University enters next phase of brand development strategy

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

UNC Charlotte has a great story to tell. People need to know more about what makes this University special and unique. We’re the best kept secret in Charlotte.

Does this sound familiar? 

“Since I started at the University in August 2019, I’ve heard this feedback consistently from students, faculty, staff and the broader community,” said Colleen Penhall, associate vice chancellor, University Communications. “So we embarked on a process to really understand the UNC Charlotte brand - our strengths and opportunities — to help position the University for the next phase of growth as we plan to celebrate our 75th anniversary this fall.” 

During the last several months, University Communications has been working with a cross-functional marketing team, an associate dean and marketing professor in the Belk College of Business and Luquire George Andrews (LGA), a Charlotte-based strategic communications firm, to assess our brand so we can build a more cohesive, recognizable and differentiated brand identity to raise the institutional profile. 

Brand Development Phases

PHASE 1 - Research and Assessment

For the first phase, the UNC Charlotte brand and marketing materials were assessed, a competitive assessment was conducted and a brand perception study was fielded. The study assessed current perceptions of UNC Charlotte from key audiences including prospective students and parents, current students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors as well as business/community leaders and key stakeholders through a combination of focus groups, individual interviews and electronic surveys. Nearly 3,000 individuals participated during this assessment which was completed in fall 2020.  

PHASE 2 - Testing Brand Positioning Statements

Using the research and assessment results from Phase 1, several different positioning statements were developed to serve as the strategic foundation for developing the University’s marketing, communications and branding efforts. 

The research for these positioning statements included internal and external focus groups, individual interviews and electronic surveys, and included prospective students and parents, current students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors as well as business/community leaders and key stakeholders. Nearly 2,500 people participated. During this process, respondents were also asked about their thoughts on an informal name for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

One positioning statement, “Fearlessly Shaping What’s Next” stood out among our audiences and scored high on all key measures including overall consideration, likeability, believability and uniqueness. It also has the added benefit of aligning with the Athletics brand positioning —  Fearlessly Embracing Momentum.

In addition, respondents also reacted positively to using “Charlotte” as an informal name, citing consistency with athletic branding and alignment of the strong connection to the city and region.

Going Forward

In the coming months, the University will work with the agency to develop recommendations on how to apply this feedback into the brand messaging and creative.

“We are so grateful to the many students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University who took the time to provide us with their valuable feedback,” said Penhall. “We look forward to sharing how the insights we gleaned from all the research will create a more powerful, cohesive and recognizable brand identity and support efforts to raise our institutional profile.” 

This statement will be used internally to develop the brand identity and marketing efforts; it is not intended to be an external marketing message. 


Audience Insight Statement: I want to make a meaningful difference in my life, my community and within society as a whole.

Positioning Statement: As a growing, thriving university that is writing its next chapter by uniquely embracing both academic excellence and academic accessibility, UNC Charlotte empowers driven students of all backgrounds to make the most of their diverse experiences and perspectives to positively shape their lives, industries and communities. The University prepares its graduates to hit the ground running, bringing bold new thinking and skills honed in innovative, interdisciplinary programs and cutting-edge research that expands and accelerates progress. In the heart of one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., UNC Charlotte serves as the real-world learning laboratory integral to propelling students, businesses and communities to a different — and better — tomorrow.