Research finds USF lacks brand recognition

Among students nationally, the two largest concerns about USF are offered majors and overall expense.

USF lacks identity, according to research done for the Board of Trustees (BOT).

The research, done by Ipsos marketing research company, reveals that USF has no brand and needs to develop one. It states that the school has low levels of brand awareness out of Florida with the Bull-U logo needing context to be effective.

However, the research also states that not having a brand is an opportunity to develop one.

University spokesman Adam Freeman said nobody would be available to answer questions until after the presentation Thursday.

This feeds into system president Judy Genshaft’s goals in the updating of the university’s strategic plan — which was approved at the BOT meeting June 8 — one of which is to be widely recognized for excellence.

“Although we may not feel like a young system and a young organization, we still are,” Edmund Funai, vice president for health sciences, said at the June 8 meeting. “There is a representational gap between of our objective measures of success and the way the public or our peers or those who rate us may perceive us. A lot of it is not related to the fact that there any negative impressions it’s more of a lack of impression.”

This sentiment is echoed by the research, which states that most parents and students outside of Florida don’t consider USF an option because they aren’t aware of the school.

For non-Floridian parents, USF comes to mind after FSU, UF and the University of Miami. For students, USF is considered on par with Miami and holding an advantage over only UCF — with UF, FSU, Miami, UCF and USF being the institutions considered. 

The research available does not provide information about in-state parents or students’ perceptions of the university.

One thing Thursday’s presentation will touch on is the idea that USF is best known for its scholarships and financial aid rather than its research or its medical school.

“USF brand associations are anchored in generous financial aid and grants (as are the other Florida schools), rather than our true assets of medical and research programs and being a neighbor to a thriving downtown Tampa location,” the presentation says.

These perceptions are cited as being a “tough challenge” to change.

Despite being recognized for providing scholarships, both parents and high school students nationally are concerned with USF’s cost with 64 percent and 53 percent respectively.

For students, the only thing that comes before cost is whether USF offers the major they’re looking for at 55 percent. For parents, that falls second to cost followed by concerns about the location having a poor reputation. 

Part of the research also looked at how USF markets itself through logos. The Bull-U logo was adopted by the university in 2003, according to the website. However, the research claims it is not recognizable and not universally used.

While a U with horns is used in some of the university’s logos such as the Herd of Thunder, athletics and the alumni association, it is not included in others such as the USF Foundation, USF Health or the Global Citizenship Project. 

Although when given options, 48 percent of those surveyed didn’t respond to any of the five options, the most favored logo was the Bull-U included in USF with the school’s name spelled out underneath it.

However, it was noted that this couldn’t stand alone.

Due to concerns over the location and parents’ lack of understanding about where the school is located, Ipsos suggested modifying the preferred logo to clarify USF’s area.

“There needs to be a separation between the different colleges within USF — I’m in favor of ‘USF Tampa,’” one comment included in the presentation says.

Moving forward, the research states that USF needs to take steps to make a brand with consistent colors, logos and traits USF can own such as diversity or world class.

Ultimately, the decision of what to do rests with the BOT, which will be hearing the presentation Thursday at 9:15 a.m. in MSC 3707.