CU Denver Kicks Off Yearlong Brand Refresh

As campus prepares to tell story more boldly, ‘the time for CU Denver to be meek, or the proverbial underdog, is over’

October 4, 2021

As the CU Denver community over the past year embarked on visioning for the 2030 Strategic Plan, a common theme emerged: We have dedicated faculty and staff providing a transformative academic experience for our brilliant students. But not enough people across Colorado—and the world—know about it. We can no longer be a best-kept secret, Chancellor Michelle Marks told a crowd of hundreds at last week’s Future Fest

“Going forward, we will focus on telling our story to everyone who will listen, becoming known for our role as the only public urban research university in Colorado, for our commitment to equity, for our research, creative work and innovation, and boldly celebrating why we’re uniquely equipped to make education work for all, in a way that really resonates,” Marks said. “We intend to shout our specialness from the rooftops. 

“The time for CU Denver to be meek, or the proverbial underdog, is over.” 

With the Strategic Plan moving into implementation,​ the timing is perfect to embark on the next evolution of our brand. University Communications, working collaboratively with partners across the campus and a brand agency consultant, will refresh CU Denver’s brand promise, tagline, messaging and creative expression with a targeted launch date during the 2022-23 academic year. 

“Brand is not one thing—not just a tagline or an ad campaign on TV,” said Marie Williams, vice chancellor for university communications, who joined CU Denver in January. “It’s an overall perception that is built up over time and affected by many factors. Brand is something we all own and can influence. Every student, employee, and alum is an ambassador of our brand.” 

University Communications will lead the brand refresh project, with students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders providing input throughout the inclusive process. A first-ever brand advisory council for CU Denver is being formed to provide greater opportunities for representation and feedback on branding issues during the refresh initiative and thereafter. 

“Going into this, we have no preconceived notions of what our next brand will be,” said Scott Dawson, dean of the Business School, who serves on the university’s brand advisory council. “This is our moment to figure out—together as students, faculty, and staff—what we want to be known for. With the Strategic Plan’s lofty goals and the pandemic inspiring new approaches to learning, it’s really the perfect time to define ourselves.” 

The yearlong refresh process will define the following elements of brand: 

  • Brand promise (what we stand for) 
  • Messaging pillars (what we say, including our new tagline) 
  • Creative expression (how we look and feel) 

“It’s an exciting time to be involved in a process where we are defining our identity as we become an equity-serving institution and implement other goals from our Strategic Plan,” said Chris Hilton, Student Government Association president. “If we want to be the university that makes education work for all, prospective students need to trust us and have a positive impression that we will deliver on the academic programs they need to advance their careers.” 

In the months ahead, project leaders will conduct market research inside and outside of CU Denver, collect surveys, hold focus groups, and analyze competitors’ standing in the marketplace. The brand refresh project will not explore changing the interlocking CU logo, as that is a consistent trademark across all four CU campuses established in 2011. University Communications will provide regular updates, seek input, and offer ways for the campus community to get involved in future editions of CU Denver News.  

To learn more about CU Denver’s brand refresh, visit www.ucdenver.edu/brand-refresh. For questions, comments, and suggestions, send an email to brand@ucdenver.edu.