Energizing a Venerable Brand in Higher Education
Putting people in the picture helped the Harvard School of Public Health connect with nonexperts and reach historic fundraising goals.

When Harvard University embarked upon the most ambitious capital campaign in the history of higher education, the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) set a goal of raising $450 million. As part of that effort, they engaged our team to update the school’s 100-year-old brand with a fresh message that would inspire and engage alumni, donors and other stakeholders.

As one of the world’s most recognized and venerable education brands, Harvard is vulnerable to an “ivory tower” reputation—overly academic and disconnected from practical concerns. HSPH’s dean wanted the school to be seen as engaging with the major issues of the day and create a new narrative about global health that would resonate with policymakers, funders and other important nonexperts.

HSPH sought to update one of the world’s most renowned academic brands in a way that would resonate with crucial audiences outside the complex field of public health.

The first step in building an authentic brand is to hear from people who know it best. Our in-depth research revealed that most students and supporters were drawn to the HSPH because they wanted to improve the lives of people around the globe. Using this insight, we developed a new narrative to make the complex field of public health more accessible while still appealing to the aspirations of people working in it. Rather than describing the various academic disciplines that make up public health, our narrative put people in the picture—presenting HSPH as a team of experts “taking innovative ideas from the laboratory to people's lives.”

A fresh narrative positioned HSPH as a team of experts working to address tough problems and creating “powerful ideas for a healthier world.”

Harvard School of Public Health: Ideas that Change the World

To accompany an updated version of the school’s historic logo, we also crafted a tagline that spoke to the school's role in protecting the public’s health: “Powerful ideas for a healthier world.” That narrative and tagline were included in the Brand Manual we delivered to HSPH, along with strategic stories and infographics to explain how the school creates impact. Harvard’s marketing team subsequently used these tools to update the school’s website, fundraising materials, videos and other content. Less than a year after launching its capital campaign, HSPH received the largest gift in the history of Harvard to "tackle the world's toughest health challenges."

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