Cranfield University is a postgraduate and research-based university specialising in science, engineering, technology and management. Cranfield commissioned IE Brand to rebrand the university.
Based at a former RAF site in Bedfordshire, Cranfield started life in 1946 as a pioneering College of Aeronautics. In 1969, it had become a renowned Institute of Technology, and by the early 1990s it was granted university status. Seventy years on, the university felt it was time to raise awareness of the Cranfield brand, and tell the next chapter of their story.
IE Brand proposed a 4-step process to research, refine, reposition and re-express the Cranfield brand.
IE Brand began the project with a brand audit, to establish a baseline measure of how Cranfield communicates – how it looks, sounds and behaves – and a map was drawn to capture and illustrate Cranfield’s convoluted brand architecture.
Audience mapping was undertaken and gap analysis research methodologies employed to measure inconsistencies between internal/external and desired/actual audience perceptions. IE Brand undertook 70 one-hour qualitative interviews with key internal and external stakeholders. Using a Repertory Grid interview approach, IE was able to generate an audience-centric ‘mental map’ of the competitive environment, enabling Cranfield to explore the most distinct, advantageous market position that it could occupy.
IE supplemented this qualitative research with an invitation to each and every one of the university’s students to contribute to a university wide quantitative survey.
Having concluded our research, we shared our findings with Cranfield. IE Brand had reached out to scores of stakeholders: learners, partners, clients, and staff.
We’d asked 'What makes Cranfield special?' And we heard:
- Applied, ‘real world’ research
- Proximity to industry
- Exclusively postgraduate offering
- Unique people and facilities
- The ability to take ideas from concept to delivery
IE's advice was that Cranfield could comfortably claim to be:
We also found that Cranfield needed to increase its visibility. That it had become siloed and lost some of its confidence along the way…
A new brand architecture was devised, with Cranfield’s eight industry specific themes at its heart, and was awarded GOLD at the Transform Awards Europe for the "Best Brand Architecture Solution". Cranfield already had a Pole Star to guide them. IE translated research findings into a positioning statement, brand personality, tone of voice, core values and a set of key messages, which were arrived at through a series of workshops. All these outputs were then tested and socialised around the university in close collaboration with Cranfield’s internal MarComms team.
IE Brand's MD OIlie Leggett interviewed Maddie McGowan, Director of Marketing, Communications and Development at Cranfield University about the stakeholder engagement process. Filmed at the CASE Europe Annual Conference
With a new brand story in place, IE Brand’s next job was to bring it to life through design.
During our research, we heard from stakeholders that Cranfield’s visual identity was tired and dated and that we should take inspiration from Cranfield’s history, in order to shape its future.
So we looked at the RAF roundel – a marque of distinction and a symbol of power. And from it, the Cranfield roundel was born. A bold letter 'C' enclosed in a circle. The perfect symbol for a global brand.
The roundel is a window, through which we see the worlds of technology, management and leadership. And we call this Cranfield’s Organisational Brand – it’s how Cranfield will go to market.
There are eight additional variations of the new logo. One for each of their specialisms. To complement the roundel, we built a supporting visual identity. One based around bold and vibrant colours – representing Cranfield’s energy and renewed confidence.
And there’s still a place for Cranfield’s historic crest, as an Institutional Marque – reserved for formal occasions. Cranfield’s past and its future – working side by side.
Once presented, evolved and approved, IE Brand’s visual identity work for Cranfield was translated into an 80 page brand guidelines document to police and protect the brand.
IE began working closely with Cranfield’s in-house design team to transfer ownership and responsibility for the new brand – ensuring they were supported to work with the new identity and integrate the new messaging. We remain on call to support the brand post launch.
When the new brand launched, Cranfield created a short animation to illustrate the process that led to the eventual new brand. You can watch the Cranfield video here.
So, the university has a new story. A story that IE Brand, the university, and its many stakeholders has helped to write. Another chapter in the rich history of Cranfield.