Branding RFP Issued in Denver

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In September of 2020, we built our new Business School vision: To build a stronger Denver and a better world, and our new mission; through instructional and research excellence we develop inclusive, ethical and innovative leaders who will advance economic and social vitality. We have now reached the right time to develop our new brand platform that builds upon our foundational Vision and Mission. To achieve this objective, the CU Denver Business School is seeking an experienced brand agency to provide brand building services to help us articulate our business school brand, including our brand strategy, brand essence, brand promise, key brand pillars, compelling proof points to support each brand pillar, and our brand personality and voice. All coming together to help us execute our overall business school strategy and in progress strategic plan. We need our new brand to speak both internally and externally. Our internal key audience is our Research and Instructional Faculty, Staff and administration team members, and the larger CU Denver Campus. Our key external audience is our undergraduate/graduate students and prospects, their parents or guardians, our alumni, employer partners, faculty research collaborators, the Business School Board of Advisors and advisory councils, and the greater Denver Business community and beyond. Once completed, this brand strategy will be the true north for the business school as we shape our offerings, services, degree programs and further invests to advance our student experience, including support for job placement, enables career advancement continued learning, for its students and alumni. The selected brand agency will be working with a small steering committee composed of members from the CU Denver Business School (Dean, Chief of Staff, Faculty Member, Marketing and Communications Director), Business School Student(s), a member from the CU Denver School Business School Board of Advisors and an external Special Advisor to the Dean of the Business School.


Located in Denver’s central business district with access to major corporations and community agencies, the CU Denver Business School is known for excellence in teaching, research & community engagement. The Business School is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). With over 2,800 students, the Business School has one of the most diverse student bodies with 39% BIPOC and 49% first generation college representation. The average age of our student is 25. Our students are serious, motivated and many hold part-time or fulltime jobs while studying. We bring together and serve two key Colorado’s constituents: Our unique student body and greater Denver’s business community. We have four interconnected pillars that captures who we are:

· Talented, Diverse, Motivated Working Students

· Strong External/Business Partners

· High Quality Faculty and Staff

· High Quality, Flexible Programs and Services

The Business School is part of the University of Colorado Denver, home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and receiving over $25 million in sponsored research awards allowing us to fulfill our mission to generate knowledge and create solutions to benefit greater society. As Colorado’s only public urban research university, CU Denver fills a singular niche as a vital contributor to the civic, cultural and economic success of the city, state and beyond. CU Denver is a part of the overall CU System, with 4 campuses (Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Anschutz Medical). The overall CU system has 3 business schools, the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder, the CU Colorado Springs Campus Business School, and the CU Denver Business School. The strategy of the 3 CU system business schools is to grow its enrollment by identifying unique market segmentation to reduce competition with one another The CU Denver Business School primarily competes for students with the University of Denver Daniels Business School, Colorado State University Business School, and to some degree Metro State University Business School, and Regis University Business School. The primary audience the business school serves is undergraduate and graduate business school students. This audience is diverse, and many are first generation college degree-seeking students. In addition, our students tend to hold part-time and full-time jobs. We have a mix of international students as well. The current COVID pandemic has reduced the number of international students, but we believe this will return as the pandemic subsides. We have expanded the number of degree programs offered completely online within the last year and have increased enrollment in this segment. Additionally, there are many stakeholders and groups that depend on the Business School. This includes alumni, employer partners, donors, faculty research collaborators, and more. The Business School also has a robust and active Advisory Board composed of business and community leaders. The Denver business community and beyond continue to expect more from students with business degrees. In addition to being able to do their first job or advance in their careers, employers also expect employees to be able to assimilate into the culture, work in a highly collaborative environment and embrace tough, complex business challenges. The Business School’s degree program is set up to deliver on these employer needs. Today’s Business School brand expression is woven into the brand platform of CU Denver overall, which provides a great foundation. The brand message is expressed in the messaging platform and tagline of “CU in the City”. The current Business School specific messaging is laser focused on competing for, and growing applicants and in turn enrollment. The messaging platform is anchored with two primary messages:

· The Power of Choice. One size does NOT fit all. That is why we offer more degree choices than any other business school in Colorado.

· In the heart of Denver, we have the pulse of today’s business.

These key messages highlight several key benefits and differentiators for the CU Business School experience: our location, our connections to the Denver business community, and our flexible, wide selection of degree options. The challenge the Business School is facing, while building on the strong University of Colorado, Denver brand, is to have its own category brand identity (category: Business Schools) that excites, amplifies our internal pride and resonates with our targeted external customers, and critical stakeholders. This new brand positioning will provide clear competitive separation, and further strengthen our relationships to our alumni network, employer partners, donors, faculty research partners and more. Creating this new brand story will improve our image and reputation and lead to continued Business School growth in the coming years. The CU Business School is in the process of developing its multi-year strategic plan. The intent is for the developed brand architecture to inform and be informed by this strategic plan journey.

Scope of Work:

The CU Denver Business School’s goal is to establish a clear brand identity to tell our story, strengthen our reputation, create competitive separation and excite our internal teams. The brand will provide us the direction to achieve the school’s vision to become the leading business school in Colorado that builds a stronger Denver and a better world. We are targeting this phase of the brand journey to start in February and end by, if not sooner, June 30, 2021 (4-6 months), and come in on budget.

The successful agency partner will bring to this project their unique approach, process and framework to develop the right brand strategy for the CU Denver Business School. This brand strategy will deliver a brand architecture that excites our internal teams and aligns to the needs of our external audiences while creating a clear ownable market position. Within the brand architecture and strategy, the project will deliver at a minimum:

· Define and/or clarify the primary strategy drivers for the business school brand,

· Define the right ownable position in the competitive higher education business school marketplace that is sustainable for at least the next 5 years. “Separate us from the pack”.

· Deliver an articulated brand strategy that tells our story, builds upon the newly created Vision & Mission, while also demonstrating its natural fit with the overall brand strategy of CU Denver, and the CU system.

· Define our Brand Essence. Essentially, at our core “who we are”.

· Define our Brand Promise including tagline (if recommendation is to create a tagline separate from the brand promise).

· Define the 3-4 Key Brand Pillars and 3-4 supporting proof points for each Brand Pillar.

· Define our Brand personality & voice.

· Create the Market Ready Messaging, Toolkit & Go Forward Guidelines (both for internal and external use if differences are required).

· Create the key messaging that constitutes an elevator pitch to answer the question “Why the CU Denver Business School?”.

· Help the CU Denver Business School define how we will measure success of the new brand and deliver a scorecard to measure current state of key metrics and track their progress. “Brand Health Tracking Scorecard”

· Prepare a recommendation on tactics and content to possibly employ to bring brand to life, both internally and externally, while enabling CU Denver to continue to drive enrollment. Essentially, how can brand development can co-exist with strong call to action marketing.

· Prepare a recommendation on how our Brand Community Members know the role they can play to help us achieve and maintain our brand position.

· This phase is not anticipated to include creative or marketing tactic development.

· All work produced will be the exclusive right and use of CU Denver Business School. To achieve this outcome, we will implement your proven brand development framework that is highly collaborative, and data driven. We expect this framework to utilize the right research and discovery tactics that include primary and secondary, qualitative and quantitative research.

Insights from the Brand Community Stakeholders

· Create personas of our (1) undergraduate and (2) graduate prospective student.

· Develop insights into the needs and expectations of undergraduate and graduate current students and prospects,

· Uncover unique insights from the Business School Dean, faculty, staff and administration

· Uncover unique insights from the Business School Board of Advisors and select donors and business leaders in the Denver community as to what they expect of graduates of CU Denver Business School and the role of CU Denver Business School in the business community.

· Create insights from alumni

Competitive Landscape:

· Complete an assessment of the competitive landscape including, peers and aspirant schools, as well as all business schools in the CU System (Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs).

Other Critical Assessments

· Conduct a high-level current assessment of the existing CU Denver Business School marketing plan, including areas such as audience targeting, go-to-market messaging, message pillars, proof points and marketing mix.

Due Date:

1/22/2021 2:30 PM MST


Jennifer Casanova

Prosek Partners and Ruder Finn are agencies worth considering.

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