Old fashioned, corporate, and confusing are some of the words that have been used to describe us and our brand. We totally see where you’re coming from, we’ve had some big internal changes and feel like we have outgrown our existing brand (which has existed for 6+ years).
We released our new strategy and values in Spring 2022 which set out our new organisational values, plus the University have just gone through a big rebrand too, so we feel like it’s the perfect time for us to have a new look and feel!
A rebrand is not just for those of us who work for the Guild, it is for all our students too, which is why we want to bring you along the journey with us & consult students on as much of the process as possible!
Our ambition is to be a current and exciting part of the Exeter experience, doing our bit in helping all students ‘Love Exeter’. We want the Guild to be relevant to all students and we want students to feel that we are an integral part of their experience through advocating and supporting our student community.
To ensure our brand properly communicates who we are, our vision, and our values we feel that a new visual identity is essential in doing this. This may include, a new logo, new colours, new fonts and just an overall new look for the Guild.
Our rebrand not only means a new look and feel for the Guild but also how we are perceived by students. Our in-house graphic design team will be working hard at creating a new look for us, one that is exciting and modern, but one that our students can identify with. Our marketing team, will be working on how we position ourselves as an organisation and how this is communicated to our audiences.
We have set out the following four objectives:
Take a look below at our timeline to see what we have done so far and where we are at.
Aug – Oct 2022
Once we knew we were going to tackle the mammoth task of a rebrand, we got to planning. It was important to us that the whole project had some key objectives that we could work towards and would allow us to evaluate the project once it was all complete.
We started by mapping out the rough project timelines, working backwards from our ideal launch date. We also did some industry research, by looking at other similar organisations who have recently rebranded to gauge their process and to have something to aim towards.
7 Dec – 26 Jan
Luckily for us, there are plenty of other Students' Unions who have recently undertaken the challenge of a rebrand. It was really important for us to talk to these SUs and learn the do’s and don’ts and the key takeaways they’ve had from their experience. We have been fortunate enough to talk to Leeds SU, Manchester SU, Middlesex, Coventry, and Bristol SU so far.
They have each had a unique experience of rebranding, at different scales and budgets which gave us a great insight into what we could expect. Our neighbours over in Bristol completed their rebrand in September 2022 and talked us through the process and interestingly, the things they wish they had done differently. They showed us their spaces and what the new brand looked like physically as well as digitally which was really useful.
17 Oct – 11 Nov
We launched our brand positioning survey to understand what we meant to you, our students, how involved they were with us and their thoughts on our visual identity. We got over 1000 responses (around 5% of the student population) to the survey which contained lots of interesting feedback for us to work through.
This was advertised through a dedicated email to all students, table talkers across campus, features on our social media, a pop-up & being front and centre on our website, a slide on our digital screens and we worked with the University to reach as many students as possible through their channels.
Some key takeaways from the survey:
Following the Brand Positioning Survey our Insights team held focus groups to get students’ views on the Guild, including what they think our purpose is, how we can be more useful to students, and what can be done to help students feel more a part of the Guild. We made our focus groups as representative as possible and even held some with prospective students to give us well rounded feedback.
In the survey, we asked students if they thought we were Trustworthy, Representative and Transparent, and so wanted to explore these themes at focus groups. After a discussion about these terms, we decided to swap out ‘Representative’ for ‘Community’, and so students were asked about what Trust, Transparency and Community mean to them and how they think the Guild can evidence and communicate those terms.
University Stakeholder Interviews
Our Insights team also held interviews with key stakeholders at the University, these are the people that make all of the important strategic decisions. We wanted to ensure they knew where we were at with the project and had the opportunity to feed into it. Although we are independent from the University, we often work very closely with them, so its always good to have them on board!
Feedback noted the Guild works collaboratively with the University on issues and is good at communicating student views. There were positive comments on how current Officers interact with the University.
1 Nov – 21 Nov
One of the biggest questions throughout the process so far has been around our name, do we stick with Guild or go with the more ‘industry standard’ of Union, or something completely new?!
Our worry was that students didn’t understand ‘Guild’ and what we do and we spent a lot of time trying to get that message across.
So in our survey we asked…. To what extent do you agree with the following statement: I understand from the name ‘University of Exeter Students’ Guild’ what the organisation is and what is does.
And 69% of respondents agreed and a further 10% neither agreed nor disagreed.
We then asked, ‘What name do you think would be a better reflection of the Guild?’
The majority of alternative suggestions were Students’ Union or similar, with some stand out suggestions including ‘Students Onion’!
We thought there would be a clear steer on how to proceed, however, this wasn’t the case, so we decided to use focus groups to explore the most popular suggestions of Guild, Union, Community, and Hub amongst other things.
21 – 20 Dec
We wanted to explore the name options further and used the focus groups to discuss opinions on the top four suggestions.
Here is a summary of what was said about all four options:
Again, there was not a clear steer towards a name change, with those who were unsure on what a ‘Guild’ was, were also unsure on what a ‘Union’ meant too.
Another aspect of the Focus Groups was to explore how students interact with the Guild, how we can be more useful to students, and what can be done to help students feel more a part of the Guild. We had some really interesting answers which seemed to revolve around three themes: Clarity, Transparency and Accessibility.
We need to be clear about who we are and what we do, to make it easier for students to understand us and how we in with their overall student experience and how we position ourselves with the University.
We need to be open and honest in how we speak to our members in a way that demonstrates that we care about them, understand them, and which also helps differentiate us from the University.
We need to ensure all students feel represented and engaged and make it clearer that we are here for them all in the services, activities and events we deliver.
From these Insights, we concluded that solely rebranding would do little more than sticking a very good looking plaster over fundamental issues that exist with how we engage students. Instead, our rebrand has to be a rebrand of not just our look, but our processes and engagement points too. We want students to feel like they are interacting with a fresh and transformed organisation, with as many of our existing engagement issues, as streamlined and resolved as possible.
So, the conclusion from the insights was that we stick with Guild (probably taking out the ‘University of’ part) and focus on the engagement issues that had been highlighted by students (clarity, accessibility, and transparency). After discussing the results internally and with Full-Time Officers and Trustees, and supported by the insights, we have decided to stay with Guild and review our name in 3 years’ time.
So, there we have it…. after all that, Exeter Students’ Guild lives on.
Jan - Feb
Finally, it was time to start exploring the new brand. Focus groups were held with staff and students to explore our Brand in more depth and we also consulted our trusty Survey Superheroes. We started by exploring brand archetypes (these are ‘personalities’ that can be adopted by brands to help connect with their audience on a personal and emotional level).
Students wanted a Guild that supports students when they need it and provides with the knowledge and tools to succeed at University and a Guild that is friendly and reflects the needs and views of Exeter students and will always push for the best for students even if it makes others feel uncomfortable.
Brand territories were then explored, this involved distilling down the specific role for the Guild to see which one resonated the most with staff and students.
Territory 1: Engaging, Accessible and Approachable
Territory 2: Fun, Community-focused and Innovative
Territory 3: Representative, Student-led and Empowering
After much discussion, Territory 2 was chosen as this was felt to be the most all-encompassing and aspirational to what we wanted the Guild to be recognised for. This is not to say that the other territories won’t feed into the brand at all, but more to give our design team a starting point for creating the visuals.
Feb - March
So how do you go from a ‘territory’ to visuals?!
.......lots of mind mapping…and being an experienced Graphic Designer helps too!!
We started by taking the three words described in the ‘territory’ and getting down as many associated words as possible. We also thought about physical representations of each word e.g., bouncy castles under ‘Fun’. These were also linked to our values of collaborative, empowering and radically inclusive.
We discussed existing brands & businesses that we felt embodied the key words e.g., Fun= Disney, Community Focused = Dove & Innovative = Apple.
Our designers then used this to form three mood boards which encompassed various aspects that had come out of our research and brainstorming. These mood boards are not meant to showcase a final design, their purpose is to give an idea of the potential look & feel and guide us in the direction that students feel best represents the Guild.
We are excited to have unveiled the mood boards (w/c 20 Mar) in the Forum & St Luke's where gathered student views & feedback.
You can also take a look at them in more detail here- Rebrand Mood Boards.
Our Insights team gathered all of the feedback from the mood boards, analysed and gave this to our Design team, to start working this up into the new visual identity. As you can imagine, they let their creativity run wild and we had 3 designs to choose from!
In consultation with the Marketing Advisory Board (made up of current students), and feedback from Officers and other key stakeholders, the final identity was confirmed, and the team began focusing on this design, refining the colour palette and style.
March – June
A new Tone of Voice (TOV):
A brand isn’t just how it looks visually, it also encompasses how we talk about ourselves as an organisation, and how we talk to you, our members. We’ve taken our values and ambitions together to create a brand personality that reflects how we want to sound: playful, friendly, inspiring, bold and honest (just maybe not all at once!).
Expect us to sound a little different from now on, we’re currently working on updating our website, so it reflects our new tone. It’s keeping us pretty busy!
June – September
Re-designing the Guild:
The rebrand has coincided with a refurbishment of Devonshire House – which means the building will look quite different when it re-opens in September. The spaces will be more flexible and accessible, with floor space for societies and groups to use. Social study space will be improved, and our Advice Team will be moving into the building to create a unified hub of Guild services for all students. We can’t wait to see the new colour palette in there too!
We'll also be rolling out the new brand over the summer, from completely refreshing and re-designing our website and digital platforms, overhauling all our content and coming up with new plans on how to communicate to you next year!