Point Loma Nazarene University
Who are you
called to be?
Empowering a “best-kept secret” university brand to claim the reputation it deserves with brand positioning, brand identity, brand architecture, and brand management.
In 2015, small, secluded Point Loma Nazarene University was being drowned out by bigger, louder institutions in the Southern California region. And its idyllic beachfront location defined its identity, overshadowing the elite level of academic excellence that the university was quietly achieving.
Point Loma needed an elite university brand that put academic excellence front and center. They also needed to tell a meaningful story that answered, “Why choose PLNU?” beyond the beach as their reach extended beyond traditional on-campus education to returning adults, professional programs, and online student audiences. And they needed to modernize the brand to better connect with a wider, more far-flung target student audience without losing heritage, history, or prestige.
Digging into the DNA of the university, we identified an integral philosophy that set PLNU apart from the other institutions competing for its dream students. This philosophy centered on a unwavering commitment to coming alongside students to cultivate and connect their intrinsic gifts with their true calling in life in order to set them on a lifelong path to excellence and satisfaction.
Working in partnership with the PLNU project team and university leadership, we created a unifying brand promise and rallying cry (“Who Are You Called to Be?”) that was introduced in 2017, alongside an elegantly updated brand identity that set a precedent for a more accurate and positive perception for Point Loma.
Point Loma continues to embrace and live out its brand commitment to “Fully Becoming Who You Are Called to Be.” The university has broadened its reach beyond Southern California to attract students from a much wider swath of the U.S. In 2022, PLNU was recognized by U.S. News and World Report as the #9 Regional University in the West and #6 Best for Undergraduate Teaching among all universities. It has also been recognized as one of the top 5 of most selective Christian colleges in the U.S.
A more modern identity.
We updated the PLNU identity, imbuing it additional meaning and a balance of tradition, innovation, and academic prestige. A flexible look and feel with a new system of graphic devices and a clarified color palette contributed to a more modern, market-ready identity.
“SIGNAL served as a true partner in building our brand. Not only did they help us discover and communicate what makes us true, meaningful, and different, but they also helped navigate the political landscape of our organization to make the brand real to stakeholders at the university. They then became advisors and confidants to our internal marketing team as we continued to live the brand.”Sharon Ayala
Point Loma Nazarene University
Associate Vice President, Marketing
Implementing an intensity scale.
The brand needed to be able to resonate with a wide range of audiences, from traditional undergraduates to adults pursuing graduate and professional degrees. To meet these needs, we created an “intensity scale” to guide consistent yet flexible application. It amped up the vibrance and excitement for more youthful audiences and toned it down in favor of a more elevated, serious tone for more mature audiences, such as graduate and professional adult students. Together, the whole system consistently signals academic excellence and the commitment to helping students find and fulfill their calling.
The large marketing team didn’t need creative support — but they did need equipment and guidance in putting a whole new set of brand standards and guidelines to work. We provided training and tools to empower the marketing and creative services teams. The SIGNAL team then worked in partnership over time with the Point Loma team to provide application guidance and facilitate ongoing learning, stewardship, and ownership of the PLNU brand, strengthening the brand now and for the future.
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