Revitalize a Higher Education Brand

When the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), a national leader in coastal and estuarine science, engaged with Howell Creative Group, they were looking for an agency of record to help bring their marketing to the next level. Our team performed an extensive Marketing Audit which uncovered deficiencies in their brand and communications material.

Strategic Engagement Process

The Howell Creative team used a 3-step Brand Engagement Process designed to engage leadership, college silos, students and community through workshops, focus groups and surveys. Throughout the process, these key stakeholders were able to have their voices heard and take true ownership of the brand as it began to take shape of the future.

Brand Image, Messaging and Overarching Creative Concept

We presented a Creative Concept, the big picture brand strategy, similar to an interior designer’s “mood boards.” VIMS concepts boards featured leading messages and brand elements developed as a cohesive package of assets. We worked the VIMS logo to improve readability and visually link the acronym VIMS with the full name. In addition, the Howell team developed a fresh tagline, “Science for the Bay, Impact for the World” to further tell the VIMS story. We produced a Brand Platform that facilitated the adoption of the tagline and other key messaging.

Maintain Brand Consistency

Defined guidelines set the precedence for a unified voice, personality and presence. To help share and maintain the upgraded brand, Howell Creative Group crafted a Visual Identity System Style Guide. Containing guidelines for logo usage, tagline placement, brand fonts messaging, colors and more, this helped faculty and staff to become more informed brand ambassadors and minimized brand vulnerabilities.

Integrated Marketing Communications Campaign Designed to Increase Donor Contributions

Howell Creative Group developed a media plan focused on high impact advertising. The Howell team developed strategy to align target audiences in geographic boundaries with donor potential and awareness gaps. We created the print, digital, radio ads along with long and short form videos for the campaign. The success of the 12-month campaign was clear, contributions increased over 250% and awareness grew as evidenced in the amount of public speaking requests. The video also became second highest performing video-on-demand spot in the market.

“This was a turning point for our organization. After our rebrand launched and Howell rolled out the advertising, contribution amounts increased from $418 thousand to $1.5 million within the first two years of the integrated campaign.”


David Malmquist, News & Media Director, VIMS