University Of Colorado Issues Branding RFP

cu boulder

University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) is in search of a brand agency to help with a campuswide brand refresh.

In July 2020, our new chancellor—Michelle Marks—took office amid the pandemic and took swift actions on racial and social justice and initiated an ambitious strategic planning process that will propel CU Denver into the next decade. With a new chief executive, a renewed commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and an innovative strategic plan forthcoming, the university is primed for a reintroduction to its stakeholders with the right brand refresh.

CU Denver has invested significantly in two brand efforts over the past eight years. “CU in the City” is the current brand, and “Denver’s Asset” was the associated integrated marketing campaign last in market, which concluded April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now in need of the next generation of our brand platform to launch us forward by aligning to the needs of our audiences with our new strategic plan.

Our target is to kick off the brand refresh work on or before August 9, 2021 and complete the brand strategy by the end of February 2022 so we can begin to communicate the university’s brand evolution to our campus community in March 2022. The subsequent activation and in-market campaign are currently contemplated for fall 2022.

To achieve this plan, CU Denver University Communications is seeking an experienced brand agency to provide brand building services to help us evolve, articulate, and further differentiate our campuswide brand. The brand agency would function as a highly collaborative extension of the University Communications team.

We need the next evolution of our brand to speak both internally and externally. Our key stakeholders are:

• Chancellor Michelle Marks and her leadership team

• Our eight schools and colleges and their respective leadership, administration, staff, and faculty

• Enrollment Management and central and school/college-based admissions, recruiting, and retention staff

• Our undergraduate and graduate current students across the eight schools and colleges

• Prospective undergraduate and graduate students across the eight schools and colleges

• Our alumni

• Our critical Denver community supporters (including industry partners, advisory board members, civic associations, major donors, etc.)

Once completed, this brand strategy will guide the university as we implement our strategic plan to shape our offerings, services, degree programs, and further invest to advance our student experience. This also includes support for job placement and enabling career advancement and personal growth with continued, flexible learning for a lifetime, for our students and alumni, and more.

As a thriving and vibrant public urban research university, our key measures of success are:

• Build a world-class university brand image and reputation.

• Have strong brand awareness among our key audiences across Denver, Colorado, the US and beyond to serve our critical international students and alumni.

• Consistent enrollment, with growth in identified areas, into the future across all eight colleges and schools.

• Through our service delivery—aligned with the goals of our strategic plan—achieve our brand promise to our critical stakeholders and constituencies.

This brand journey will be a four-phase process, however only Phase I is included in this Documented Quote. Phase II, III & IV is provided for context of the total project.

• Phase I focuses on current brand health assessment and discovery and research to create deep insights and recommendations; validation/evolution/creation of our current brand platform/pyramid, brand strategy, positioning, messaging, and verbal identity; slogan/tagline development; message and slogan/tagline testing; and development of 2-3 creative concepts to articulate the brand visually and verbally for eventual launch. Phase I also includes development of a messaging and verbal identity module for brand guidelines; development of messaging for five key audiences; creation of a message toolkit for the eight colleges and schools and major campus units; and brand training. (Included in this DQ)

• Phase II will focus on campaign creative development, finalization, and go-to-market production; revitalized/new visual identity; brand activation/rollout plan; and finalization and training of brand guidelines for verbal and visual identities and a brand health measurement scorecard. (Not included in this DQ, and additional phases will have separate RFP/DQ process)

• Phase III will focus on the development of the media strategy and plan to support the brand activation/rollout plan and establishment of campaign goals. (Not included in this DQ, and additional phases will have separate RFP/DQ process)

• Phase IV will focus on market launch and measurement against campaign goals. (Not included in this DQ, and additional phases will have separate RFP/DQ process)

The selected brand agency will work directly with the CU Denver University Communications team and a steering committee composed of members from across the university to successfully execute Phase I by February 2022.

The right agency for Phase 1 of this project brings to our university a proven expertise in brand strategy development and the right cultural fit. The proven brand strategy development expertise includes:

• A proven brand building methodology.

• Ability to conduct a detailed current brand health assessment.

• Proven ability to execute discovery and research to inform the brand strategy and platform using acquired data and devising defendable insights.

• Ability to conduct a thorough competitive assessment to map CU Denver into the right ownable market position that aligns to the strategic plan.

• Ability to develop the right brand messaging platform to include but not limited to: Purpose, Promise (supported by 3-4 brand message pillars with strong differentiating proof points), Essence, Personality, Voice, Functional and Emotional Benefits, and any additional elements you believe are critical to creating the right brand platform.

• Ability to create the right, energizing new verbal identity and slogan/tagline from the new brand promise statement and evolved platform.

• Ability to create an easy-to-articulate elevator pitch on “why CU Denver.”

• From the core brand messaging platform, ability to extend messaging into five key audiences (TBD on audience priority), with relevant targeted messages to drive the desired action.

• Ability to conceptualize and create a messaging toolkit that can be implemented by the eight colleges and schools and major campus units to ensure brand alignment in their individual messaging tactics.

• Ability to develop 2-3 inspiring, energizing creative concept explorations to support the activation of the brand both visually and verbally, with further refinement in Phase II to eventually reach the winning “concept” that will achieve our goals and objectives and amplify our strategic plan.

• Ability to develop an easy-to-implement brand guidelines module for the new verbal identity and messaging platform.

• Ability to develop recommended key brand health metrics, including current baselines and targeted metrics.

• Ability to create and deliver brand messaging and verbal identity training for the University Communications team and key internal stakeholders (such as Enrollment Management and admissions and recruiting staff) to ensure the brand messaging is embraced and implemented consistently throughout the organization.

• The targeted budget for Phase I is $250,000.


Phase I: Current Brand Health Assessment, Discovery, Research, and Competitive Assessment Leading to Key Insights and Recommendations for Brand Strategy and Pyramid Validation/Evolution/Creation, Message and Slogan/Tagline Development and Testing, and Message and Verbal Identity Module for Brand Guidelines

• Through an effective, streamlined series of activities, the selected agency will swiftly understand who we are, our purpose, vision, culture, philosophy, challenges, core objectives, and metrics of success.

• Conduct a current state brand health assessment for CU Denver.

• Recommend and implement a research study: proposed methodology, process, and approach (primary, secondary, quantitative, qualitative, length of time, number of respondents, hard costs, etc.).

• The research study will effectively solicit critical input from our chancellor and her leadership team, deans of our eight schools and colleges, our admissions and recruiting teams, faculty, alumni, prospect and current undergraduate and graduate students, and our Denver community partners (advisory boards, donors, community leaders, and more).

• The study should include a thorough competitive assessment to determine the space that CU Denver can own and drive sustainable differentiation (initial list: CU Boulder, CU Colorado Springs, Colorado State University-Fort Collins, University of Denver, Metro State University of Denver, University of Northern Colorado)

• Clearly outline the how and why of your recommended research approach/methodology and how the resulting insights will inform your go-forward recommendations and provide new, actionable insights that are not already known to CU Denver.

DUE DATE: Tuesday, June 29, 2021 by 2 pm MT

Agencies to consider include Makovsky PR and Finn Partners.

You may also like...