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Brand Study Report

Thousands Help Shape the BYU Brand

October 2020 Update

Nearly 10,000 people participated in a recent study of perceptions of Brigham Young University. With quantitative surveys, discussion groups, and interviews, the study examined strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for BYU’s brand reputation among students, alumni, employees, prospective students, Church members, employment recruiters, and the general public nationwide. The data is yielding helpful insights for future university strategies.

BYU partnered on the study with Lipman Hearne, a Chicago-based strategic communications firm. Lipman Hearne indicated that BYU’s survey response rates far exceeded industry benchmarks.

“We heard from a broad and deep cross section of our key audiences,” says Steve Hafen, BYU’s new administration vice president and chief financial officer. In his former role with the university, Hafen directed the brand project. “We greatly appreciate the enthusiastic engagement in this study, especially from students, alumni, and employees. The vigorous discussion on campus last fall and the robust response to surveys has provided a rich body of data that is already influencing strategic discussions on campus.”

Key Findings

The study produced an abundance of data, including these key findings:

  • Affinity and awareness: Internal and Church audiences have strong affinity to, high awareness of, and positive opinions about the university. Among the general public, however, awareness and academic reputation levels are significantly lower.
  • Brand strengths: BYU is clearly associated with academic rigor, a variety of learning opportunities, the combination of study and faith, a global mindset, service to the community, the development of faith, and high moral character.
  • Challenges: The data also revealed issues that may be challenges for the university, such as diversity, inclusion, academic freedom, and candid dialogue about difficult issues. In addition, the university’s stated focus on undergraduate students may not be as well known as desired.
  • Church connection: BYU’s connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is well known by all audiences, illustrating that the Church has a major influence on perceptions of BYU and that BYU is a significant ambassador for the Church.
  • Outreach opportunities: BYU has many opportunities to influence perceptions, including through alumni, performing groups, athletics, broadcasting, and the Church.

Donna Van De Water, chief operating officer for Lipman Hearne, directed the BYU research. She noted the high degree of affinity among BYU audiences and remarked on BYU’s unique approach to blending faith and scholarship as well as teaching and research.

“BYU’s positive trajectory and momentum gives it an opportunity to define excellence on its own terms,” says Van De Water, “to take a leadership position and expand the notion of a research university.”

Next Steps

The BYU President’s Council has reviewed the research data and approved the next phase of the brand project, which includes developing brand messaging and creating visual identity standards. These elements will be tested in focus groups. Future work will include additional research as well as developing marketing and branding strategies.

“What BYU represents—our brand—matters to the world, which is why this study is so vital,” says Keith Vorkink, BYU’s advancement vice president, who has responsibility for university branding. “We want everyone to know that we provide a top-quality higher-education experience within an environment of determined faith. We are passionate that a BYU education should not just be an exercise in self-improvement but that it should prepare our students to bless the lives of millions throughout the world.”

The brand project is directed by Mike Roberts, who replaced Steve Hafen as the managing director of Alumni and External Relations, with oversight from Vice President Vorkink. A brand project steering committee and multiple advisory committees have involved about 40 individuals in key roles from across campus.