Two digital agencies hired for NVU branding

Two web development and branding companies have been hired to build the Northern Vermont University website and branding materials. KWall, a digital agency specializing in higher education web development out of California, and Ologie, a branding, marketing and digital agency out of Ohio, submitted a joint proposal back in December outlining how each would contribute to the project based on their area of expertise and focus.

“I was looking for somebody who had an extensive background in higher education marketing because I think it’s a different field, and we’re not a product like Coca-Cola,” said President Elaine Collins.

Both KWall and Ologie have worked on higher education projects in the past, and Collins was impressed with the creativity that they bring to each project. Collins noted that Ologie wasn’t afraid to think outside of the box, even with something as traditional as a college view book.

“They did one view book as a field guide for a school . . . out in the rural area and . . . they made it into a positive,” said Collins. “I heard that even tourists were going in to buy this thing from the college bookstore because they thought it was so interesting and helpful. It had trails in the area near them, and it had all kinds of the ecological beauty and pictures. So at the same time that a student would look at aspects of the college for the traditional things that you would see like athletic teams and . . . what their res halls look like, but in the same context you would see what the area looks like and I thought that was really interesting. It came out just like a field guide, and you could stuff it in your pocket. Very creative.”

Collins, who is happy with the final choices, was not on the initial search team that was looking through applications and presentations. The search team was made up of different marketing staff members from both Johnson State College and Lyndon State College, along with alumni and a member of the chancellor’s office.

Melissa Weinstein, who is the web developer at Johnson State College, was on the search committee and was looking for similar qualities as Collins but was also focused on the functionality of the new website.
“I was also interested in a site that would be easy to manage once it launched,” said Weinstein. “If it looks great, but it’s difficult or frustrating to update, that’s a problem. Again, KWall was able to meet this need.”

The three final agencies were brought to Burlington for the committee to meet and watch their final presentations. “They showed us examples of their work, and from there we picked these two. I think in the end if you looked at some of the work that they have done together … you can get a sense of the messaging and the way that the website incorporates the messaging,” said Collins.

Collins also thought that KWall and Ologie had teams that were best connected to younger groups of people, and she believes that both agencies will be able to reach out and understand the kind of students that Northern Vermont University will be engaging.

Weinstein was also impressed with the personnel of the agencies and what they had to offer.

“We enjoyed the people we met, which is important — you have to be able to work with the firm you hire. But ultimately what sold us was the work that they had done,” said Weinstein.

KWall and Ologie have planned visits to both campuses to understand the culture of Johnson and Lyndon. According to Collins, it’s important for the agencies to understand the culture before they can work us into a brand.

“How would you define the culture of this place or Lyndon and then put them together? It will be kind of like a Venn diagram. What are the similarities? What can they say about common interests that will come together as this brand?” said Collins.

During the visits, KWall and Ologie employees will work with focus groups and question college leaders, student leaders, faculty and staff members, and community leaders in the area.

“They will guide us on how best to present this new adventure for JSC and LSC in a way that reflects the strengths and possibilities of our shared future,” said Weinstein. “We’ve got two campuses, two histories, and unique campus cultures. We have a lot in common, too. So we want their help as we identify the best ways to tell the story of our shared strengths, our ongoing uniqueness, and our bright future together.”

After the brand starts to develop, Collins would like to see a logo completed by the Statehouse presentation in April. Johnson State College Publications Manager Eric Kirk is in the early stages of creating the logo for Northern Vermont University.

“The logo can really depend on what Ologie gets from their research and results,” said Kirk. “If they learn that we are based in tradition and traditional values, then we’ll go for a traditional-looking logo. If they learn our brand is based on our location, then we will probably incorporate the green mountains into the logo.”

All of this research will lead to a completely new brand. “This isn’t a rebranding project,” said Kirk. “Northern Vermont University does not exist at the moment, so neither does the brand. We need to base the brand off of our individuality and who were are together.”