Alumni respond to Westminster's new brand

Westminster College’s new brand launched at the beginning of the Spring 2017 semester, receiving mixed reviews from alumni. ““As an alumni, I just want to look back and see the Westminster College I used to know,” said Hunter Schone, class of 2016. Photo by Christian Anderson.

Westminster College’s new brand launched at the beginning of the Spring 2017 semester, receiving mixed reviews from alumni. ““As an alumni, I just want to look back and see the Westminster College I used to know,” said Hunter Schone, class of 2016. Photo by Christian Anderson.

After Westminster College launched its new logo and brand redesign at the beginning of the spring semester, alumni have expressed mixed reactions and opinions.   

Sheila Rappazzo Yorkin, Westminster's executive director of integrated marketing communications, said Westminster's Office of Marketing and Communication spent last fall unveiling the brand to internal audiences—including students, the alumni board and the board of trustees—and has received a variety of feedback.  

"The logo is now publicly available to people through our website and signage around campus," Yorkin said. "We’ve been able to kind of gradually see people’s reactions, and I would say that the overall reaction is positive." 

Though Yorkin said the new logo and rebrand have been well-received, Drew Olsen, Westminster’s computer support coordinator and an alumnus who graduated in 2010, said the transition could be smoother.  

“That’s something they could improve on,” Olsen said, citing a need for more transparency in the process. "They might have tried to be transparent, but I don’t think enough people cared until it actually changed.” 

However, Olsen said the new brand won't change his desire to donate money to the college. 

“I don’t think [the] brand is why I give money to the college in the first place," Olsen said. "I give it to the program, honestly—the music program, because I support that. That’s what I did when I was here. I think that was a very positive aspect of my life, and I think other people should have that. It has very little to do with how they market themselves to new students.” 

Hunter Schone, an alumni from the class of 2016, said in an email that although he appreciates the college's commitment to adaption, he still has some concerns about the new branding and how it represents his time at Westminster.  

“When you come from a small private college, I think it is more difficult to see an administration/institution that keeps changing,” Schone said. “As an alumni, I just want to look back and see the Westminster College I used to know. If they are going to make a rebrand, it needs to have complete support and they need to be prepared to remain loyal to the new brand for decades to come. Otherwise, I could see Westminster becoming lost in one of the many colleges sending mail-ins to high school juniors.” 

Since many alumni are not on campus frequently, many were surprised when they found out about the change. 

“I was exchanging emails with a career advisor and I realized that the logo looks different," said Vera Shi, a graduate from the class of 2016. “I was not following [the transition of the rebrand]. It was definitely a surprise to me. It’s like all of a sudden everything changed. But it changed in a good way, so I liked it.” 

After seeing the rebrand and the new logo on Westminster College's Facebook page, many alumni expressed strong opinions about the rebrand, which Johanna Snow, Westminster's director of brand marketing and strategy, said was expected. 

“We did expect that not everyone was going to be pleased right away because it’s a change and it’s difficult and perhaps surprising for some people," Snow said. "But the overall reactions of people have even been potentially more positive than we anticipated." 

Though the initial reaction has been surprise, Snow said the responses become more positive once people see the new brand with the messaging behind it.  

"At the beginning, some people may feel like ‘that [rebrand/new logo] doesn’t feel right for me,' but after a while their opinion softens after seeing the overall direction of the brand," Yorkin said. “I don’t think in the long run there will be any impact to giving and to involvement, and we hope that it helps alumni to be more invested or connect with their alumni board and get engaged.”  

Despite the mixed reactions, many are optimistic about the new changes. 

“I think change is always a tricky thing," Shi said. "And under times of change, people tend to resist at the beginnin. But ultimately we all have to understand that change is always necessary as the macro environment is changing and we have to move forward with it. The new [logo] to me, it catches your attention very quickly. It is overall a much-needed transition and it seems to be a well researched and very thoughtful.”