In an era of change for USF — with a new system president, consolidation and the completion of the downtown medical school all expected within the next couple of years — it can be easy for those in the community and those interested in becoming future Bulls to lose sight of what USF stands for.
That is why Joe Hice, the university’s chief marketing officer, and the rest of the marketing and communications team set a list of core beliefs for the university.
One of the original beliefs, ambition over tradition, sparked controversy, primarily among alumni. As a result of the outpouring of disapproval from alumni, Hice decided to remove the controversial belief outright.
“We heard from a number of alumni, who understand what we were trying to say about the University of South Florida’s ambition and our look to the future, but enough of them felt like that tended to downplay the contributions they made,” Hice said.
The belief could be seen in a number of marketing materials, including a billboard in downtown Tampa and on signage in the Tampa International Airport. Hice said that such advertisements have already been changed and that the belief will be completely removed by the end of the semester.
Hice also said that the idea of USF being an ambitious university with an eye to the future will remain, but that the wording, which many alumni feel puts their contributions on the backburner, is what is being removed.
“The belief itself is not going to go away, just the way that we describe it,” Hice said.
He added that he thinks the contributions that alumni have made and continue to make are greatly appreciated by all members of the USF community.
“The alumni represent the heart and soul of the University of South Florida,” Hice said. “It is people like my wife, who have gone through four years or more and have an enduring place in their hearts for USF. They tend to be the most philanthropic people in the community. The alumni play a huge role in the future of the university.”
Hice also said it is important to identify what the university’s beliefs are so that messaging can remain consistent.
“The core beliefs are what we build the brand and story around,” Hice said. “Whether it be in paid advertisements, public relations and social media, we always want to tie it back into those core beliefs. If you don’t identify those beliefs, it is really difficult to have the repetition to make the kind of impact that you want to make with your messaging.
“It is a lot easier to tell a story, and to tell it consistently and make an impact, with just four or five of those key beliefs.”
A survey was recently sent out through the Alumni Association to tens of thousands of alumni to get their input of deciding on a new tagline — which is different than the core beliefs, according to Hice — for the university.
Hice said the tagline will be for print ads, social media advertising and further outreach.
“We really have not gotten to a point yet where we know what we want to use (as the tagline),” Hice said. “But we know it won’t be ambition over tradition.”
The survey read, “Our boundless Bulls community is what allows the University of South Florida to make such a big impact on the world, and we look forward to engaging with you more as our brand campaign takes shape. We’ve put together a short survey where you can contribute preferences about several new taglines that represent USF, as well as share additional thoughts or questions.”
Options for the taglines included, “United, we Shape the Future,” “Horns Up,” “A Future Without Limits,” “Be Bullish” and “Expect Us.”
Some of those are familiar sayings, however a couple, including “Expect Us,” are new additions.
“The ‘Expect Us’ is just from kicking around a few ideas and trying to do something a little more provocative,” Hice said. “Like, for discoveries in health care: expect us, discoveries in science and engineering: expect us. You should become accustomed to expecting the University of South Florida to be there with solutions.”
Hice said the survey will conclude at the end of the month and that there should be some indications of the results by this week.
“We are concerned about alumni, we are concerned about students, we are concerned about faculty and staff and we are concerned about how other universities perceive USF,” Hice said. “We take all of that into consideration before we make a decision on a tagline.”