What is in a Student Union’s brand?

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So events unfolded over the weekend which showed the beginnings of the re-brand unveiling for Southampton University Student’s Union. I’ve seen 3 iterations of the SUSU logo, that I can think of, since  2008 but I’ve never seen such a fuss over it. Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t as engaged as I should have been when I was a student. Maybe it’s because I didn’t pay as much in fees so wasn’t bothered. Or maybe the reaction is because this really is a bad move?

I found it intriguing the sudden surge in reactions to the re-brand, some students saying that they weren’t consulted (despite a survey of 2,500 students being conducted) others said that art and design students should have been involved and then there was the general outrage at the amount of money the Student’s Union (SU)  paid a marketing company. But I thought to myself, why do these students choose to engage now? Why engage after all the work is done, only to slate it when it is difficult and more expensive to reverse?

I think perhaps part of the problem is that it wasn’t entirely clear where this rebrand came from or who instigated it. Was it students? Was it the sabbatical officers?  Was it someone who is no longer here? (If that’s the case, why has that been carried forward?) Was it the CEO? Is this a conspiracy to Americanise the SU? Part of the reason was apparently “susu” being Malaysian for Milk (so what?)

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Ultimately, people were always going to criticise. And as I have had to come to terms with in my role; you cannot please everyone. Students are often very good at identifying why something doesn’t work. It is often harder for some of them to talk about what they like about something. SU’s have the unenviable task of having to represent hugely diverse student populations and perhaps this was just a change too far? (They made the cat President for goodness sake!)

What I have really enjoyed witnessing is the sudden creativity that has come out of all of this with students photoshoping the new signs, creating joke re-brand tutorials and setting up parody accounts. All of this during exam season! What better way to procrastinate than to try and unite everyone in one big joke?

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But on a more serious note; a union is much more than its brand/logo. It’s what happens behind the scenes that counts. A shiny new logo does not necessarily equal shiny new policies. Does the outcry from students represent a deeper issue? And does questioning something as fundamental as the Union’s image show students have had enough with tinkering around the edges?

Interestingly I also note they have removed mention of the University in their name. I know the union is technically separate from the institution but in the 8 years I have been here I have noticed that students tend to identify most with the university as a whole as opposed to the union.

“Why should I care?!”, “You’re a bit obsessed” I hear you cry.

Well first of all, I have been having conversations with students about this as I work with Business students. But it’s mainly because I know what it’s like to work really hard on something you think students will like and then have the response not meet your expectations. Unfortunately for SUSU, Us. whatever you call them, instead of my usual experience of engagement being low/people not turning up/people not responding, they have been openly and in some cases nastily criticised for it. I know I have written in the past about students needing to be engaged but maybe people need to dial it down a notch?

Or maybe we are all being trolled?

Images in this post snapped from http://www.union-southampton.org/ 

Read more from the SU President ,the Student Newspaper , Business Management students aaaand The Tab

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Author: eemaa27

Blogging and reflecting to keep my writing skills in tune

5 thoughts on “What is in a Student Union’s brand?”

  1. Onion Southampton thanks you for your comments. Here at Onion Southampton, we value all feedback equally, no matter whether it comes from one person or 2500.

    Onion Southampton would like to note that the rebrand tutorial video was not linked in the body of the document, even though it deserves as much (or more) recognition as Onion Southampton (which has been linked).

  2. Regarding one small specific point; the removal of ‘university’ from the name – I imagine this was done precisely to separate the idea of the university from the idea of the student union in students’ heads. Too often, for instance, and including over the rebrand itself, students will complain about money being better spent on things that are actually entirely out of the union’s hands. The rebrand seems to be an attempt to assert the union as a separate institution from the university whilst also trying to convey the reality that the union is composed of students themselves, rather than being something separate from them.

  3. I agree it should have been given to students to do. What a waste of unpaid talent and what a waste of money for the student union?
    Once as a graphic design student in Southampton, our class were all asked to design a logo for the amalgamation of the College of Art & Design with the College of Business and Technology to be named Southampton College of Higher Education (This eventually became Solent University). The three best, voted for by the class then had to give a film presentation to the Board of Governors for them to choose. It was a great logo for the time. Gave real experience to all the students and made the Governors aware of what Graphic Designers did.

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