A private liberal arts school with 3600 students, Elmhurst College is located in suburban Chicago and is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Facing declining enrollment and a challenging recruitment environment, Elmhurst College needed a way to elevate its brand and break out of the clutter of higher education messaging that is often diluted in the a sea of sameness. Elmhurst’s Board of Trustees decided to use a change in leadership as an opportunity to rediscover itself and begin to reclaim its position in the market. In 2015, the college retained The Thorburn Group to spearhead a complete brand revitalization that would center and celebrate Elmhurst’s identity, define its value proposition, and serve as a platform for all promotional messaging.

Applying The Thorburn Group’s 3D Brand Engagement Process, our teams first assessed Elmhurst to Discover its position in the market and in the minds of its most valuable constituents. We then leveraged that information collaboratively to Define the college’s brand in emotionally engaging terms, and ultimately Deliver a brand experience for Elmhurst that was decidedly more authentic, compelling, and enduring. In-depth image and perception research targeting both internal and external audiences helped the college better understand how its brand was viewed in the world. Our teams started with fundamental questions: How visible are we? What do our communities think of us? What are the assets and liabilities of our brand? Armed with those answers, Elmhurst’s leadership could finally begin to make crucial decisions about how to move forward and carve out a bolder competitive position.

The Elmhurst project perfectly showcases the power of research to inform identity decisions and strategically elevate brands. Insights from our brand research were presented to Elmhurst’s Board of Trustees in the spring of 2015. Working closely with the college’s admissions and recruitment departments, The Thorburn Group leveraged the data to Define a new brand foundation, complete with three related “brand neighborhoods” that illustrate imagery, typography, iconography, and language options. Senior leadership at Elmhurst made a final selection, and we’ve delivered a comprehensive brand toolkit that now guides the new brand’s Delivery—or final design, internal adoption, and launch in the marketplace..