New orange and black university buses market graduate programs

By , Reporter  |  Wednesday, May 15, 2013 10:23 PM

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.”

One of the new St. Thomas buses picks up students to bring to the Minneapolis campus. (Sean Crotty/TommieMedia)

One of the new St. Thomas buses picks up students to bring to the Minneapolis campus. The new buses are colored black and orange in part of a new marketing strategy for the university's graduate programs. (Sean Crotty/TommieMedia)

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

This item was posted in News and has 3 comments so far.


  1. Jerry Anderley
    May. 16, 2013 6:23 AM

    The black and orange bus is very similar in appearance to “party buses.”

  2. Bruce Stephan
    Sep. 4, 2013 6:09 AM

    I appreciate the need to stand out in a cluttered public space, but is black the best color for that?  Anyone who owns a black car knows the challenge with keeping clean. A dirty looking bus may reflect negatively. More importantly, is the challenge now with establishing brand equity with the new colors.  Purple and its connection with UST has been effectively grounded from clothing to school supplies to other media messages.  I think the black could work and will separate the grad programs from the undergrad, but is that the marketing objective?  Seems to me that UST would want to leverage the equity they have in purple and say we also have graduate programs vs building recognition for graduate programs and trying to link back to a foundation of quality learning and tradition already existing.  If this is to be a successful marketing initiative it must be long-term and integrated across all graduate touch points with the consumer – I look forward to seeing how the campaign extends.

  3. Steve Maeyaert
    Sep. 13, 2013 8:03 PM

    The buses look nice but I think the St Thomas purple and white would have worked. The St Thomas ” brand” has a strong reputation and would make a good foundation to to build on.

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