California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is getting ready for a rebrand. To modernize the university, focus groups are being conducted to see how a new school logo is perceived among students, staff and community members.
On Oct. 18, Red Cactus Marketing hosted a meeting in the Otter Student Union. Beatrice Szalas, principal and chief collaborator, led the meeting, covering CSUMB’s Brand Promise and Pillars and showcasing potential new logos. To develop this promise and establish pillars, 22 focus groups were conducted, consisting of students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, local businesses and community leaders. Szalas’ team wanted to know “what they thought CSUMB was all about and what made it special or distinctive – and even areas where we could be improving.”
“I was curious about this opportunity, to see what I could do. I was also genuinely interested because I’ve always been fascinated by marketing,” said fourth-year Edrich Grospe. He also believes that “anything to help with transparency from the students and the administration [is good].” Grospe is thinking about the future, noting that “students [can] make a lot of decisions now because it’s going to affect the legacy of the young university.”
Once data was collected, CSUMB’s brand pillars were established: Immersing yourself in an inspiring coastal environment, finding your people in a supportive and inclusive community, experiencing a personalized education guided by faculty mentors, becoming a compassionate leader ready to shape the future and gaining an education that provides a lifetime of value.
Szalas asked the audience if they could relate to any of the pillars or if they had experienced these personally and almost every student had felt they were becoming a compassionate leader or had immersed themselves in the coastal environment.
After all the participants understood CSUMB’s marketing mission, a series of logos were presented. Szalas clarified that the athletic logo or university seal will not be changing, nor the mascot – rather the school’s logo will be updated. The school logo is featured on the Dining Commons, around the library and on school merchandise. The main suggestion is to remove the otter from the main logo but still emphasize the Otter Raft. Szalas said that “[in] a lot of the focus groups that we did, there were suggestions to update [the logo], it looks dated. It doesn’t take us very seriously compared to some of the other colleges and universities.”
This update would include brightening up the colors, changing the font, shortening the university’s name and adding a colorful graphic that is representative of the school and the surrounding area. Szalas described the current logo as “very dark.” Her simple solution is lightening up the current shade of blue and adding in an ocean blue color as well as incorporating some lighter greens.
Szalas also proposed shortening the university’s name to match some of the other CSUs. Instead of referring to the school as “California State University, Monterey Bay,” we could change our language to say “Cal State Monterey Bay” or “Monterey Bay State.” The logo change would essentially help CSUMB fit in with other CSUs like Fresno State and Cal State East Bay.
A new logo graphic would be introduced with ideas ranging from campus architecture or illustrations depicting the Salinas Valley and Monterey Bay. Participants were shown four potential logos with different colors, fonts and graphics, and then shared their opinions. Each logo was shown printed on letterhead, notebooks, buildings, etched in glass and on a sweatshirt to offer multiple perspectives. None of the new logos featured an otter, but attempted to show the unity provided by the Otter Raft. The university is trying to move away from using a literal otter to portray this idea and wants to lean into more of an abstract image.
There were about 12 participants in this focus group, most of them students. Fourth-year student Derek Rasmussen felt this was an opportunity to have students’ voices heard in a university decision. “I feel like our university is so young and we’re still building the brand and the image in the community; it’s very much in a transitional period right now,” said Rasmussen. CSUMB was founded in 1994, compared to Cal State East Bay which was founded in 1957.
He continued, “I wanted to stake my claim in some way and be a voice for change. It feels like [the university] is not asking students a lot about the decisions they’re making here…I don’t want that to become a pattern.” Rasmussen offered his opinions about the logo throughout the presentation, noting that marketing Monterey Bay as a lush, green area isn’t quite accurate; as an Agricultural Plant and Soil Science major, he shared that we live in a chaparral area.
Another round of focus groups will be conducted before any official decisions are made. Students are encouraged to join in on these groups as much as they can to produce a logo that is representative of the CSUMB community without the university’s core pillars being lost.