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University of Greenwich

Sharing ambitions

Having created a vibrant new visual identity and brand messaging to support its student attraction, the University of Greenwich was keen to develop this fully and to deliver the ‘change starts here’ message in a series of assets across undergraduate, post graduate and international markets.


In an effort to get under the skin of the new brand and understand what it meant to our client, Penna’s Head of Brand, Pete Rice, led a structured ‘shared ambition’ session with Greenwich’s marketing and Penna’s account management teams, with the aim of identifying:‍
- What was unique about the University and the experience it offered students
- The main challenges to achieving the University’s recruitment targets
- What competitors were doing and what could be learned from brand interpretation of other HE institutions

Pete led the teams through a review of what had previously been taken to market to establish what was representative of the University now and what might need to change.

A comprehensive mood board helped build a picture of the kind of messaging being delivered to the market and this, in turn, enabled the group to identify three key themes that it felt should be challenged as not representing honest, authentic communication – the foundation of the new Greenwich brand identity:

Student tourism
There were lots of shots of students off-campus  in various tourism poses – for example, reading  
a map outside a famous London landmark – that didn’t represent the life around the learning experience.
We wanted to communicate what students could expect to experience on-campus in real world scenarios, with the understanding that students aren’t selecting universities based on tourism attractions.

False diversity
Many universities were using very deliberate photography of groups of multi-cultural students, predominately sitting under trees reading textbooks. Whilst projecting its strong diversity message was incredibly important to Greenwich, it had to come with an equally strong sense of authenticity – for example, by capturing real student groups engaged in real activities, not necessarily studying together.
We wanted to convey that university isn’t just about achieving academic success, but also making lifelong friends and creating memories that will last a lifetime.

False representation
Similarly, other institutions often portrayed students as clean cut and wholesome; few depicted signs of creative individualism. The group felt that, to truly convey a sense of inclusivity and individuality, it was important to represent all types of students including those with hair dyed purple, body piercings and/or decorated in tattoos.


This exercise proved extremely beneficial on several levels.

On a practical level, we were able to create a set of clearly defined requirements and actions around brand interpretation and asset generation that presented an authentic overall Greenwich University student experience. Documented and agreed by all, this provided a well-informed starting point from which to look honestly at how best to approach and serve content to each identified market for maximum engagement.

Equally important, with agency and client personnel working together as one team to dissect the new brand and HE market position, we established a strong and supportive partnership with shared objectives and ambitions.

Greenwich now has a series of assets that honestly represent its student experience. They show real students, engaging in real activities. The messaging is brave and aspirational, demonstrating a fearless approach to authenticity and giving a voice to its entire student body, whilst also communicating a sense of inclusivity for all prospective and  future students.

The theme throughout is that it is OK to be yourself, to learn in your own style and to expect to find your people here with us, in this diverse and accepting community.

Before the campaign was launched, supported  by The Student Room, we tested the proposed creative with several groups of independent and unbiased sixth form students in the context of other universities’ communications.

The students were shown a selection of brand identities and asked to review their messaging and branding, while at no point being advised who was funding their attendance and participation in the research. Pleasingly, there was unanimous support for the brand interpretation of Greenwich’s campaign with comments including:

"It isn’t like the others… feels more real”“It just looks cool, I don’t think they’d be  an old-fashioned uni and I reckon it would be OK to do your degree here”“I really like it, I can identify with it and I don’t feel patronised like I did when I looked at some of the other stuff”

The university too found this a very positive experience. The internal marketing team felt part of the brand development story, ultimately enabling a fresh and inspiring look at tired old university student comms.