New BYU brand message works to share university’s values with the world

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A sign on the west side of campus welcomes people to BYU. BYU emphasizes producing students and graduates with a commitment to serve. (BYU Photo)

President Worthen announced BYU’s new brand message in August 2022, and the statement has been nearly five years in the making as a result of various initiatives that studied internal and external audiences’ perception of BYU.

Studies by both an outside company and a team of BYU administrators, faculty and staff concluded that while BYU has a strong, positive perception among internal audiences (students, faculty, alumni and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), its academic awareness and reputation among external audiences is quite low.

Ranking 89th in the U.S. News’s Best Colleges report and 57th in Forbes 2022 ranking of America’s top colleges, BYU is also considered the eleventh best value university in the nation. Not only is the university at large highly ranked, but three of its graduate programs are nationally ranked in the top 30 in the country. However, the general public’s perception of BYU does not reflect its accolades.

The team worked to create a brand message that would reflect the unique strengths of a BYU education. The result of their efforts is the new two-paragraph brand message created “for the benefit of the world.”

Above is an excerpt from the BYU brand message. The new message emphasizes the unique strengths and goals of BYU students. (Made in Canva by Marissa Lundeen)

Jeff McClellan, director of BYU Brand and Creative and a key member of the new brand message committee, hopes audiences will learn three things about BYU from the new brand message.

“First, that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. We love God and we love His children. Second, we care about the world and we want to make it better and third, that we provide a great, high quality education,” McClellan said.

BYU’s associate director of brand marketing, Shane Westwood, said BYU had never launched a paid marketing campaign prior to March 2022. He said that while BYU students have been working on innovative research and impactful solutions to benefit the world, those stories have struggled to find an audience outside of the internal BYU community.

One significant goal of the new brand initiative is to share stories of BYU students using their education for good, Westwood said. Various ads throughout airports, on billboards and on various online platforms direct audiences to BYU’s website which highlights different student-led efforts to help their local communities and larger world community.

“The university has amazing content and wonderful stories about how BYU is benefitting the world. The paid campaign takes those wonderful stories and shines a light on them,” Westwood said.

While the new brand message is meant to improve the perception of the university throughout the world, one of its main purposes is to help students as they prepare to enter the workforce with BYU on their resumes. Westwood said because BYU cares about its students, it is making efforts to market itself as an institution so that those making hiring decisions will have an awareness of BYU and the strengths of BYU graduates.

“We want BYU to have a strong brand awareness so people both know BYU and know the good BYU is doing in the world,” Westwood said.

BYU digital communication Director Natalie Ipson said she is excited about how the new brand message will convey the unique goals of BYU to the world.

“Our goal is to help both our students and employees here on campus, as well as those outside of the university, clearly understand what makes BYU truly unique — ‘At BYU, belief enhances inquiry, study amplifies faith, and revelation leads to deeper understanding,’” Ipson said, quoting a sentence from the brand message.

The new brand message also gives individual schools on campus a common starting point should they choose to develop their own brand messages. Michael Leonard, assistant dean of the McKay School of Education, said the McKay School was inspired by BYU’s brand message to develop its own message that highlights its uniqueness to external audiences.

Above is an excerpt from the David O. McKay School of Education’s brand message. The McKay school was inspired by BYU’s brand message. (Made in Canva by Marissa Lundeen)

Leonard believes the new BYU and McKay School brand messages will communicate to the world that academic excellence and faith can indeed thrive together at an institution of higher learning.

“I hope this message helps us attract faculty and students who are dedicated to and want to be part of this unique approach to higher education,” Leonard said.

Efforts to share the BYU brand message continue and more stories highlighting students’ efforts will continue to be added to their website and ad campaigns.

See BYU’s brand website to read through the full message.

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