A brand new RIC

What does Rhode Island College mean to you? That’s what the RIC Branding Committee aimed to find out when charged with developing a new tagline line and marketing campaign for the 155-year-old College.

The answers were plentiful and varied as the committee brainstormed, solicited responses from the campus community, and conducted focus groups to find the words that best exemplified Rhode Island College.

The results: an overwhelming response to the question, a careful analysis of the entries, and a meaningful tagline, all at no cost to the College.

The winning tagline: Reach-Inspire-Connect, incorporating the R-I-C abbreviation widely used for the College.

“Three important words that came out of a cumulative process that engaged the campus community as well as all those who have an affinity to the College,” said Jane Fusco, RIC’s director of news and public relations and chair of the committee.

In keeping with the theme of new leadership and a new vision for the College, RIC President Nancy Carriuolo formed the 8-person committee using in-house staff and resources so as not to incur the time and expense it would take to engage an outside marketing firm.

“The College needed a great tag line and marketing plan, but we had no designated funds, so I turned to the college's talented campus community and friends of the College. They did not disappoint me.” Carriuolo said.

In addition to Fusco, the committee members included David Blanchette, interim dean of the School of Management; Frank Casale ’86, senior vice president/marketing manager for Sovereign Bank; Margaret Dooley ’76, RIC’s major gifts officer; Steven Maurano, associate commissioner of Higher Education for external affairs; Stephen Ramocki, marketing professor; Karen Rubino, Web director; and Holly Shadoian, director of admissions.

The committee focused on the various constituencies who were likely to be most interested in and attuned to a tagline, including prospective students and their parents, alumni and donors, as well as the campus community. In addition, the committee established a dedicated email account to solicit tagline ideas from faculty and staff. More than 150 tagline suggestions were submitted via email.

Blanchette and Ramocki led the committee through several brainstorming and marketing exercises to categorize and distinguish the submissions. The committee rated submissions in three categories: no, maybe, like it. Submissions with a majority for “maybe” or “like it” were kept, narrowing the list to 15. The group further refined the list and created additional combinations from words and phrases that seemed more appropriate, or changed a word to make it stronger.

“The marketing professors taught us about stimulus ambiguity as it applies to a tagline, meaning that each person reading or hearing it is able to interpret it in an individual way,” said Rubino.

Group discussions included perceptions of the college, both positive and negative, and an examination of a list of about 20 taglines used by other colleges and universities in Rhode Island, plus peer institutions and some competitors.

The committee also conducted several focus groups to gain input from students. The focus group presentation was developed by Shadoian and included a tagline matching exercise, listing of RIC strengths, responses to 10 of the strongest taglines and brainstorming.

“We used no graphics for taglines so as not to influence anyone with a specific design,” Shadoian said.

Fusco and Maurano, both of whom have media and public relations backgrounds, emphasized the need for a tagline that would translate well into advertising and promotional materials.

“This was a self-organizing system that was industrious in considering market needs, internal strengths, organizational goals, and research data to creatively and logically generate a variety of viable options,” said Blanchette.

The committee presented the six most popular suggestions to the President’s Executive Cabinet (PEC), who ranked the top two choices before Carriuolo made the final decision.

The new tagline will appear on all campus publications, advertising, and internal and external communications, starting with the materials now being prepared for the summer and next academic year.

“The tagline challenge was a true test that RIC can solve the vast majority of its problems internally,” said Ramocki.

Maurano, who spent more than 20 years with a public relations agency before joining The Office of Higher Education, said that there are firms that focus on images and slogans and charge hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop them.

“Several of these firms specialize in higher education. In light of the fiscal issues facing the state and the College, RIC’s president chose a different route. She assembled a team of professionals who knew the College best and who also knew how to tap into the opinions of constituent groups important to the College. They got the job done without expense to the institution," Maurano said.

The serious nature of the task not withstanding, the Branding Committee also had some fun in the process. They began the presentation to the cabinet with tagline suggestions such as “Locke into your future,” and “We’ll Pitt our school against yours any day,” referencing the names of PEC vice presidents Ivy Locke and Ron Pitt. They also submitted the tagline “We’re not normal anymore,” alluding to the College’s growth beyond its roots as a Normal School.

The next assignment for the committee is to develop a public relations and marketing campaign that will incorporate the tagline, and further enhance the image of the College. Ramocki said the committee should easily be able to accomplish this in-house as well.

“We’ve been experimenting with an idea that has multiple possibilities, and the team is anxious to get it in the works,” added Fusco.