Gustavus makes it count

A screenshot of the newly renovated Gustavus website, a part of the re-branding of the College.
A screenshot of the newly renovated Gustavus website, a part of the re-branding of the College.

Gustavus launched a new brand position, “Gustavus Adolphus College: Make Your Life Count” over Homecoming weekend as a result of several months of market research and creative work. Major design changes to the institution’s homepage were also implemented Monday morning as a part of this initiative.

Market Research Phase

With the intent of refining its brand, the College hired market research firm SimpsonScarborough several months ago. The firm assisted with the task of surveying over 2,000 individuals, including prospective students, current students, faculty, staff, alumni and administrators at peer institutions about what makes Gustavus unique.

“They found that Gustavus is known and admired for its focus on undergraduate education, its focus on the liberal arts and we’re well known for our Nobel Conference,” Vice President of Marketing and Communication Gwendolyn Freed said.

“In terms of the essence of the Gustavus identity, there were three areas that came to the surface. One was the value of open dialog, another one was a close-knit and supportive community and, last was a perspective on leadership; an unusual perspective on leadership, I would say [one] that has a little more humility,” Freed said.

Creative Phase

Once the College had completed the market research phase, it hired the Pittsburgh, PA based firm BD&E to assist with the creative design phase.

“When our creative brand development team came to campus … they conducted interviews with two dozen faculty members and countless students to get some stories around that [profile],” Freed said.

Make Your Life Count

Through these interviews, BD&E discovered the College’s next tagline, “Make Your Life Count.”

“It was in exploring the Center For Vocational Reflection (CVR) that they got the ‘‘ahah’’ for the idea ‘‘Make Your Life Count.’’ They were interviewing a faculty member about the CVR and the faculty member … said, ‘The CVR, focuses on what we all focus on at Gustavus, how to make your life count’,” Freed said.

“We want something that sings, we want something that inspires, we want something that can speak to different audiences; whether it is a 17-year-old or a potential friend of the college …, or a recruiting faculty member. … It is a point of departure. It is a great way to start a conversation about what Gustavus is all about,” Freed said.

Some students feel the tagline accomplishes this objective.

“I love it. I think it [fits] with the College’s larger mission,” Senior Political Science Major Nick Harper said.

Other students do not like the tagline.

“I feel like it is like the typical cheesy slogan. I feel like ‘Make Your Life Count’ isn’t that original. I feel that if the right people thought long enough and hard enough they could come up with something better. I think the idea of a tagline is good, [though],” Junior Psychology Major Logan Haglund said.

Freed stressed that choosing a tagline is a difficult part of marketing. “You do your very best,” Freed said.

New Website Design

Once the market research was completed, BD&E also began to work with the Gustavus Web Team on changes to the website.

“We collaborated on the template. They had some ideas. They took a lot of input from us on what we thought needed to happen in terms of making it wider, and other things we have been wanting to do for a long time,” Web Communications Coordinator Jerry Nowell said.

“They were great to work with. [We are] very fortunate to have them as our consultant for this project,” Nowell said.

“It was probably the smoothest collaboration we have ever had,” Technical Web Coordinator Joe Lencioni said.

“Some of the feedback that we have gathered over the years [is that] our homepage and other pages were text heavy [and] lacked a certain visual element. I think what this design attempts to do is to portray the core values more visually. It [tries] to showcase the vibrancy of this campus,” Nowell said.

Many students have noticed these changes.

“I like how clean it is. I like the graphics and the pan quite a bit. I look forward to the rest of it changing because it is weird that it is in two different formats right now,” Senior Environmental Studies Major Scott Engelman said.

“I think it looks more professional than the old one,” Junior English Major Mel Rasch said.

“We think this is a step forward, and we’re really excited about it,” Lencioni said.

Story Campaign

The College is also launching a campaign to collect and share stories that depict the Gustavus experience and will be increasing its use of social media websites.

“We really want to take advantage of social networking to help the audience get involved in the storytelling. One of the things about the ‘Make Your Life Count’ concept is that we hope it is broad enough and flexible enough that people will be able to share stories of other people who do that convey the richness of [the community],” Freed said.

Social media is already a large part of the new website already.

“I think there was a big push to incorporate social media in the design. We have done that [on] the alumni page, and we have links on the homepage to Flickr and to Facebook. There are other resources. You don’t have to come to Gustavus to be a part of the Gustavus community [and] share photos and stories, things these other services do a great job of already,” Nowell said.

Freed suggests that anyone who knows of a story that they think should be shared should contact Stacia Vogel,, who is working to collect stories.

Moving Forward with the Website

The rest of the website will be moved over to the new template as soon as possible, but it will take time. Gustavus’ website contains more than 50,000 pages. The Web Team is currently working to move key pages, such as pages on the top navigation bar, departmental pages and the athletics pages.

The Web Team appreciates feedback throughout the process.

“We love feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, or anything. We just like to hear what people think,” Lencioni said.

Anyone can leave feedback by clicking the red “Feedback” button on the left hand side of pages on the new template or the button at the top of pages that have not yet been converted.

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