Universities are changing. According to Statistics Korea, the number of undergraduates has been continuously decreasing over the last 10 years. In response to this trend, each university has established various marketing strategies to strengthen its competitiveness. The ultimate goal of these tactics is to increase their own brand value and therefore improve awareness to many people.
The accumulated brand value in the minds of students and the society is one of the most important assets of a university. Students evaluate and select universities through their brand reputation, and society also prefers graduates from universities with a higher brand value. In December, the month just before the admission period, The Argus analyzed the HUFS’ current branding strategy.
Creation of impressive characters
Many universities build their brand image through distinctive mascots. The character’s brand reinforcement is based on its archetype. The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung proved that a universal framework can be found in various myths and symbols around the world and called such a concept an archetype. Modern characters based on this archetype have the advantage of delivering intended messages without any additional communication.
The characters of Hanyang University and Sookmyung Women’s University are good examples. Hanyang University created a mascot by characterizing the lion as a representative animal of the school and named it “Hylion.” Their mascot reminds people of courage and dignity, in the same way a lion does. In this way, Hanyang University has reinforced the social perception that it is a prestigious university represented by the lion, a strong, dignified and brave animal, but one which does not resort to force.
The trade character of Sookmyung Women’s University is “Snowflake,” literally named after the snowflakes. Not only is such a symbol associated with a pure and noble image, but it also complements the school’s silver-white logo. Thus, the Snowflake is very effective in conveying a consistent message to the public. The Snowflake is receiving much attention and love from students with its cute appearance. In May, students even posted an advertisement on the screen door of a subway station to celebrate Snowflake’s birthday in time for the 112th anniversary of their school’s foundation.
Popular on-campus festivals and collaborations
Some universities’ festivals have earned social interest. Korea University’s IPSELENTI and Yonsei University’s AKARAKA are classic examples. The competition for admission tickets to IPSELENTI and AKARAKA is very fierce each year and ticket scalpers have even appeared at these events. A joint festival between Korea and Yonsei University, which is commonly called “Ko-Yon-jeon” or “Yon-Ko-jeon,” is also an activity that enhances the brand value of these two universities. This is because it can facilitate other collaborations between them and raise the students’ sense of belonging. Also, it is able to attract high school seniors to their respective university.
“My primary goal is to enter the university in Seoul, but if possible, I want to go to Korea or Yonsei University,” a second-year male student in high school said. “I think the overall educational environment of these universities is similar. However, the joint festival is a unique school culture that rarely exists in other universities,” he added. As the number of prospective university students is diminishing, it becomes more and more important for universities captivate students’ hearts. In the case of Korea and Yonsei University, they can secure an element of friendly competition through the joint festival thereby encouraging students to apply to these universities.
In October, Seoul National University and Hanyang University held their first co-sponsored cultural exchange, named “Su-do-jeon.” “Su-do” means capital city of Korea and the former name of Seoul was Hanyang. Thus, Su-do-jeon was organized under the theme: “Decide which university is more suitable for the name of the capital?” Despite the fact that the mid-term test was only a week away, the pre-bookings of the “Escape Room” were completed in only three days, proving the attractiveness of such an event.
A distinctive slogan and a clear university color
As the catchphrase is concise, it spreads quickly and has significant ripple effects. Sogang University’s slogan is a leading example ─ the catchphrase, “Be as proud of Sogang as Sogang is proud of you,” is very popular with both students and the public. Hongik University’s slogan “Where Industry meets Art” is also an exemplary catchphrase that emphasizes the competitiveness of the university. This is because it can convey the meaning that art, which is the traditional strong point of Hongik University, will grow with the industry.
A clear university color can also contribute to delivering a unified image of the university. Ewha Womans University launched the “University Identity Construction Project’ in 2011 to build the school’s image and definitize its brand value. Based on this, the guidelines for the application of color in symbols, logos and signatures were organized. The university strives to deliver a consistent brand image by ensuring visual coherence to the brand, “Ewha.”
“When I thought of Ewha Womans University even before entering the school, the Ewha Green color came to my mind unconsciously,” said Park Jin-na, a student who majors in Design at Ewha Womans University. “There is a signature color representing our school and many people know about it. I think it is a positive part of brand promotion,” she also insisted.
The Minerva and the mascot, “Boo”
Since 2015, HUFS has been using the combination of Minerva, a goddess of wisdom in Roman mythology, and the owl as the character of the university. The Strategy and Public Relations Team explained that it represents the strong will and wisdom of HUFSans. HUFS also named Minerva for compulsory liberal arts courses for freshmen, Minerva Humanities and the Minerva Complex, the underground facility in Seoul Campus.
Boo, the official owl mascot of HUFS, was produced by the University Knowledge Contents and Press in 2017. According to the HUFS website, the owl motif expresses HUFSans’ daily lives. Boo is characterized by a rather blank look, but HUFSans have ambivalent feelings toward it. One student in the HUFS Seoul Campus Bamboo Forest said, “Who designed the Boo?! It is so cute!” However, another voice exclaimed, “I am not sure about the exact motif of Boo. Is it a pigeon or an owl?”
A lack of awareness among the public is another problem. A senior in high school who wants to enter HUFS said, “Many other students often asked me whether HUFS has mascots or not.” One housewife in her 40s said, “As my nephew was wearing a T-shirt with an unseen picture on it, I asked him what it is. He told me it is his school character (Minerva). I did not know that HUFS has such a thing.”
The World Folk Culture Festival and Quinquatria
The World Folk Culture Festival is a representative event of the Global Campus. It started in 1971 and celebrated its 28th anniversary this year. The main content of the festival is that HUFSans in each department perform cultural performances based on their understanding and knowledge about countries related to their major. It is a meaningful event which can show the outcome of HUFsans’ learning to the public.
The word “Quinquatria” refers to another campus festival at HUFS. It was first used by the 52nd General Student Council of Seoul Campus, PUREUM. In ancient Roman religion, the Quinquatria was a festival sacred to the Goddess Minerva, celebrated from March 19 to 23. PUREUM focused on the fact that the Minerva is the character of HUFS and named the festival Quinquatria. This title is very unique and has proven to be even more valuable as it contributes to conveying a unified image.
However, on-campus events are somewhat less influential than other campus festivals because of the surrounding business district and transportation service. In the case of Konkuk and Hongik University, famous for their campus festivals, there are plenty of commercial facilities around them. It enables participants of the festival to engage in various activities to continue the cheerful atmosphere. In addition, these two campuses are at the main points of traffic. In contrast, Imun-dong, in which HUFS is located, is set to be rebuilt and can only be accessed through line 1. This is the reason HUFS’ on-campus festivals are not popular despite their high quality.
Come to HUFS, Meet the World
Since 2007, HUFS has been using “Come to HUFS, Meet the World!” as its official slogan. Park Moon-gi, Ph.D., claimed in his paper, “It is an excellent slogan that no other university can use and everyone can agree on the message of the slogan.” In other words, it briefly explains the characteristics of HUFS while emphasizing its international competitiveness.
On the other hand, the university color is in poor condition. Currently, HUFS uses HUFS Green and HUFS Gray as its primary color. Additionally, HUFS designated HUFS Navy, HUFS Gold and HUFS Silver as secondary colors. However, the criteria for the use of primary and secondary color are ambiguous and HUFS Navy is more common than HUFS Green in various fields. Many HUFSans are also critical of HUFS Green or HUFS Gray.
Cho Wu-bin, a student of the Division of Chinese Foreign Affairs and Commerce, ‘18 said, “I think I have seen HUFS Navy and HUFS Gold much more often than HUFS Green. However, I find it a little bit strange to hear that HUFS Green is the primary color of our school.” Another HUFSan replied, “I did not even know that HUFS Gray is the primary color. That color is not to my taste, and I am not sure what the difference is between HUFS Gray and HUFS Silver.”
Various uses of characters and HUFSans’ participation
In 2016, Hanyang University held the “77 Hylions Doll Exhibition” at the Seoul Campus to mark the 77th anniversary of its establishment. If the university conducts meaningful events by using characters representing the school, the mascots can be promoted naturally. Moreover, such events can contribute to broadcasting the brand value of school by making people easily understand the worth of events.
The installation of a sculpture that reflects the school's representative character is a good idea. In Chung-Ang University, there is a pond with a statue of the school's symbol, a blue dragon. Kyung Hee University boasts the sculpture of a smiling lion, the symbolic animal of their school. These sculptures serve as a landmark and have a promotional effect for the universities on potential enrollees. For HUFS, installing a statue of Minerva is a feasible solution.
Students should also participate actively. In January, Sungshin Women?s University produced the official character “Suryong-yi” through a character contest. It is gaining much support from students, as students willingly participated in the process of the character’s production, from the initial concept to its utilization. Boo could also be reborn as a mascot for more school members to be satisfied if HUFS designs various versions of it or goes through the renewal process based on feedback from students.
Development through exchange with other universities
Going one step further from the on-campus festivals of HUFS, working with other universities to conduct academic exchanges or sporting events could indicate another potential development. By increasing exchanges between two schools with different educational infrastructures, they can add depth to their own academic result. Through physical activities, universities can promote friendship. Publicizing these activities would serve as a new way to reflect the school’s competitiveness.
For example, having academic exchanges with Busan University of Foreign Studies, which shares the value of “the university specialized in foreign language education,” can be a significant collaboration. Resuming the “Oe-So-jeon,” a sports competition held with Sogang University during the 1970s, would also be a meaningful activity. It may not be a totally unlikely suggestion, considering the case of the “Su-do-jeon,” which was accomplished through the efforts of the students of two universities.
The international exchange activity between Sogang University and Sophia University, which is called SOFEX, is another good example. HUFS can host the event in a similar way with universities in a sisterhood-type relationship. In particular, such international interchanges are more meaningful in that HUFS can emphasize the brand image of HUFS, a university with international competence and globality.
A definite symbolic color and new catch phrases
One of the key elements of branding is to build a unified image and to deliver a consistent message. To do this, the current university colors of HUFS need to be revised. The vague distinction between primary and secondary colors should be complemented by making specific utilization criteria. If necessary, re-establishment of the university color should be done to clearly deliver and promote the image of school.
Crimson of Korea University and Royal Blue of Yonsei University are representative examples of successful university colors that have succeeded in making people think about these universities when they see these colors. Particularly, a symbolic color is a very important factor in the overall brand formation of universities in that it exerts considerable influence on symbols, logos, any other items used for promotion.
In addition, HUFS has to reflect the change of the times by making new catchphrases. As society changes into a science-dominated society, interest and popularity in humanities and social science fields, including foreign language learning, have become less than they used to be. Against this backdrop, it is necessary to create additional slogans which can include every college in HUFS, such as the College of Natural Science and College of Engineering. Thus, it is necessary to modernize the catchphrase in a way that reflects the changing times while maintaining the existing positive image.
The clear university identity is one of the key building blocks to improve its competitiveness. “Eule der Minerva,” which means Owl of Minerva in German, is a maxim that we should keep in mind this point. Many universities are raising their own brand values through aggressive branding. Referring to these successful examples, HUFS can also proceed with its branding and become a truly competitive global university in changing society. It is time to take its flight.
By Na Geum-chae
Staff Reporter of Campus Section