Most schools understand the high expectations established by key constituents. But when you’re the University of Kentucky (UK), and the Kentucky legislature says, “We expect you to be a top 20 public research university by 2020,” the pressure ratchets up just a bit. University leaders established a “Top 20 Business Plan,” which included growing enrollment from 22,000 to 35,000 by 2020. To get there, UK needed to better understand how it was perceived by target audiences and partner with someone who could help the university launch a new branding campaign. That partner was Stamats.

Stamats began by working with UK to craft a research agenda appropriate to the magnitude of the challenge. Stamats’ comprehensive research revealed that to achieve their recruitment goals, UK needed to greatly expand recruiting efforts outside Kentucky. At this point, UK recognized that before they could increase market share, they had to increase mindshare. Stamats’ strategists, writers, and designers collaborated to uncover and communicate the true essence and attraction of UK, as well as what distinguishes the university from competing institutions. Leveraging distinguishing features such as UK’s top-ranked academics, pride, school colors, and national athletic reputation, Stamats transformed the results into the vibrant “See Blue” brand identity.

The “See Blue” brand identity quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of the entire campus community. It has been applied across many mediums, such as the website, public relations events, and a comprehensive ad campaign. Just five months into implementation, UK enjoyed nearly a 20 percent increase in applications. In addition to increased applications, undergraduate and overall enrollment also increased. The quality of incoming freshmen improved as well, with higher GPA and average ACT scores in each class, along with more Governor’s Scholars, Governor’s School for the Arts Scholars, and National Merit Scholars.

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