Brands of confusion
UND embraces Fighting Hawks while replacing interlocking ND symbols in push for common vision
Play like a champion today.
Pop quiz: When you read that line, which university comes to mind?
If you said, Notre Dame, you are correct.
The words form a simple directive that has guided the Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletic teams for decades. But the words transcend sports to encompass a legacy of pride felt campus wide.
Combined with the legends of Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen and iconic images of the Golden Dome and “Touchdown Jesus” overlooking the football stadium, the words represent an unmistakable tradition of success at Notre Dame.
It’s a brand of excellence easily identified by Notre Dame’s interlocking ND logo. There is no confusion.
Shifting scenes to the University of North Dakota, the brand situation is far less settled, thanks, in part, to a volatile and divisive history of athletic and academic imagery.
Further complicating matters has been UND’s continued use of its own version of an interlocking ND logo, nearly identical to Notre Dame’s except in color. UND can actually demonstrate first use of the design but Notre Dame has made it their own over time to the point that it is widely regarded as Notre Dame’s symbol.
UND President Mark Kennedy points to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, which UND qualified for for the first time in school history this year, as an instance in which the Interlocking ND symbol could have been problematic had UND not transitioned to its current Fighting Hawks symbol.
“Lingering association with the interlocking ND would have just caused even more confusion,” Kennedy said. “Can you imagine having North Dakota in the same bracket as Notre Dame like we were this year? People would be asking ‘why is North Dakota using Notre Dame’s logo? It must be a typo.’
“Fully embracing the new logo helps to establish a distinctive national brand for UND.”
Over Spring Break, campus marketing managers continued University efforts to end the era of brand confusion, starting with dismantling a number of high profile interlocking ND signs. They were replaced with Fighting Hawks imagery.
At the Alerus Center, where UND plays football, a large illuminated football helmet with an interlocking ND logo was replaced with another helmet carrying the Fighting Hawks design. Interlocking ND signs also were replaced by large lighted Fighting Hawks logos high atop the north and south ends of the High Performance Center (HPC) on campus.
Large banners also were hung across prominent campus skywalks over Columbia Road and University Avenue. The banners over Columbia and University have a Fighting Hawks logo centered on a long Kelly green stripe.
Fighting Hawks flags also were raised at Hyslop Sports Center, the administrative headquarters for UND Athletics. In the future, a large outdoor banner will be hung on the Chester Fritz Library facing the quad.
Other changes include a revamped Student Ticket Office inside the Memorial Union to give it more of a contemporary Fighting Hawks feel.
Also, hundreds of Fighting Hawks window clings and a few adhesive floor graphics were placed around campus. The most prominent Fighting Hawks window cling will be displayed on the large windows of Wilkerson Commons with the message: “Hawks Take Flight: 4 Conference Championships/Big Sky Record.” The wording references unprecedented athletic success that’s taken place at UND in 2016-17, with four major Big Sky Conference sports titles.
Given that success, Kennedy said the timing is right for a major rollout of the high-flying Fighting Hawks logo and to move farther away from school symbols of the past.
“If a tree is known by its fruits, the Hawks logo is the most fruitful of our logos, past and present, and it deserves to be fully embraced,” Kennedy said.
UND also continues to change out uniforms with new ones that have the new Fighting Hawks logo, in accordance with normal replacement schedules. Of note, the UND Pride of the North Marching Band recently raised $88,000, two-thirds of the money needed to replace its aging uniforms, through private donations.
The University is carefully evaluating the timing and funding for other major expense items such as replacing imagery on the football turf at the Alerus Center.
“We have rolled out the new logo with a keen eye on doing it in the most efficient manner possible,” Kennedy said.
This week, UND is taking the next step in its marketing efforts with a social media surge geared toward students, titled “Show Your Hawks Pride.” The initiative offers one randomly selected daily winner free Fighting Hawks items in return for sharing images of themselves with the Fighting Hawks logo on Instagram and Twitter (#UNDproud) or on Snapchat at myUND.
“We’re hoping this branding project is something the student body, the University and the entire community can rally behind,” said Carrie Huwe, art director & brand manager with the UND Office of Marketing & Creative Services. “Our students and athletics teams have accomplished great things this year, and we think this is a terrific way to celebrate UND and show our Fighting Hawks pride.”
Kennedy said it’s legitimate to question why UND is making financial commitments to marketing given the hardships on campus due to budget woes. But, he added, it would be equally concerning to delay implementation of the logo any longer.
That’s because studies show brand confusion costs universities energy, enthusiasm and money by negatively impacting student recruitment and alumni donations — important components in helping institutions grow and thrive, according to UND Assistant Professor of Marketing Jennifer Stoner, who is part of a working group that is developing a stronger branding strategies for UND.
“For these reasons and others, it is essential to avoid brand confusion,” Kennedy said. “Our new marketing efforts and branding initiatives reflect the importance of having an actively embraced logo and this renewed emphasis should go a long way in alleviating much of the inherit confusion that exists on campus and beyond.”