?

Marketers typically define brand strategy as a long-term plan for the brand including identification of key audiences and an understanding of what those audiences need to know and experience about the brand.  I prefer to refer to brand strategy as a brand roadmap. Much like a strategic plan, it guides our activities in messaging and marketing. We need one so we are consistent in our communications and in all expressions of the brand; thus, a consistent image and set of expectations for Purdue is developed in the minds of our stakeholders.

3. But we have Purdue Pete and the Boilermaker Special. Why do we need something new?

Purdue Pete and the Boilermaker Special are mascots, which represent the essence of the brand. Pete and the Boilermaker Special help bring the brand personality to life, but they are only part of the picture. A strategy is much broader than a mascot or visual icon.

4. How was the new brand strategy chosen?

The brand strategy was developed through research and strategy development workshops comprised of M&M staff as well as various campus partners. We surveyed and interviewed more than 5,000 stakeholders from prospective students to individuals at funding agencies. We analyzed our competitors and benchmarked against them with an eye to finding that competitive messaging advantage, that sweet spot where Purdue is "better, different, special." A good strategy must be grounded in truth, that is, an honest appraisal of its assets and liabilities, and in the voice of the customer. I can say with 100 percent certainty this brand strategy is built on that foundation.

5. What does the new brand tell the world about Purdue? And why is this important?

The new brand tells the world Purdue is a force that moves it forward through its contributions. It is important because it summarizes the University's legacy, as well as its future promise, and it unites the university community in the belief that we are difference makers. Thus, we all become ambassadors for sharing the institution's promise -- the same message! -- with the outside world.

6. Where will we see the new brand being used?

The first few months of the launch will focus on our internal audiences, so we'll see many internal communication tools using the new brand. This will include banners, online graphics, video board messaging, campus displays, etc. We will quickly transition to external audiences, so we'll see things like billboards, our Big Ten advertising spots, and print ads, among other items.

7. What else would you like to tell us about the new brand strategy and the launch?

The beauty of this strategy is that it is truly unique to Purdue. In the higher education sector, we see tremendous similarity in the advertising and messaging of various institutions. We know Purdue is special, is different from these other institutions. I am very proud this strategy sets us apart and that even in its language, i.e., "Makers, All," it is not replicable by any other institution. It is uncomplicated, powerful and real. The launch will include several firsts for Purdue -- some exciting banners, some unusual campus installations, video board messaging with a texting component, and it will pay homage to our proud roots as Boilermakers and our land grant heritage.