University of North Carolina Wilmington
Brand · Integrated Marketing · Web
To position the University of North Carolina Wilmington in advance of a major capital campaign, UNCW had to confront a longstanding brand challenge.
Brand Identity Crisis
For decades, UNCW was misperceived as a “beach school” – a place where the laid-back learner could coast through college when the more prestigious schools were out-of-reach options. Meanwhile, the campus community had been divided on UNCW’s relationship with their oceanside location, where it was taboo in some circles to even mention the ocean in marketing efforts.
Upcycling “Beach School” Perceptions
Audiences (particularly those in-state) knew of UNCW because it was the university at the beach. Through our discovery work, we learned that many students and alumni embraced the beach town differentiator as a point of pride that made them feel connected to the environment and their community.
The Importance of the Ocean
UNCW’s environmental- and marine-science division was a centerpiece in their portfolio of academic offerings – a differentiator that helped us capitalize on UNCW’s most recognizable feature and shape perceptions among audiences of potential donors.
Shaped By Our Surroundings
One brand pillar – Shaped By Our Surroundings – was critical in repositioning the university away from the beach town stigma to one that speaks to the importance of the ocean as not just an environmental force, but also one for commerce, literature, art, and other hallmarks of progress.
A New & Empowered Relationship to the Ocean
Our brand work with the university allowed UNCW to lean into their oceanside position in ways that reinforce and build on the positive impressions that many alumni associate with the time as UNCW students, and stands to transform the way the entire university recruits, engages, and enrolls students.