Charles Darwin University, Cremorne, Australia

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Name of Organization / Company: Charles Darwin University, Cremorne, Australia

Category: Award for Innovation in Brand Renovation / Re-Branding

Entry Title: What a new world university looks like


Charles Darwin University is one of the few Australian universities to push boundaries in creating a truly innovative brand without compromise; using limited funding, driven by strategic intelligence married to creative excellence.

Market research uncovered a core market of future learners determined to make a positive change to their lives, community and the wider world. They have a strong sense of social justice, are environmentally conscious, perhaps a little idealistic, and have strong beliefs and values. They’re progressive not conservative. They’re interested in the social and political issues of our time and aware of how these issues can shape the future. Education is a clear pathway to shape their future. Out of this insight the core idea and motivational trigger was borne; “how will we use knowledge for the future?

The rejuvenation of the brand required a distinctive position delivered through an innovative creative style that successfully influences stakeholders in a cluttered and largely homogenous educational sector.

No other single Australian university serves such a large area, in such a remote location, with such a small population to sustain it. The task was not to compete with the larger universities but develop an innovative approach which would resonate with a distinctive yet sizeable audience psychographic.

The decision to study at a university is an important one with both rational and emotional dimensions. The emotional dimensions of this decision may be ones that take some time and reflection for perspective students to be able to articulate. As such, the campaign approach needed to be sensitive to subtle aspects of student reactions.

Rather than being about tradition or legacy, privilege or exclusivity; the creative approach was about what you leave with, rather than what you begin with; what you can put into society, rather than what you take. It is about being sustainable, environmentally driven, activists for social justice, open and accessible. About supporting the underdog to make it big. Or just making something a little bit better. It is about caring for individuals, as well as wider society. And about making things right wherever we can. This is our definition of excellence and something we can all be proud of.

Future students acknowledged they know the world is a fragile place. Equally, they are determined and hopeful. For them, making the world a better place is front of mind.

To express our new world university positioning in an organic, distinctive way – and to represent an understanding of our fragile and intricate environments - we developed delicate, ephemeral paper cut-out visuals (challenging the established university advertising archetype by not featuring the smiling-student-on-campus imagery. When considering our visual language approach there were many fragile things we could have used to articulate our message. Choosing something hand-made demonstrated that we and all we create is as fragile as a snowflake. Presenting a ‘delicate world environment’ made from cut-out paper strongly demonstrated the fragility of the planet and enticed targets to engage in a multi-layered world of future challenges, and their own use of knowledge for greater good.

Avoiding clichéd self-congratulatory graduation and student lifestyle images, this innovative, category-breaking campaign has already been acknowledged by the university and wider community as a most compelling and refreshing brand repositioning.

The multi-channel national campaign integrated television, press, outdoor, cinema, radio and online communications. Cinema was particularly essential in this mix to reach a diverse discerning audience and maximise the visual impact/appreciation of this innovative film technique created entirely out of multi-layered paper cut-outs.

Charles Darwin University (CDU) is now recognised as a modern, regional Australian university ranked in the top 2% of all universities worldwide and now ranking 31st best university aged under 50 years old based on the Times Higher Education Ranking 2015-16.