With CSUN’s 50th birthday coming up in 2008, a group of administrators, faculty members from different areas on campus and students are working together to re-market CSUN and make it a brand name.
Over the last 50 years, CSUN has been a very important part of the San Fernando Valley through offering jobs and higher education at a low price. The 50th birthday is a great place to start in making a name, and image for CSUN.
“If we don’t take this opportunity to re-evaluate the CSUN image and brand, we are going to miss a big opportunity,” said Dr. Franck Vigneron, associate professor in the department of marketing.
CSUN’s positioning statement has been the first step to assert and help the San Fernando Valley understand what CSUN means. The positioning statement says, “The intellectual, economic, and cultural heart of the San Fernando Valley and beyond.”
Vance Peterson, vice president of University Advancement, said the positioning statement is “more anecdotal than anything.”
In addition to the positioning statement, the CSUN word mark now appears on thousands of the University’s web pages. The CSUN word mark is the symbol with “California State University” written on top of “Northridge” which is in the school’s maroon/red color and in larger type than “California State University.”
In order to follow through with this plan of remarking CSUN, Peterson has comprised a group of about 30 people from all different areas of campus to work together on outreach, visual design and message creation.
“The purpose of this group is to work together on how we can strengthen public identity and national reputation of CSUN,” Peterson said.
There also is a group of students working on the project. Vigneron has assigned a class of senior students to create a “strategic positioning plan,” which will be presented to Peterson, Ken Swisher, associate vice president of Public Relations as well as a few others.
Peterson said he is looking forward to the presentations from the class.
“They lived this experience. They have the view of what we should do,” Peterson said. “I am sure that the students are going to come up with outstanding ideas.”
For the plan, Vigneron said the students must, first, find out what does CSUN mean internally to current students, future students, the community, high school principals, parents and others. The second step is finding out what it should mean to all those groups. In this plan, the students are analyzing the positioning of CSUN.
As far as difficulty of this task, Vigneron said. “A strategic positioning plan is the hardest thing?it is most expensive thing to do.”
However, over time, Vigneron said the benefits will out weigh the cost.
“CSUN means nothing in specific, it’s confusing and unclear,” Vigneron said. He also said the brand name and image of CSUN is going to be based on what the consumer wants.
Right now, Vigneron said it’s difficult to distinguish what the brand and image of CSUN should be because people don’t know what they think CSUN should be and what it should stand for.
He said the point of marketing is “give to people what people want and satisfy their needs.”
However, in a case such as CSUN’s, where people are not sure what they want, then it is the task of the marketer to show different ideas and then follow through with whichever one the people are more drawn to.
Throughout CSUN’s history, recruitment has never been something that has been done nationally, or even locally. However, Peterson said in the next two to three years they do anticipate recruiting.
“We would like to attract more students who call Cal State Northridge their number one choice. This is the place to be,” Peterson said.
Peterson said they want CSUN to be chosen over other local schools such as UCLA or USC.
One of the marketing ideas is an ad campaign which would feature CSUN alumni or groups who have had major accomplishments. The tag line in the works is “Cal State Northridge?Smart Choice!”
Peterson said nothing has been finalized and they are still not sure if they can even use “Smart Choice,” but it just shows in what terms they are thinking of in order to market CSUN and make it the number one school of choice.
With CSUN’s enrollment at about 34,000 students, it may be hard to imagine how recruiting more students could benefit the rest of the CSUN community and current students. Peterson said he expects there to be over enrollment changes in the next two to three years.
“Prospective students are fewer in number so we will not be over enrolled, at least we do not expect to be,” Peterson said, “We will not market if we are over enrolled.”
Luis Rodriguez, a freshman mechanical engineering student, said that with the CSUN marketing plan it would be good for the school and “more people would start coming here.”
All of this work, time and effort is going into the future of CSUN. Peterson said, “We have to be ready for the future.”
In the beginning, CSUN was very successful because of its location. Vigneron said, “They have been successful because of the fact they are in the Valley. If the Valley didn’t grow, then CSUN wouldn’t be where it is.”
At the beginning of the semester, when CSUN President Jolene Koester gave her annual convocation address, she focused on what is going to be the future of CSUN. Peterson said it is her vision to strengthen the brand and be clear about the accomplishments and excellence of CSUN.
“We are excited about what can be done,” Peterson said. He said there is a lot of work that must go into this project, however, having the students involved is great, they want the faculty involved and the administration from around the campus.
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