Bethel undergoes rebrand in the midst of fiscal uncertainty
News | Stephen Chang
Over the past year, in the midst of a financial crisis, employee layoffs and decreased enrollment have become a concern to both students and faculty. At such a time, something has to be said about the fact that Bethel University has been quietly undergoing a rebranding process. It is one that has been hiding behind other seemingly larger issues.
In the world of marketing, a rebrand is when a company takes on a new name, symbol or design in order to change consumer perception about either the company itself or the products or services the company attempts to sell.
Bethel has undergone rebranding in the past. For years, Bethel was known as Bethel College, until in 2004, it gained further accreditation and changed its name to Bethel University.
The current 2013-2014 rebranding effort began in May of 2012, when Bethel began a candidacy search of marketing companies to both research and develop Bethel’s new image.
In September of that year, Bethel formed steering committees, equivalent to consumer test groups in the corporate world, in order to receive feedback on the university. Bethel’s steering committees consisted of current students, as well as alumni and donors who were asked what they thought about Bethel, what they believe Bethel does well and what they believe Bethel does not do well.
In October, the vendors that Bethel would use for its company were chosen. A company called Ologie was chosen to find the social and emotional feelings within the Bethel community. For the hard data collection and analysis part of the rebrand, Simpson Scarborough was selected to find numbers and perceptions from the non-Bethel community, and perspective students.
After several months of work, both companies presented the first stage of their research to the university. Research found that Bethel was thought to be committed, intelligent and motivated on a rational level, and inviting, spirited and inspiring on an emotional level.
From March to May of 2013, Bethel’s Creative and Web Services team met to develop a marketing strategy for the university. They also started the creative process of the graphical overhaul of Bethel’s marketing scheme and the contextual and social aspect. The team rewrote Bethel’s brochures to convey Bethels themes of “being inviting, spirited and inspiring.”
Michael Vedders, Bethel’s head of Web Services, noted that the new logo that Bethel will be using is almost complete and will help to “create synergy and bring the different academic branches of Bethel together.”
Questions have been raised in regards to the cost of the rebranding project. While Vedders said that he was, “unable to comment officially,” a quick search finds that the average cost of a rebrand can run from between $200,000 to $400,000.
In response to the cost of the rebrand, Vedders noted that the project was not “something that the university had just suddenly decided to do,” and that “Bethel divided the cost over three fiscal years in its budget.”
Vedders also added that the rebrand was a necessary investment, noting that, “[it is] necessary for any institution to articulate who they are, so that those who resonate will join your institution.”
To Bethel’s marketing department, the rebrand is an essential part of establishing and cementing Bethel’s image to its past, present and future students.
However, several students were asked and were unaware of the rebrand and why Bethel would do it now.
To administration, the rebranding process is a necessary cost – an investment of sorts on which they are expecting a return in the form of new enrollment. To students however, questions of “Why?" and "Why now?” will continue to linger for some time.
Time has yet to tell if such changes will positively impact Bethel’s brand image or financial situation. One thing is for certain– changes are coming as Bethel looks to reinvent its image while retaining its character.