$1.5 million plan approved to enrich UT System branding

Will Clark

The Board of Regents approved a $1.46 million budget Tuesday for a branding initiative in which the UT System will partner with creative agencies to better unite the UT System brand.

Teri Thompson, chief marketing officer for the UT System, explained the goal of the initiative is to enrich and complement the branding activities of UT’s 14 different institutions so everyone from donors to parents of prospective students understands the power of the UT System.

“We have amazing institutions that are doing amazing things, individually,” Thompson said. “But imagine the lift we could get if we also talk at the same time about what’s going on collectively.”

The Regents voted unanimously with one abstention at their most recent meeting, approving the plan and $1.46 million for a one-year contract with sister agencies GSD&M and Interbrand, which are both owned by Omnicom.

The partnership between the agencies creates a single-stop solution for this challenge, and a critical step will be listening to students, faculty and other key stakeholders to understand which approach makes the most sense, according to GSD&M CEO Duff Stewart.

“I think we want to move away from being a family of brands to really a branded family,” Stewart said. “That shows the power of the institution. I don’t know how that comes to life in the articulation because we’ve got to talk to the people that are deeply immersed in the day-to-day.”

Austin-based GSD&M created the UT motto “What starts here changes the world,” and coined the phrase “Don’t Mess With Texas” for an anti-litter ad campaign.

Stewart said the initiative’s return on investment will be recognition of the strength and power of the UT System.

“It’s not that we’re 14 institutions,” Stewart said. “It’s that when you have the strength of the people and the strength of the character of those institutions, together they form a very powerful institution: the University of Texas System.”

According to Thompson, the plan will draw from brand models such as the NFL, Procter & Gamble, The Hershey Company and other university systems.

Randa Safady, vice chancellor for external relations for the UT System, oversaw the creation of this plan and said she understands these institutions are highly differentiated and have a unique character.

“That’s very important to us,” Safady said. “We should not and will not attempt to interrupt it by any of our proposed branding activities.”