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Lakehead University: A unique voice in a sea of undifferentiated sameness


Lakehead University in northwestern Ontario recognized the need to differentiate its value in an evolving market. Demographics outside of Toronto were shifting to an older population and young people were leaving the north, while the university’s distance from southern Ontario was perceived as a liability, even though 50% of its students came from the south of the province.

Moreover, the post-secondary education landscape in Ontario was beset by a bland sameness, with every institution branding the product category (the importance of PSE to a student’s future) rather than branding their own distinctiveness.

The university decided it needed to bring its own unique voice to its brand.  To uncover that voice. The research process revealed that successful students at Lakehead had a very personal definition of success, more often tied to their sense of purpose in the world and not in the conventional sense of material gain.  These were scholars that were also highly resilient and committed to accomplishment beyond the usual standards.  The Lakehead student knew the importance to their personal vision of attaining their degree and were often willing to step outside their comfort zone to achieve it.

The development of the brand framework articulated the links between the Lakehead’s vision and of their students, faculty, staff and alumni.  The brand positioning was based on a distinctive Lakehead experience as exceptional and unconventional. With a focus on the brand experience and supported by a thorough engagement process, the brand appealed to many different personalities and types. As a result, the brand was activated across the university and embraced as evocative of a very distinct and proud school.


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