July 13, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

Luther College is embarking on an initiative to clarify our brand identity - to further crystalize what Luther stands for, how our programs are distinctive and the value we deliver to our audiences. We will define a brand position that resonates with and is relevant to prospective students and parents, is authentic and meaningful to internal audiences, alumni and friends; and clearly communicates how Luther is distinct and different from competitors. This effort will inform all communications and interactions, with the goal of strengthening our recognition, relevance, revenue, relationships and reach.

This summer, we will be conducting surveys, interviews and focus groups to help us discover how we are perceived by prospective students and parents, as well as by current students; what they value about Luther; how Luther is discussed in social media; and how we describe ourselves compared to competitors. The research will help us clearly define Luther’s strengths and value as we better understand the perceptions of Luther by current students, students who choose not to attend, and parents.

Rolf Wulfsberg, a Luther alumnus and global business analytics director at Siegel + Gale, has generously donated his time and expertise to lead our quantitative research on prospective students and parents, current students and the admissions process. We have chosen the Additive Agency to lead the discovery process/qualitative research and strategy development. And, because prospective students and parents are researching, engaging with colleges and making choices through social media channels, we have chosen BTC Revolutions to develop an innovative social media strategy for Luther.

Brand Advisory Task Force
In addition, a Brand Advisory Task Force will assist with the planning, development and implementation of the brand position and new messages. The Task Force includes:

Eric Baack, associate professor of biology
Andrew Last, director of choral activities, associate professor of music
Lindsey Row-Heyveld, assistant professor of English
Derek Sweet, associate professor of communications studies

Andrew Bailey, assistant controller
Renae Hartl, director of athletics
Kasey Nikkel, director of student rights and responsibilities/assistant dean for student life
Josue Silva, coordinator of diversity recruitment
Mariah Smith, director of development current gifts

Board of Regents
Michael Burk, bishop, Southeastern Iowa Synod of the ELCA
Peter Espinosa, retired IBM executive and entrepreneur
Chris Gade, chair of the Mayo Clinic department of public affairs
Susan Sorlien, chair of the Luther Board of Regents’ marketing committee

Alumni, community members and parents with brand and marketing expertise
Jim Kowitz, brand and external communications manager for Ernst & Young
Mike Kust, chief marketing officer, Hendlin
David Larson, former Luther regent and former medical director of Mayo medical ventures
Karen Titus Trewin, senior communications specialist, Mayo; and financial advisor with Thrivent Financial
John Vanderploeg, EVP Leo Burnett and member of the Parents Council

Aimee Viniard-Weideman, vice president for communications and marketing and chair of the Brand Advisory Task Force
Brad Chamberlain, interim vice president for institutional planning and mission

Three students who will be introduced at the start of the academic year

Summer is a time for discovery and research.

  • Through July and August our focus will be on the quantitative and qualitative research

Fall will focus on research review and developing the position and strategy.

  • In late August, we will host opportunities for faculty and staff to meet with the Additive Agency and BTC about brand and social media strategy and position.
  • In early October, we will be prepared for a work session with the Board of Regents and the Brand Advisory Task Force to review key findings from the research and their implications.
  • In late October/early November we will be defining and refining the brand strategy.
  • By mid-December, we will have completed the brand strategy, key messages and implementation action plan as well as the social strategy plan.

Spring is when we begin implementing the strategies.

Faculty and Staff Input
We are inviting faculty and staff to participate in the discovery process and research that will help us clarify: why we exist, what we stand for, who our students are, what value we provide, and how we communicate with prospective students, parents, alumni and donors.

  • We will hold two brand workshops in late July and early August for all faculty and staff to learn more about the process and participate in some fun and engaging brand strategy exercises that will be a part of the qualitative research. Watch for announcements of the dates and times.
  • All faculty and staff are invited to provide written feedback to five key questions that will inform our brand development work.
  • Members of the Brand Advisory Task Force will host meetings and workshops with teams and departments to discuss the brand process and engage in brand position exercises that will be included in the qualitative research. Please contact Aimee Viniard-Weideman or member of the Brand Advisory Task Force if you would like to schedule a session with your department or team.
  • A representative sample of faculty and staff will be invited to participate in interviews and focus groups conducted by Additive Agency and BTC, selection is based on specific faculty and staff roles and responsibilities, or elected positions.
  • Additive Agency and BTC are also reviewing all of the research and reports from the strategic planning process, institutional research department and other sources. If you have reports, plans or research you would like included in this review, please contact Aimee Viniard-Weideman.

I want to thank you in advance for participating in this important process. Developing the brand position is one of the priorities identified for the first year of the strategic plan and relates closely to all of the other priorities. What we learn from the research will inform our work across the college and ensure that we are communicating a consistent and compelling brand position that will inspire prospective students and parents to choose a Luther education.

Paula J. Carlson