Paris Bienert: A brand to rally around

The University has hired two outside firms – for what we can only assume is a high price tag, as the project’s cost has been kept hidden – to rebrand itself by taking a mass of data and opinions and turning it into a new identity for the institution.

Rebranding efforts are important for a university, as they raise a number of questions about who that university is and what it seeks to become.

Some students may prioritize GW’s urban location, while others tout its propensity for research. The University is also a Division I athletics school and is the alma mater for more than a few members of Congress.

The problem for the rebranding effort is there is no single, unified image of GW.

But, students can’t rally around GW’s nuanced identity, so the firms looking to transform our college should remember that the best brand is a cohesive, digestible one. The image the University projects to the public shouldn’t be muddled in the myriad of ways the community defines GW.

Unless, by some miracle, the University finds a way to include all of its flagship attributes in one identity, it must prioritize and decide to emphasize one quality in particular.

Students wouldn’t be turned off by GW simply because the school’s outward image is inconsistent with what they find the University to be. Let’s say, for example, that GW decides to identify itself primarily by the fact that it is a politically active campus in D.C. A student who is indifferent about the student body’s proclivity for politics would not feel any less connected to the school if the University chose to highlight this trait.

Likewise, if someone loves the fact that GW is so politically active, he or she would not feel marginalized if the University highlighted its Division I sports affiliation above everything else. Forming an all-encompassing image will provide students with a point of departure when speaking about their school. The student body is made of a conglomeration of people with different interests and backgrounds, and for this reason, the University takes a variety of approaches when attributing an identity to the school.

GW needs to take a stance and form a fully-baked identity. Our current mixed-bag brand could be repelling some excellent students who seek a school with a more certain self-image. If the University had just one simple image, our community would in turn unite under this common banner.

Of course, our identity crisis goes beyond a need for a logo redesign. The University should also be taking this opportunity to seriously consider its intrinsic character. Only after realizing what the University is and wants to be, will a successful rebranding effort truly come about.

Let this rebranding effort be a time for us to highlight that one quality that unites us all.

Paris Bienert, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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