Simpson to brand itself from the inside out

by David Talley and Sarah Stout

A recent Simpson survey asked Iowa high school seniors and parents what they thought of when they heard Simpson College. More than a quarter of the people surveyed answered, “I don’t know.”

Jill Johnson, executive director of College Relations, plans to help change that first impression of Simpson College and improve its overall brand.

“One of our goals is to give them something a little bit more than just a ‘good school,’ Johnson said. “Beyond that, what specifically can we give them to say about Simpson that would be something that they could hold on to?”

Simpson has begun an internal approach to start the improvement, asking staff and faculty to weigh in and help with the process.

Kara May, assistant director of Hawley Academic Resource Center, believes she has a better grasp on the brand of Simpson College than most people. She knows the product is there, but also knows that Simpson has been struggling to brand itself for a while now.

“I feel certain aspects of our brand are not as solidified as it should be,” May said. “I feel like parts of our brand are very watered down and certain segments of the population don’t even know who Simpson is. So, I would say that our brand is somewhat weak, although I know the product itself is extremely strong.”

Johnson said that a brand is made up of more than just one

vital piece.

“Some people misinterpret what brand is,” Johnson said.

“It’s not just a slogan or a tagline and it’s not just a logo. Those all play into the brand, but it’s the sum total of everything. It’s that feeling, that vibe you get that gives you that emotional attachment to it. You have to feel something about a brand to become loyal to it.”

May said a brand requires time and its own real personality to create a positive perception in the eyes of everyone else. Unfortunately, the quality and stature of a brand isn’t grown overnight.

“As you think about branding, there’s certain things you have to do with branding to solidify it,” May said. “Coca-Cola is a great example. You will never see anything but that bright red. When you see that color you know exactly what it is. McDonalds is another great example and they just don’t change. I think if you start internally, if you work with the internal brand, everyone here buys into it and then slowly work into the outside.”

Professor of French, Sharon Wilkinson is one of the many faculty members asked to help.

“I hope that we wouldn’t limit our brand to only a job that somebody can get when they leave here,” Wilkinson said. “I would like to see Simpson associated with a community of people who really want to learn new things their whole lives, not just four years here and then be done.”

According to Wilkinson, Simpson has more to offer students than its name.

“Simpson can be a part of that pathway and a launching pad for people to continue in their areas of passion and their calling as they leave here,” Wilkinson said. “We really have something to tout in terms of the wide variety of experiences that we offer to students and that’s not just in the classroom.”