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BRAND STRATEGY + Photography + Digital Marketing
Next Wrok
McPherson College
McPherson College
NEXT McPherson College

A desire to serve and inspire people from all walks of life has long defined Marian University.

As a mission-driven private Catholic university, its Franciscan—and universal—values show in everyday life on campus and in the Indianapolis community.


This historically allowed Marian University to find prospective students who embraced the culture and identified with the school’s vision. But beyond that, Marian needed more to raise awareness. It wanted the right students and an increasing number of them.

Marian decided to set a daring, but achievable with the right help and resources, Wildly Important Goal of doubling the number of graduates by 2025. How does a small, private university start on the path of recruiting the desired students that would help it reach and surpass its strategic goal over the course of nine years? Marian needed to stand out in Indiana and as a private institution when the competition for enrollment numbers proved more challenging than ever.

Marian started by partnering with Up&Up to uncover who it was as an institution and find out how to share that story with its target audiences. It wanted to combine its deep-rooted history and tradition with a modern approach to adapt to the ever-changing higher education industry. We wanted to work with Marian because of its strong focus on student success and commitment to the greater good–one of our fundamental agency values.


marian made of

Leading with Strategy

To start the process off with a solid foundation, we conducted in-depth qualitative and quantitative research, including multi-audience focus groups and stakeholder interviews to gain perspective on the current state of Marian. This key information gave us the framework needed to explore ideas in the brand strategy phase.


Brand Platform

Following a thorough dive into campus, history, and culture, the strategy work revealed a central theme that clarified and accentuated Marian’s purpose. Born out of the foundational pieces, pillars and positioning, “What are you made of?” became a thoughtful question—and conversation starter—that college-bound and current students ask themselves before, during, and after the experience at the University. It also speaks to the values that drive and challenge the existing Marian community to lead and serve other throughout their professional careers and personal lives.

Beyond its immediate application in student recruitment to support Marian’s WIG and raise brand awareness, the question-turned-concept showed flexibility in delivering across all audiences and channels, from academics to athletics to development.

Compelling visuals and exploratory core messaging gave life into execution, which shows in each deliverable.

Brand Activation

Along with high level messaging, Up&Up developed the new look and feel for the Marian brand and created production-ready templates for its viewbook and other print collateral material.

We created banners and other signage on campus that reminded Marian students and visitors to find the strength within themselves. The brand messaging platform also speaks to alumni and the community with a bold sense of pride.



The Results


Since the launch of the brand, Marian applications and deposits have increased year over year. More importantly, the SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration) sessions applications rose significantly. The SOAR session historically have produced the highest yield among prospective students.

Overall, Marian earned 12 percent increase in applications over 2017, a 12 percent increase in deposits over 2017 and a 50 percent list in early orientation and registration sessions. Marian also welcomed its largest FTFT freshman class in university history in Fall 2018.

The story continues to unfold as Marian continues working toward a history-defining 2025, and well beyond.






Marian Case Study Brand Guidelines
Marian Case Study Brand Guidelines
Marian Case Study Brand Guidelines
Marian Case Study Photography
Marian case study banner
Marian football
Marian viewbook
Marian viewbook 2
Marian viewbook 3
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Up&Up helped us define our brand, developed key messaging, and created design templates for the website, an advertising campaign, and print collateral. Their work played a big part in our recruitment success the following year—a record FTFT freshman class that was up 27 percent over the previous year.

Mark Apple Vice President for Marketing Communications, Marian University

McPherson College