Creating fearless international agents of change

In your generation, who's going to have the guts to be uncool?

Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific, located at the southwestern tip of Vancouver Island, is one of 17 United World College educational institutions around the world. Up to 200 students ages 16-19 from over 40 countries — as well as diverse socioeconomic, political and cultural backgrounds — live, work and serve collectively on campus for two years within a mission to create a more peaceful and sustainable world.

Although Pearson was established in 1974, the college had never considered or developed its brand. Combo was retained to create the brand strategy and marketing plan, and to execute the creative that came out of this.

We hit such a home run that not only did other UWC schools ask if they could copy our materials, but UWC’s London headquarters updated its brand and materials to reflect our strategy and creative.

Who's going to have the nerves to take risks?

There were four distinct audiences for Pearson: current students, alumni and their parents; potential students and parents, as well as lapsed and future donors; established donors, faculty, staff and board members; and media. After research and focus groups, we developed the following positioning:

Pearson College creates fearless international agents of change.

The word fearless was essential, and game-changing, for the college. Faculty and administration realized that they were asking students to come from around the world to complete a world-class curriculum in often their third or fourth language. In order to grow and succeed, the school needed to become as fearless as its students.

Who's going to have the fearlessness to lead — and the confidence to follow?

From the strategy grew the communication materials. To encourage student applications, we created a mailer that posed a series of intriguing questions that unfolded to a poster describing the Pearson experience.

While the mailer was sent to high schools across Canada, we felt that we could better reach students directly online, and created an admissions video. As there was a next-to-nothing budget, we stuck to graphics, creating a powerful message, still on brand, that garnered over 25,000 hits during its two-year run.

"Great work, it has created good buzz on campus. The main like is that it is about the person reading it and not about Pearson. You rock."

David Hawley, Pearson College Head of School

Who's going to dare to be themselves?

The website needed to appeal to a broad audience that included current students and educators, potential students and their families, alumni, donors and media. The site (it has since been redesigned) featured striking black and white backdrop images against panels of colour and copy. To encourage our audiences to visit often, we built interactive modules, including Pearson Asks (a monthly question), and an alumni questionnaire.

We continued to evolve the campaign for Pearson until 2016. The work included strategy, writing and design for a general brochure that declared the college “Canada’s School,” refreshed identity materials, annual giving campaigns, a legacy giving campaign, a quarterly newsletter, stewardship reports, promotional items and so on.

While we created a number of annual reports for the school, our favourite was 2011’s. At 72 pages, we had intended it to be digital only, but the Head of College liked it so much that he asked to have it printed. It was such a hit with alumni and donors that it was reprinted twice.

Who’s going to have the integrity to ask, “How can I help?” not, “What can you do for me?”

Combo built such a strong relationship with Pearson’s Head of School that even though he is now based in Europe, we continue to work with him as trusted advisors on strategy and creative for the educational institution he currently oversees — one of the oldest and largest international schools in the world.

We are so grateful that we had the opportunity to collaborate with Pearson College. While the strategy was developed in 2011, it has aged remarkably well, still relevant nearly a decade on. We consider our work for the school a terrific example of how a brand strategy that truly defines who you are and what you stand for can inspire and impact everyone who experiences it.

The Combo combo:

Creative direction + writing: Su T Fitterman
Strategy: Rikia Saddy
Design: Christina Lauer
Photography: Darrell Lecorre
Illustration: Chairman Ting
Video animation: Michelle Lam

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