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For schools, name change or logo tweak is about competing

May 9, 2019

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Three major South Dakota schools have moved recently to rebrand themselves, illustrating a trend that experts say show how schools are realizing the importance of strong branding in a competitive marketplace.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports on the moves by the Sioux Falls Catholic School system, Dakota State University and University Center in Sioux Falls. They ranged from the Catholic School System renaming itself Bishop O’Gorman to the simple logo and mascot colors tweak by Dakota State.

The moves came after two other major schools shifted their brands in the past decade. That included Augustana College becoming Augustana University in 2015, and South Dakota State shifting its Jackrabbits logo to be more fierce as it moved up to Division I.

Mike Lockrem, communications and marketing director at South Dakota State, had a hand in the Jackrabbit redesign. He said he’s seen a shift in the last 10 years with schools realizing the importance of brand names.

“If you look nationally, a lot of universities are studying it more and more,” he said. “But the challenges lie in reaching out to the stakeholders. It’s important impact to how we recruit students and how we reach key individuals.”

South Dakota State tested the new look carefully before making it final, he said.

“You’re always evaluating where you are with your brand, and looking at the possibilities that are out there and what strengthens your product and your university,” Lockrem said.

He said a deep rebranding is sometimes aimed at solving some kind of problem — perhaps confusion with another institution’s logo, or reshaping the public’s perception. But it’s often about enrollment.

“That’s always a top-of-the-mind conversation because you’re selling your product - the education - to your students,” he said. “But you also have an industry, and state leaders, that play into it, those people who are very involved in your college.”

Enrollment is why University Center is repositioning itself as a local community college, with aid from the University of South Dakota. USD spokeswoman Hailie Warren said the center’s enrollment has been declining in large part because of lack of a strong identity, structure and mission.

Warren said University Center’s research suggested it could be more successful if it repositioned as a workforce college — hoping to attract some of the Sioux Falls high school graduates who don’t enroll in college soon after graduation, or working adults who have no post-secondary degree.

The Sioux Falls Catholic School system decided to change its name to Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools to move away from a city-specific name that might have led some people to believe it wasn’t an option for them. The system serves 2,600 people across 20 communities.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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