Thinking outside the box: external branding around campus

February 10, 2011, 2:10 pm

UCSB is a very outdoors oriented campus. If you put a university on the beach I guess that’s what happens. Everyone rides bikes and there is a skateboard lane too.  With nice weather year around it makes sense that students want to be outside.


I realized that we needed to do some external (outside our buildings) marketing. It is part of the culture here to drape and plaster signs & posters everywhere along paths and I wanted us to be a part of that.


I’ll skip the assessment and composition process, (read the book!) and just say that I discovered a handful of basic library services that needed more exposure— combined with a need to reenergize or actually clarify our campus brand. A large portion of our students have a narrow view of what the library is and so one of the tactics I wanted to explore is external signage.


We developed what we call our THINK LIBRARY campaign. (Ok, maybe Apple subtly influenced me.) The objective is built right into the name—we want to get people literarily thinking about the library, expanding/refreshing their knowledge of what we offer, and hopefully create a positive touchy-feely brand memory along the way.


Each poster would be heavily photo oriented. Text would be minimal and written in a cheerfully casual voice. Each one would include three “thinks.” For example:




My favorite one is about studying on balconies—again, the outdoors theme:


These are meant to be for quick on-the-go consumption rather than detailed explanations. I really wanted to plant the seeds of the idea of the library in unexpected places. I’m going to do some awareness testing in late Spring to see if there is any measurable impact.


There are a total of six designs in the series. We printed posters and there are a few of those in the library buildings, but as I mentioned, these are intended for external viewing.



  Photo 1-1

We have some great yard signs that we place around various areas on campus twice each quarter. There are a total of five sets so we hit all the major walk/bike/skate paths. I used Next Level Custom Signs and recommend them.


We also printed several sets to give to our campus Deans. The idea being that they filter them down to various staff and have them placed in classrooms, labs, hallways, etc. I was very interested in getting them in places “where academics happens” AND having them placed there by people unaffiliated with the library. The core idea is to build support on a conceptual level for the library—the library is a good partner—the library is necessary—the library helps everyone. This is part of the branding scheme too—the posters are endorsed by the academic departments, it’s not just us placing signs in the student center or buying ads in the newspaper, but rather, becoming literarily embedded into the fabric of the learning environment.


We also run one per week on the campus-wide digital signage system. This hits 26 big screens around campus—largely in the dorms and dining halls.



Lastly—as a result of a miscommunication with our printer we ended up with one giant set of the posters on form board. I put my bag beside one in the photo to give a sense of perspective. We’re using these for special events and activities we attend around campus.


There are other things we could do to—like cloth banners to drape over tunnels and railings, but we’re holding off for now. We are shifting gears in the near future to start talking about a large renovation and new building project so our messaging is going to change—but it was fun to see this idea through implementation. So ask yourself– how might you get your message offline and outside of your building? 

I have to give a big thanks to Jane Faulkner for all her patience wordsmithing and believing in this project. 

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