Grace Bible College, a Grand Rapids, Michigan based institution in the community of Wyoming, is completing a comprehensive rebranding project. The scope of this effort included not just a rebrand and retooling of the organizational identity, but also a name change.

As the College was transitioning to its newly-awarded University status, it was also analyzing consumer sentiment, brand equity, shifting perceptions, and marketing efforts of recruiting in the Christian higher-education academic environment. “Our mission is to graduate Godly individuals prepared to serve Christ in Church and Society,” said Grace President and graduate Dr. Ken Kemper. “The transition to Grace Christian University will honor their legacy and strengthen our future.” This change positions the University to continue its great work under a new name.

“Our mission is to graduate Godly individuals prepared to serve Christ in Church and Society,” said Grace President and graduate Dr. Ken Kemper. The transition to Grace Christian University will honor their legacy and strengthen our future.”

Of the decision to bring a professional firm into the Grace environment to assist with the process, Brian Sherstad, Executive Vice President had this to say. “Even the decision to investigate the potential of a name change was significant for Grace. We knew we only had one chance to get it right and sought professional guidance. As we began the selection process for a firm able to guide us through the rebranding process, we saw a clear difference between Advance 360 and other firms.”

“Advance 360 brought to Grace’s rebranding exactly what we had hoped. They accepted our initial data collection efforts and added to that body of data. They understand the dynamics brought by multiple layers of institutional stakeholders and helped us gain buy-in. The entire process had clear deliverables as well as a clear path to reach the end goal.”

The years-long process to reach a new name and brand included town hall sessions, charrette style workshopping with stakeholders, and prayerful discussions by the Board of Directors and Administration. The new logo and image of the University will be integrated during summer 2018, and the first graduates of Grace Christian University will occur in 2019.

The Stages of Renaming

“All existing data should first be analyzed,” said Anne Drummond, Advance 360 Senior Creative Director. “Once we’d read, questioned, and discussed the available information, we were able to craft exercises that would help stakeholders to clearly articulate missing pieces.”

Workshop activities resonated with participants, but also provide opportunity for a broad spectrum of stakeholder participants to share individual ideas, listen and comment on others’ thoughts and feelings, and identify ideas and elements that most closely resemble their vision for the organization. This information was combined with prior survey results, town hall meeting sentiments and analysis of other colleges’ experiences in rebranding from either a college to a university including a name change. In addition, a study by Barna Group, produced in partnership with the Association for Biblical Higher Education offered market context and statistically relevant input.

B-GCUstat1 Graduating Godly Individuals: Grace Christian University
B-GCUstat2 Graduating Godly Individuals: Grace Christian University
B-GCUstat3 Graduating Godly Individuals: Grace Christian University
B-GCUstat4 Graduating Godly Individuals: Grace Christian University
B-GCUstat5a Graduating Godly Individuals: Grace Christian University

Of this process, “Advance 360 clearly identified both intended and unintended consequences at each point of decision giving us the information we needed to make good decisions with confidence,” said Sherstad.

From an initial 163 unique naming conventions, the final name was fashioned, and the design work begun. Using a three-step process of a) compass point b) exploration and c) refinement, the brand’s visual identity took shape.

B-GCUoldlogo340 Graduating Godly Individuals: Grace Christian University

Former Name and Logo

B-GCUnewlogo360 Graduating Godly Individuals: Grace Christian University

New Name and Logo

The new name and logo have been shared with students, faculty and donors.

“The attitude Advance 360 demonstrated at the beginning, as well as through the entire process, was one of being honored that Grace would trust them with such important work as our institutional identity. From beginning to end, Advance 360 demonstrated that our trust was well placed.” ~Brian Sherstad, Executive Vice President, Grace Christian University