Here We Dare

Seattle U embraces a bold, new look and feel

Written by Tina Potterf and Mike Thee
Photography by Chris Kalinko
May 18, 2015
Maybe you’ve seen it on a billboard near the Ballard Bridge or on the side of a Metro bus—advertisements for Seattle University that are not the same ol, same ol. The look is bold, the messages clever and compelling. It’s all part of a new brand overhaul and visibility campaign for Seattle University.

No longer the hidden gem of the Northwest, the university is upping its game through a visual and messaging initiative that reflects all that makes the university Seattle’s university—academic rigor, a commitment to educating the whole person, encouraging personal growth through service and global engagement. The new brand reflects the vibrancy of the campus as a whole. Our students are inspired and open-minded, willing to go against the grain and explore new perspectives. They’re environmentally conscious. They value personal connections, are committed to working toward the good of others and eager to make a positive, personal impact in the world.

This rebranding push is driven by the concept of “Here We Dare.”

“Here We Dare” is more than a tagline—it’s a belief that underscores the university's commitment to providing an education that pushes and challenges students to know more, do more and be more.

Make no mistake—the tone and look may be different but the school’s rich Jesuit Catholic tradition that the school is built on remains at its center. The brand serves to illuminate, not detract, from this great tradition. 

This fall, the visibility campaign was launched in earnest throughout the city from the high-level marketing approach to practical recruitment materials.

The process began months earlier with the formation of the Brand Leadership Group (BLG), comprised of key stakeholders from across the university including faculty and staff. The BLG made the call to enlist the services of branding agency 160over90.

The objective was clear, says McClellan. “It’s about awakening the ‘Sleeping Giant’ known as Seattle University to help position the university for long-term success. A clear and compelling message as well as a distinctive look and feel was step one. The key now is consistency and integrating it into all our work.”

To gauge perceptions of the university—pre-rebranding—the agency gleaned insights into how the university is perceived through in-depth interviews with students, faculty, staff, Jesuits, alumni and donors as well surveys of prospective undergraduate and graduate students.

And what did the research reveal?

“What we learned is there’s a significant gap between how we perceive ourselves and how prospective students perceive us. That’s a gap we need to close,” says McClellan. “The external research also verified the need to increase awareness about Seattle University in general and our core Jesuit attributes more specifically.”

Matt Isaac, assistant professor of marketing in the Albers School and part of the BLG, says the research pointed to low awareness of SU among prospective students, even in the region, the need to more “clearly state its unique value proposition” and an opportunity to capitalize on the university's location. 

Location and mission came up frequently in the responses. A sampling of the research when participants were asked the question, “Who is Seattle University?” elicited responses such as:

“We educate the people who make the community work.”

“Our pride is not in how many games we’ve won. It’s in the impact we had on the elementary school down the street.”

“We are focused on students living the mission.”

“There is a real focus on social justice here. It’s not just lip service.”

The Brand Leadership Group and 160over90 took the feedback to heart.
SU's messaging, Isaac says, “must include a strong and clear positioning, which communicates in a simple way how people should think of the university and why it should be preferred over others.”

Barry Mitzman, professor of strategic communications in the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of BLG, sees the “Here We Dare” campaign fitting nicely with the university's mission. "Part of what inspires me about the Jesuit tradition—and SU as a community in particular—is a commitment to engaging with the world,” he says. “… Many authentic attributes of SU are captured brilliantly in those three words.”

Why the move to undertake a brand initiative now? According to McClellan, it is a necessary step to elevate the academic profile of the university, from the accomplished faculty scholars to the transformational education that students receive, to the impact that Seattle U alumni are making in the community and in the world.

“The competition in higher education these days is intense. It becomes more challenging because of all the changes happening around us,” he says. “We don’t have to shout as loud as others, but we need to engage audiences more fully and in a way that breaks through all the marketing clutter they are exposed to on a daily basis.”

Students have played an integral role in the direction and rollout of the brand.

“In order to be true to the voice of our students and shine a light on their spirit, authenticity and passions, we have included our students every step of the way including informal feedback focus groups with the brand design and messaging, participation in photo and video shoots and social media audience engagement,” says K. Francesca Lukjanowicz, director of university marketing.

Elements of the brand will continue to roll out in the coming months, with the intention of continuing to raise the profile of the university as well as highlight individual programs, both undergraduate and graduate. Beyond the billboards, radio ads and an enhanced Seattle University website, the new look and feel of SU will be evident in key recruitment and marketing materials targeting various demographics, from high school students to professionals seeking to advance in their careers.

Signs have been added along the Broadway corridor to more readily identify the physical campus and new banners will go up on university light posts with the theme “Know More. Do More. Be More.”

In addition to engaging prospective students, the Here We Dare campaign serves to inspire alumni to reunite with and rediscover their alma mater.
Look up to the sky around the Seattle area and you'll see the new Seattle U "look" on billboards.
brand bus Metro buses showcase the Here We Dare message loud and clear.