One of only two public honors colleges in the nation, St. Mary’s College of Maryland in St. Mary’s City is renowned for its all-honors academics, private school experience, and public school affordability. Founded in 1840, St. Mary’s College also lays claim to one of the most beautiful waterfront campuses in the country.View all Work
Making waves in Maryland:
How an uncommon public reframed its brand.
Facing increased competition among public flagships as well as other private school options, St. Mary’s College turned to CCA to reinvigorate its brand and capture greater market awareness and consideration.
As with all branding projects, we began by conducting a thorough discovery process, which included deploying a brand awareness research study across all critical stakeholders, concept testing, brand messaging development, new video and photography, the development of a new tagline and wordmark for the College and the naming and branding of SMCM’s new experiential learning program.
At the core of our strategy was recommending that the College change its tagline from “Maryland’s Public Honors College” to “The National Public Honors College.” The recommendation links to, and is supported by, a number of factors, all of which tie back to the institution’s founding mission and serve to clarify its relevancy and 21st-century value proposition.
In addition to evaluating the response among key stakeholders to the College’s new practical liberal arts curriculum known informally as “Honors College 2.0” this comprehensive research initiative was also engineered to provide a thorough analysis of the College’s brand position, the factors that prospective students have in mind as they evaluate schools, and important contextual issues such as constituents’ understanding of “liberal arts” and prospects’ interest in pursuing a liberal arts education.
The study identified what key stakeholders believe to be the College’s areas of strength and weakness, explored what elements of the Honors College 2.0 concept resonate the most, and provided the basis for more effective communication with key audiences. Based on the learnings from this study, CCA renamed the “Honors 2.0” curriculum to “LEAD – Learning through Experiential and Applied Discovery.”
The findings provided us with the necessary guidance to rename St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s distinction as Maryland’s Public Honors College to “The National Public Honors College.” The new brand has proven to be tremendously successful for the College. Our work also included fall and spring media campaigns driving brand awareness and student visitation.
- 34% Increase in Open House registrants
- 100% Increase in Open House attendance
- 13% Increase in applicants