Brand New

January 18, 2013


Perhaps you’ve seen it on billboards along the highways, in the Galleria Mall or on our newly re-launched website ( Canisius is calling attention to the unique educational experience its offers students, with the launch of a new branding campaign. Yes, it comes with a new look. It’s youthful, yet modern and even edgy. But the messaging is steeped in 450 years of Jesuit tradition.

The brand launch is one of several strategic initiatives underway at Canisius to stay a step ahead of today’s changing higher education landscape. More universities are competing for fewer students. In the Northeast, alone, the number of high school graduates is expected to decline as much as 15 percent by 2020.“Our Jesuit identity distinguishes Canisius from other colleges and universities,” says President John J. Hurley. “Our goal as a Jesuit university is to have students leave here transformed: smarter, of course, but also wiser, more compassionate, more inspired, more committed to the poor, and marginalized, and more fully attuned to the movement of the Spirit in their lives.”

The new brand concept was shaped by Canisius and its stakeholders, and is rooted in fundamental truths of the institution’s history and identity. To help uncover those truths, Canisius reached out to nearly 3,000 of the college’s constituents to test perceptions of Canisius against those of competitor schools. Focus group interviews and a university peer-analysis followed.

The market research revealed that a Canisius education is defined by challenging academics, a place where curiosity is encouraged and thinking is required. Canisius students undertake real-world experiences, participate in real research and tackle real problems. Students don’t just receive a lifetime worth of information but graduate prepared for a lifetime of adventures.

Canisius shared the results of the market research with the Philadelphia brand agency 160over90. With a client list that includes UCLA, the University of Notre Dame and Loyola Maryland, as well as Nike and American Eagle, 160over90 is acutely in tune with the demographic to which Canisius wants to speak.

“In higher education, people attempt to speak to every aspect of the school and forget that at the receiving end of this barrage of information is a 17-year old kid,” says Tim O’Donnell, creative director at 160over90. “This generation of high school students doesn’t give anything more than five seconds of its attention. It’s an immediate read or it’s in the trash.”

With this in mind, 160over90 created a roadmap for Canisius’ in-house marketing and communication team to bring the brand to life. It’s a considerable departure from more traditional Canisius messaging but it’s authentic in every way.

The new brand encourages students to Think Beyond the Classroom by seizing opportunities to work closely on research with full-time faculty; Strike Out and Find New Ground because taking control of their educations means getting involved, joining clubs, accepting leadership positions or volunteering; Question the Questions, as college is a time when students should strive to understand the real world, with all its positives and negatives; and Go Exploring, because with the help of dedicated faculty Canisius students can go as far as their imaginations and determinations can take them.

In short, the new brand better communicates what a Canisius education is and always has been about: developing the whole person, mind, body and spirit.

The brand initiative launched this fall is just the beginning of a long-term effort to attract a greater number of quality undergraduate and graduate students and more diverse faculty; secure Canisius’ reputation as one of the leading comprehensive universities in the Northeast; and grow Canisius pride across all aspects of the university.

Ultimately, however, the brand’s long-term success will be defined not by words but by the actions of those who know Canisius best – faculty, staff, administrators, Jesuits, alumni, parents, family and friends.

“These individuals know the promise of a Canisius education and deliver on that promise every day, whether it’s in the classrooms, the residence halls, at Campus Ministry or in the greater community,” says President Hurley. “They demonstrate to our students that the Canisius connection is more than just a professional network. It’s a lasting personal network of their best friends.”

These are the people who distinguish Canisius. They are the Canisius brand.