St. Thomas buses sporting new orange and black paint are part of a marketing strategy for the university’s graduate programs.
St. Thomas’ Director of Communications Services Peter Breuch said the university rebranded the graduate programs because the market is saturated because many schools are adding graduate schools.
“Northwestern College in Roseville is becoming the University of Northwestern in July so they’ll have more graduate programs,” Breuch said. “St. Kate’s is adding their MBA program and Hamline is adding programs as well.”
The new campaign went live last fall at some of St. Thomas’ football games, but what may have attracted more attention recently are St. Thomas’ black and orange shuttle buses, which started to run in late April.
The decision to use black and orange colors instead of St. Thomas’ traditional purple and white was carefully thought out by a group of professionals that worked on the campaign.
“We wanted a color that was very distinct, very bold, and something that would stand out,” Breuch said. “When you design, you want a light color on a dark color and so by adding the St. Thomas purple into that mix it won’t pop. We couldn’t use yellow and black because that’s St. Olaf or Gustavus colors. If you think about where orange is used, it’s in high visibility locations.”
The campaign’s main slogan is “Learn what you need to know,” which Breuch said stems from the main ideas of the campaign as a whole.
“Learn what you need to know: first of all, we do have grad programs at St. Thomas and the second thing is it’s kind of tied into the program finder,” Breuch said. “If you want to do some kind of leadership program, you can learn which programs we have on the site, and then you get into the program and you’re learning what you need to know in order to advance your career.”
However, the campaign isn’t solely about the buses. According to Breuch, the campaign has already debuted online with digital advertisements and radio advertisements as well. Advertising for the graduate programs is also expanding into some print publications.
Sophomore Kirsten Gorman wasn’t aware of the graduate programs St. Thomas offers, but said the campaign might help with that.
“I think (the campaign is) different, but it might catch people’s eye,” Gorman said. “It’s not normally what you see on campus. You typically see purple and white. If it’s orange, it kind of pops out at you.”
Junior Mike McGoldrick said he has seen the new buses and is confused by them.
“Orange and black do not make me think of St. Thomas,” McGoldrick said. “The only reason I knew it was a Tommie bus was because it stuck out like a sore thumb and I read the side that said University of St. Thomas.”
Senior Wendy Consoer will be attending graduate school at the University of Utah in the fall for physical chemistry. Though she won’t be studying through the graduate programs at St. Thomas, Consoer still thinks the black and orange colors work.
“I think it makes the graduate programs look more professional and sets it aside from the undergraduate school,” Consoer said. “I think they’re trying to gear it more toward a professional audience. I think the students going to St. Thomas already know St. Thomas’ reputation, maybe offering scholarships would be a good idea.”
Sophomore Marcus Farmer said using the black and orange colors could help the graduate programs attract more attention.
“I think using those colors could work,” Farmer said. “People never really differentiate undergrad from graduate, but I think that could for sure help. I think they could do some events related to graduate programs in the quad too.”
The new campaign has been successful so far and has helped drive traffic to their website.
“When the bus went live, the request for information doubled,” Breuch said. “Traffic is definitely up which is what we needed.”
Anne Becken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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