Health, Education

Defusing Incendiary University Rebrands

I recently led a break-out presentation at the CASE Europe Annual Conference (CEAC) in Birmingham. It was a timely opportunity to take look at a university rebrand project – transforming the British School of Osteopathy (BSO) into the University College of Osteopathy (UCO).

Seizing the opportunity

The new University College of Osteopathy brand and website went live in September, marking some significant milestones for the institution. The BSO’s academic standards and management processes had recently gone through a period of intense scrutiny, culminating in them being granted Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) by HEFCE. This made them the only osteopathic institution in Europe with the power to award their own degrees – definitely something to celebrate, especially as it coincided with the BSO's centenary year.

The Privy Council then granted the BSO “University College” status, which necessitated a change of name, and a full rebrand. They invited IE to tender for the work and, luckily, we ‘clicked’ right away. We were delighted to be appointed to deliver both the rebrand and – through a separate tender – the new University College website.

So the BSO had some compelling reasons to rebrand. Fast forward to CEAC, and my session first took a light-hearted look at five compelling reasons NOT to rebrand your institution, by looking at a few previous university rebrands that received a backlash from students.

I was then joined at the podium by Charles Hunt, Vice Chancellor of the new University College of Osteopathy, to talk about the process we went through to rename, reposition and rebrand them.

It’s not what you do, but how you do it

We talked in detail about the Listening phase, which is crucial to ensure you take stakeholders on the journey with you. Having done their research, and engaged with students, staff, alumni, patients of the UCO Clinic and shareholders, the BSO’s new name received almost unanimous support. When the official announcement of the new name eventually came, there were no nasty surprises, and the news was positively received.

Lastly, I gave the audience a preview of the new UCO branding, describing our creative process to arrive at the new logo, visual identity and confident new brand messaging/tone of voice – while keeping stakeholders on board. Watch The visual identity and brand messaging development process.

You can watch the full presentation below, or simply use the links above to skip to the sections of interest.



Also check out the UCO rebrand case study.

Good well presented session with lots of great advice mixed with humour. A colleague started the session telling me she wanted to rebrand her institution, and came out saying that given what she had heard, she realised that was not such a good idea. That's a success then!

CASE Europe Annual Conference delegate