Beginning in Fall 2018 and concluding in Spring 2020, the Dean’s Office at BU Wheelock worked with the branding firm Axe + Tiller to develop brand positioning for our new college.
This work happened in parallel with much of the important strategic identity-building in which our college has been engaged. In the course of developing BU Wheelock’s brand positioning, Axe + Tiller founder Ryan Wilson attended guide-star sessions, faculty retreats, conducted an extensive competitive review of our peer-aspirant institutions, and interviewed an array of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders about the work we do.
The outcome of Ryan’s work is a brand positioning statement that will inform how we talk about ourselves and our work when communicating to key audiences. It’s a messaging framework that we can adapt to speak compellingly to prospective students, future faculty, and community partners. If the vision, values, mission, and guide-star we have worked together to develop function to help us understand ourselves, the brand positioning Ryan has created is what will help others to understand BU Wheelock’s potential to become a leading college of education and human development.
Outcomes & Deliverables
Our work with Axe + Tiller concluded with a presentation of the brand positioning statement to faculty and staff. You can watch a recording of that presentation or view the deck Ryan used. We’ve also captured the “chat” from that session, which featured some constructive ideas and which you can view in the expandable section below.
Brand Positioning Presentation Zoom Chat Text
From Laura Jimenez to Everyone: (10:24 AM)
great question ! exactly what I was wondering.
From Nate Jones to Everyone: (10:37 AM)
Is Human potential, reborn an internal idea or one that would be shared publicly?
From Julia Cocca to Everyone: (10:37 AM)
Whenever possible, could you also please go back to the messaging geared toward Master’s students? No rush. Thanks.
From Amy Q. McClennen to Everyone: (10:37 AM)
Love it! And I really appreciate the “unpacking” of how you got to this.
From Laura Jimenez to Everyone: (10:38 AM)
¿ Is this a public message? Like, is this going on posters and used on social media tag line?
From Michael Dennehy to Everyone: (10:39 AM)
Would this unpacking graphic be part of the public messaging?
From Evelyn Ford-Connors to Everyone: (10:39 AM)
I like these ideas. It feels fresh and captures the new entity that BU-Wheelock is becoming together
From Kenann McKenzie to Everyone: (10:39 AM)
This idea ties together our human development and education foci, if its used as our internal “driver”
From Linda Banks-Santilli to Everyone: (10:40 AM)
Comment: The phrase, “new ideas, new thinking, new possibilities,” reflects the beginning work on the Undergraduate Major that includes a focus on transforming systems, eliminating silos, and embracing design-based thinking across education and all of our programs in human development to transform systems.
From Stephanie Curenton-Jolly to Everyone: (10:40 AM)
I like that it uses the word “human” because it ties in our developmental and educational focus
From Laura Jimenez to Everyone: (10:40 AM)
From Julia Cocca to Everyone: (10:41 AM)
I’ll take a quick screen shot and then you can go back
From David Chard to Everyone: (10:42 AM)
One of the challenges Ryan found in some ed schools messaging was a confusion about telling a school’s history while looking forward. This is something we are trying to avoid. Is that right, Ryan?
From Wheelock Events to Everyone: (10:45 AM)
The 150 year start up line also gave me pause.
From Kate F. to Everyone: (10:45 AM)
Can you go back to the slide that unpacks the message?
From Laurie Pohl to Everyone: (10:47 AM)
I agree Laura. I am struggling with that term.
From Julia Cocca to Everyone: (10:47 AM)
I agree Laura.
From Vernon Solberg to Everyone: (10:48 AM)
Seems like our looking forward to our next 150 years of innovation could offer a sense that people can trust we will be here for them for the long haul?
From Julia Cocca to Everyone: (10:48 AM)
Also not a big fan of that word.
From Katharine Nelson to Everyone: (10:48 AM)
Yeah, I wouldn’t want to use reborn either.
From David Chard to Everyone: (10:48 AM)
Several of our colleagues: Julia C, Kenann, Mary C., and Gregory B presented to the BPS ALANA group last night that Maryellen organized. Having compelling language for positioning will make those events much better.
From Steve Roeder to Everyone: (10:49 AM)
Revitalized . . .
From Amy Lieberman to Everyone: (10:49 AM)
From Amy Q. McClennen to Everyone: (10:49 AM)
From David Chard to Everyone: (10:49 AM)
We had this discussion when Ryan presented to our leadership team, Laura. That’s why this is internal. Your issues with this word are shared by many of us. We need a better language for sure.
From Laurie Pohl to Everyone: (10:50 AM)
From Kenann McKenzie to Everyone: (10:50 AM)
I agree David. I like pithy and compelling language. I like reborn but I see it as an internal guide, it can mean different things to different people and we can tweak that to capture the sentiment in a different word.
From Stacy Scott to Everyone: (10:50 AM)
What about “Human potential, transformed”? Reimagined also works. I love unlimited!
From Michael Dennehy to Everyone: (10:50 AM)
From Kenann McKenzie to Everyone: (10:51 AM)
I like ‘reimagined’ a lot, Stacy
From amie grills to Everyone: (10:51 AM)
I like several of these alternatives and agree an alternative word choice would be important
From Stephanie Curenton-Jolly to Everyone: (10:51 AM)
I like “reimagined” Good idea Stacy!
From Laurie Pohl to Everyone: (10:51 AM)
As “the” word on the tag line, the one that will drive and inform other conceptions, I think we need to find a different way of expressing the concept
From Linda Banks-Santilli to Everyone: (10:51 AM)
I like human potential transformed or human potential redefined?
From Craig McClay to Everyone: (10:51 AM)
I love this conversation. … this may be off-base … I feel a disconnect between the guidestar, transforming systems… and human potential, reborn line … not suggesting connecting the messages is good or bad, just wondering? I agree with Laura as well…
From Linda Banks-Santilli to Everyone: (10:52 AM)
human potential re-imagined?
From David Chard to Everyone: (10:52 AM)
Craig, would the term transformed help make that connection?
From Naomi Caselli to Everyone: (10:52 AM)
Thank you Laura, for bringing that up. You put your finger on a reaction I was struggling to describe. I like a lot of the other suggestions better.
From Nate Jones to Everyone: (10:52 AM)
I agree with Laura. I like the set of words we’re tagging into. I think this reads a bit like a slogan for a human cloning company. Or a tagline for Devs.
From Craig McClay to Everyone: (10:52 AM)
From Stacy Scott to Everyone: (10:53 AM)
From Laura Jimenez to Everyone: (10:53 AM)
YES! Raul …. I am NOT interested in re-doing
From Stephanie Curenton-Jolly to Everyone: (10:53 AM)
What about “human potential, liberated” to pick up on what Raul is saying
From Thomas Raymond Reis to Everyone: (10:53 AM)
Human Potential, unrestrained ?
From Laura Jimenez to Everyone: (10:54 AM)
I like “unrestrained”!
From David Chard to Everyone: (10:54 AM)
Empowering Human Potential?
From Gregory Benoit to Everyone: (10:54 AM)
Craig I agree, When I think of our guide star “transforming system” I think about liberation, justice etc.
From Vernon Solberg to Everyone: (10:54 AM)
Realizing Human Potential
From Laurie Pohl to Everyone: (10:54 AM)
yes, we do not need to be reborn into some mold, we need and deserve to fulfill our potential as-is.
From Amy Q. McClennen to Everyone: (10:54 AM)
human potential, realized
From Kate F. to Everyone: (10:54 AM)
I love the conversation that has come out of this presentation. I hope we can preserve this chat in some way – lots of great ideas here.
From TJ_McKenna to Everyone: (10:54 AM)
Stacy – I like that “Unleashing Human Potential”
From Michael Dennehy to Everyone: (10:55 AM)
I like realizing(ed) or empowering
From bobweintraub to Everyone: (10:55 AM)
I like the T-Shirt: “WCEHD: Liberating Human Potential”
From Katharine Nelson to Everyone: (10:56 AM)
Unleashing, tapping, realizing… I don’t know what the exact best word is, but I like this line of thinking a lot.
From Vernon Solberg to Everyone: (10:56 AM)
From Kenann McKenzie to Everyone: (10:56 AM)
I can appreciate that we have emotional echos to certain words, I am sure we will find one that resonates and doesn’t offend.. I am starting to think of nike and energy drinks now :) Liking your ideas, Stacy and Bob
From Stephanie Cox Suarez to Everyone: (10:56 AM)
There is so much incredible work being done by our faculty and students and we need the language to share this work publicly that already illustrates this message of transformation.
From Stacy Scott to Everyone: (10:57 AM)
I think the T-Shirt should say, “We are not a human cloning company”. But, seriously, Ryan this has been a tremendous conversation spurred by your effective work.
From Maureen Mollahan to Everyone: (10:58 AM)
From Julia Cocca to Everyone: (10:58 AM)
Thank you SO much Ryan
It’s exciting to see this work and we’re excited to run with it
From Kate F. to Everyone: (10:58 AM)
Yes, thank you Ryan!
From TJ_McKenna to Everyone: (10:58 AM)
Thank you Ryan – this has been eye opening!
From Nate Jones to Everyone: (10:59 AM)
Thank you, Ryan. This really nicely distills a lot of the conversations our faculty have been having over the last year or two.
Before we reached the point of “public” unveiling, Ryan delivered a comprehensive presentation of his findings to members of Wheelock and BU MarCom leadership. That presentation, which you can download and view here, breaks down how Ryan used input from our community to build a brand positioning statement that fits who we are.
And, before diving into our own community, Axe + Tiller assembled a portrait of the competitive landscape within which we sit, providing us with a detailed assessment of how our peer-aspirant institutions present themselves to the world. You can download and view Ryan’s individual peer school analysis and assessment of competitive themes.
The next steps in this process will take over the summer and fall months. BU Wheelock MarCom will work to adapt messaging on existing communications channels, including our social media and website, to reflect our new brand positioning. We’ll also develop new pieces designed to bring this message to specific audiences, with a focus on reaching peer colleges and prospective students.
Our advice to staff and faculty who want to help support our new positioning is to keep doing what you’ve always been doing. The work you do in classrooms, with community partners, and in collaboration with our students is foundational to the positioning Ryan has created. Because this message was created with our community’s goals, aspirations, and current areas of focus in mind, you don’t need to force any real change in your messaging.
But, we do encourage you to keep this positioning in mind. Much like our guide-star and the other elements of our college’s multi-faceted strategic planning process, our brand positioning (and the findings from the research that went into it) can help guide how you talk about our programs and community in the context of our broader professional and academic fields.