New logo of Minnesota State, formerly known as MnSCU.

Rebranding the state’s largest university system

MnSCU begins its transformation to Minnesota State

By Kevyn Burger
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

This month, you should begin seeing the new logo for Minnesota’s largest higher education system.

The star-embossed navy blue banner bearing a capital M arrives along with the rollout of a new name. What has been known as MnSCU is now transforming to Minnesota State.

The rebranding is meant to emphasize the integration between the system’s seven universities and 30 community and technical colleges. With more than 16,000 employees, the system serves nearly 400,000 students, preparing them for careers in Minnesota’s workforce.

“Our research showed us that people didn’t know what ‘MnSCU’ was,” says Chancellor Steven Rosenstone. “It was an acronym with no meaning. The new brand is the platform to explain who we are. It will help us be really clear about how the colleges and universities are linked to create seamless pathways for students.”

While the Minnesota State College and Universities will remain its legal name, the system’s new designation, logo and new tagline (“Extraordinary Education. Exceptional Value”) were approved by the Board of Trustees in June.

“This will raise the profile and help students and parents better understand their options. The strategy lets us put the logo near the individual college and university brands to reinforce their affiliation,” says Noelle Hawton. When asked her title, she called herself the “lead shepherd” for the change; she’s officially Minnesota State’s chief marketing and communications officer.

“We want to build awareness for how all of these colleges fit together. College debt is such a huge concern; we want our prospects to understand the affordable opportunity that community college can offer, and how they can transfer to one of the four year universities.”

Hawton has traveled the state preparing for the rebranding, meeting with faculty, students and campus marketers at a number of colleges within the system. Now she is busy finalizing brand standard guidelines and working with the institutions on how they will use the new name and logo on their marketing materials, internal and external communications and individual websites.

“Each campus will have an implementation plan by Sept. 1,” she says, adding that State Fair goers who visit the Education Building can expect a more dynamic presence from Minnesota State.

Hawton, a PR veteran with 19 years in a senior leadership role at Tunheim, was brought on last fall to position the new Minnesota State brand. She herself is a product of the system; she started her degree at South Central College and went on to graduate from Minnesota State Mankato.

The rebranding does not require colleges and universities to change or even alter their names.

“We won’t throw away printed materials with the old name and logo, but with the new academic year, many of the institutions get new materials that will be updated,” Hawton says.

The task to become Minnesota State has been an arduous one. Minneapolis communications agency Padilla CRT has spent three years doing research, brand development and positioning, website updating and more.

The $600,000 cost of the project is one that Hawton says can be recouped as the rebranding meets its goals.

“If our efforts to explain the system can attract 58 additional students, we will have made up that investment,” she says.