Fordham University launched a new website last week. An important goal for the new site was to infuse it with what makes Fordham, Fordham.
“We’re a Jesuit, Catholic university. Our spirit comes from the nearly 500-year history of the Jesuits. It’s the spirit of full-hearted engagement—with profound ideas, with communities around the world, with injustice, with beauty, with the entirety of the human experience.”
A partnership between mStoner and the talented and dedicated digital team at Fordham—and a lot of work—resulted in a new site that is a fresh and glorious digital representation of the University brand.
Why did Fordham focus on brand expression for the new website? Because the senior leadership at Fordham understood the website as the University’s primary communications platform. And, the University Relations team recognized that fordham.edu is every bit as important as a campus visit in encouraging students to apply, a timely magazine or email in encouraging alumni to stay engaged, or a well-placed news story in raising general awareness and reputation.
Your brand is what distinguishes you and translating what makes you you into language for your website allows your college or university to:
- Attract best-fit students.
- Distinguish your school from the competition.
- Influence parents about value and outcomes.
- Help prospectives imagine themselves on your campus.
What’s the secret for successfully translating the brand for prospective students?
How do you do it? Listen and ask! If you listen to real people in the target market talk about the brand, you’ll learn what you need to know. And the only way to be certain you get it right, is to ask prospectives to respond to early prototypes and designs that express the brand creatively.
- We used small focus groups of first year Fordham students to inform our work and we timed the focus groups to occur early in the academic year. So although we spoke with current first year students, they were only five weeks into their freshman year. Because of this timing, the individuals we spoke with were more like prospective students than current students. They were still very close to their college search process and to their decision to attend Fordham.
- We surveyed prospective students to get their impressions about how well design concepts gave positive impressions about Fordham. We also evaluated their ability to internalize (and remember!) key messaging.
Translating your brand into creative is not for logos only. The best websites come for a tight connection between brand and content. Use photos, words, graphics, video, and navigation labels to make your brand real to the audiences you are trying to reach, influence, and move to action. Content is a creative expression of your brand and critical for communicating with your key audiences.