An 18-month research process brings clarity to what it means to be a Concordian

Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor recently launched a new website and brand platform that unites the university and compellingly communicates to the world what it means to be a Concordian.


With support from the Milwaukee-area marketing agency, BVK, Concordia embarked upon a journey that was more than a year in the making. It brought the university—with its nine educational centers, online offerings and residential campuses in Mequon and Ann Arbor—to a simple phrase with layers of depth and meaning behind it: Concordia University. Live Uncommon.

“There is something quite different about Concordia University,” says University President Rev. Patrick T. Ferry, Ph.D. “What sets us apart, what makes us uncommon, is that our ordinary university is attached to the Word of God and connected to His promises. Our assurance of eternal life through our Savior Jesus Christ compels us to go out into the world, utilizing the gifts with which he has graced us, to share the extraordinary.”

The effort, which was led by Senior Vice President of Strategy and University Affairs Gretchen Jameson, aimed to hone in on what attracts students to the university and better understand what unique markers define it.

“In its essence, a brand is the concise distillation of the promise that an organization makes to its constituents consistently, dramatically and repeatedly,” says Jameson. “When we began our process, we didn’t set out to create a new Concordia catch-phrase; instead, we initiated a process of discovery, a university-wide dialogue that will continue to unveil itself for years to come.”

While the CUW and CUAA brand has been strong for well over a century, particularly within the LCMS community, two dramatically different factors propelled the university to take a thorough self-examination: the changing landscape of higher education and CUW’s merger with Concordia Ann Arbor.

Because Concordia now represents two campuses, multiple center extensions, and a thriving online presence, Jameson and her team selected to implement an umbrella or family brand strategy that focuses on the combined strengths of the enterprise without compromising the distinctiveness of either endeavor.

“Research confirmed what we knew all along,” says Jameson. “Concordians share the same DNA—similar strengths, recognizable character, and shared values across our campuses. So this positioning strategy is in complete alignment with how the organization operates on a daily basis.”

“There is something quite different about Concordia University,” says University President Rev. Patrick T. Ferry, Ph.D. “What sets us apart, what makes us uncommon, is that our ordinary university is attached to the Word of God and connected to His promises. Our assurance of eternal life through our Savior Jesus Christ compels us to go out into the world, utilizing the gifts with which he has graced us, to share the extraordinary.”

After hundreds of interviews involving students, alumni, faculty, and staff at both CUAA and CUW; dozens of focus groups; and months of action and reaction sessions, the research revealed clarity around the unique promise that Concordia extends to its students: to uniquely develop each student for a life of uncommon, Christ-led purpose.

“It reinforced that Concordia views every person as created remarkably and distinctively for many roles and vocations,” says Jameson. “We cherish our mission to develop students in mind, body, and spirit to go forth, ready to live a ‘you-first’ life in a ‘me-first’ world.”

Discover the stories of some of the uncommon Concordians at CUW and CUAA, and learn more about the message that will soon go out to hundreds of thousands of people across the nation at www.cuaa.edu.

—Kali Thiel contributed to this story. Reach Lisa Liljegren or Kali Thiel at news@cuw.edu.

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