Bristol agencies pool their expertise to launch strategic rebranding service for universities

September 22, 2023

A group of Bristol creative firms has forged a strategic partnership to increase the impact and effectiveness of brands in the university sector.

Formed by Firehaus, Beautiful Insights, All Things Words, JonesMillbank and Squarebird, BrandUni Collective will offer a new approach that fuses the expertise of the five businesses into one end-to-end service for university rebrands and refreshes.

Its expertise will span research and insights, brand positioning and creative platform, tone of voice and copywriting, film production and websites.

Between them, the five have worked with universities such as Bath, Bristol, UWE, Loughborough and Edinburgh as well as Bristol-headquartered accommodation group Unite Students, quantum science body Quantum Frontier, also in Bristol, and the Centre for Digital, Manufacturing & Design (dMaDe) at the University of Bath.

BrandUni Collective has been formed as a number of universities, research hubs and innovation centres investigate new models for collaboration and commercialisation, particularly around the supercharging of real-world impact.

A combination of research, and crucially, listening to university leaders, has led the agencies behind BrandUni Collective to identify three core challenges that many in the sector are trying to overcome:

  • The breakdown – between research intelligence, brand strategy, creative idea and ongoing implementation
  • The buried treasure – a wealth of stories but no organisational framework to help identify them and create powerful engaging content
  • The sense of place – how location plays into the university narrative, for good or bad.

Firehaus co-founder and creative partner Ian Bates said: “We’re a collective driven by a shared purpose and a common vision – to exponentially increase the social and environmental impact of our work, by creating culturally relevant university brands that enable those who educate and research to succeed.”

Beautiful Insights managing director Steven Dodds added: “The higher education sector is only going to become more competitive. But many institutions have told us they’ve become institutionalised in their thinking and behaviour.

“This is hampering their ability to act at pace, make strategic and creative breakthroughs and build a brand that will compete and succeed nationally, as well as globally.”

Each of the five businesses has a strong reputation for collaboration, which they see as ‘baked-in’ to their shared purpose. They intend that to continue into the client relationships.

All Things Words founder Jo Marshall said: “It’s why we put so much emphasis on collaboration throughout the process – and that includes the client. There are no bystanders in our approach.”

The BrandUni Collective approach will not end with the delivery of a traditional ‘brand book’.

Firehaus founder and strategy partner Nick Barthram added: “We will work with the university teams to embed a rebrand or refresh into their SLTs, academics, marketing and creative teams. The aim is for them to be inspired and equipped to become self-sufficient in the ongoing implementation of the brand strategy.”

Beautiful Insights, Firehaus, All Things Words, JonesMillbank and Squarebird will remain totally independent businesses and continue to have their own client relationships, but pool their expertise appropriately when clients require an end-to-end solution.

Pictured: clockwise: Russ Jones, Adam Millbank, Jo Marshall, Steven Dodds, Ian Bates and Jon Bird


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