George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason Rolls Out Brand Promise

February 9, 2012

By Robin Herron; video by Paul King

In 2009, Mason began using the “Where Innovation Is Tradition” tagline on its publications, websites and building signage. The tagline was “widely embraced,” says Vice President for University Relations Christine LaPaille, but it was only the beginning.

“That was the first phase of communicating our brand,” LaPaille says.

That first phase of developing the tagline was completed after more than a year of market research, development and focus group testing that involved Mason’s Board of Visitors, advisory boards, administration, students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“The tagline wasn’t decided,” LaPaille explains. “It was an acclamation. It came from the bottom up. We’ve tested the words and the ideas, and people bought in.”

Distilling Mason’s brand into one short tagline was difficult, but developing Mason’s “brand promise” was even more challenging, LaPaille says.

The brand promise, she explains, is meant to inspire Mason faculty and staff. It articulates the benefits, both emotional and functional, that Mason wants its students and stakeholders to receive when experiencing the university’s academic and social programs or interacting with the university on any level.

The brand promise is a simple statement, but it covers several crucial concepts: “We are dedicated to an exceptional educational experience that inspires innovation, fosters thought leadership and cultivates success.”

This statement ties in perfectly with the university’s mission, LaPaille notes. “Mason’s brand is innovative, entrepreneurial and global,” she says. “The brand promise supports the university’s mission and helps us achieve those goals.”

Information on the brand promise and strategy was distributed to all faculty and staff through campus mail earlier this week, along with a magnet bearing the brand promise.

Going forward, “brand ambassadors” across the university will work to remind faculty and staff about the promise and to how to implement it. A Brand Management Committee is also planning initiatives to reinforce the brand strategy.

“Will the brand promise change? Not for a long time,” LaPaille says. “It might be revisited or refreshed, yes, but it should last for many years.”

LaPaille says she is sometimes asked why a university needs a brand strategy.  She responds that a university, just like a corporation, is fundamentally a business. “Universities across the country are moving in that direction — realizing that they are building a business. We’re competing for students, faculty, donors and research dollars. By adopting a brand strategy we’re right in line with what other universities are doing.”

LaPaille notes that well-known brands such as Apple, Nike and Starbucks are companies that have an employee culture “where they are living their brand promise every day.”

Even though LaPaille is set to soon leave Mason to pursue another opportunity, she plans to check in from time to time to see how the brand strategy is working. “University Relations took this project all the way through, and I am proud of that,” she says.

LaPaille is also excited about the possibilities of the brand promise for individual faculty and staff members. “Mason has a culture of innovation where people apply their ideas — and that goes across the board. I hope that I still have that feeling of empowerment when I move on. The freedom and empowerment to try new things and do the things I want to do — that’s the culture I’m used to at Mason.”

LaPaille also encourages faculty, staff and students to share their innovative projects through the Innovation Inventory.