Mississippi College has recently undergone intense research in order to define the institution’s personality. The process started in fall 2018 with focus groups asking students, staff, faculty, and alumni about rebranding. In spring 2021 the first part of the branding process that took place was reputation strategy. From that research, they came back to campus and did a brand reveal. The branding project directed by Carnegie Dartlet engaged more than 1,000 employees, students, and alumni in focus groups and listening workshops. Carnegie is a national firm that works with higher education schools on rebranding. According to their reveal of Mississippi College’s brand, their main goal is to “Humanize institutions from within, building consensus between all critical stakeholders around your organization’s authentic self.”
Through the process, there were three personality workshops focusing on archetypes, traits, faults, cause, and genome. An online survey covered research on familiarity, reputation, and personality. Finally, three message workshops explained dimensions, evidence, and preamble. The rigorous research was conducted through internal stakeholder workshops, external perception research, and competitive analysis. Starting with what Carnegie labels as the frameworks, they labeled nine different archetypes within their research. Archetypes define human characteristics in simple terms.
MC’s personality has been identified with four main colors: red, purple, pink, and blue. MC’s main archetype was the color purple as a shepherd standing for the meaning of supportive and selfless. The detailed report of how Mississippi College should connect with others is under the “Care With Me” title, with main points of selflessness, nurturing, and support. These points can be accomplished by organizations that connect with their audiences in a way that is selfless and focused on nurturing those who are within the MC sphere of influence.
Alongside the nine archetypes, Carnegie also assisted the university in conducting a peer review alongside 12 other institutions that are at the same level of higher education. The peer project included Mississippi College, Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Mississippi, Hinds Community College, Holmes Community College, William Carey University, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Samford University, Union University, Christian Brothers University, and Dallas Baptist University. MC scored fourth on the leaderboard and was titled as “commendable confidants.”
In a total analysis of Mississippi College’s website, social media, video, and campaigning, 61% of the original archetype personality was fulfilled. It was discovered that MC had a large field of the beige color archetype. Beige is not considered an archetype, it is rather considered a wanderer; it’s neutral and unexpressive in meaning.
MC has used that research data to redo all admissions material. “We are trying to find students that align with those colors and also tell stories to share those colors with others,” said Tracey Harrison, Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communication at MC.
“In the past Mississippi College has been unsure on how to tell its story, and the reason is because they have never identified on paper and said this is who we are and that is what Carnegie Dartlet did. They helped us do the research and present the data in a way that we can say confidently, ‘This is who we are,’ and now we can tell that story, it gives us a roadmap of communication.”
The current step that MC is taking action on is looking at the campus visual identity. This process is trying to bring all the separate departments and schools back under the same umbrella of a logo, a style that is agreeable for everyone. The research was the foundation and now they are starting to move forward with action, looking at logos and colors and how MC visually represents itself in the telling of their story.
By the time they finish, the process will have lasted almost four years. While the pandemic interrupted some of it, the team wanted it to be inclusive and data-driven and are taking the time needed to get this rebranding right. The Office of Public Relations has now been changed to be titled the Office of Marketing and Communication; they work with admissions and alumni to oversee the brand. The on-campus renovations are not connected to this MC rebranding, however, but are rather just intended to modernize the campus and follow a master plan that the campus has created.
The communication on campus had been decentralized and inconsistent for years. It was not coordinated or cohesive, but now the message is coming together to be centralized and consistent. “I am grateful to all of the students, my colleagues, alumni, and friends of the university who have contributed to this project. We are excited to see these changes implemented over the months ahead,” said Harrison.
The hope of this project is to define MC’s sense of self and story for decades to come. The main goal of this research was for MC to be able to create a strong, consistent message across all platforms. In the final reveal by Carnegie Dartlet, Mississippi College exists to “Empower Authentic Excellence to inspire the world through the passion, strength, and visionary leadership of our students.”