University of Massachusetts Boston


    Situation: An expanding waterfront campus just minutes from the center of downtown Boston, the University of Massachusetts Boston needed to understand what people knew — or didn’t know about the institution. UMB is the third-largest campus in the five-campus UMass System and the #3 most diverse university in the nation. Gearing up for a branding initiative, UMB needed a deeper understanding of its market position, competitive landscape, and external reputation so that it could be more intentional about its brand, while leveraging new marketing leadership.

    Solution: UMB commissioned Mindpower to determine how it should talk about itself, whether or not to leverage the power of being Boston’s only public university, and which parts of the brand resonate strongest with key stakeholders. Given the crowded competitive landscape in Boston and throughout the New England region, it was necessary to identify UMB’s distinctive aspects compared to private competitors such as Northeastern and other publics. Mindpower needed to unearth where, if any, brand confusion existed between and among other UMass System schools, especially Lowell and Dartmouth, and UMass Online.

    Results: Through a comprehensive market research study targeting internal and external audiences, Mindpower provided UMass Boston leadership with data and insights to define its strategic brand positioning, refine its brand platform, and begin to clearly differentiate itself in the marketplace. We examined the competitive landscape and synthesized internal qualitative discussions that informed the surveys and positioning options to be tested quantitatively. Our quant research staff launched online survey research with current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the general public within Boston (2,400 total surveys completed). Awareness and perception data, as well as decision drivers defining the ideal college experience/relationship, were compared to data representing the true strengths of UMB as reported by current students, faculty, staff, and alumni data.

    The market research study revealed a concise and current UMB story that mattered to students and Boston. There were big strengths — such as UMB’s commitment to social justice and anti-racism — and challenges — such as lack of a clear or well-known brand. UMB’s welcoming and diverse environment is a key value point to prospective students. Its Boston location (which external audiences associate with opportunity) and affordable cost are viewed as big brand strengths. The data answered many previously unanswered questions while informing the development of a positioning used as the foundation for awareness building, marketing, and recruitment. And, has laid the strategic foundation for launching a powerful brand story.

    What we did: research; comprehensive market research study — quantitative and qualitative with internal and external stakeholders

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