I’ve been tasked with reviewing an existing brand as part of the University of Cape Town Brand Management online short course I’m currently completing. This blog post serves to explore the brand identity of the GetSmarter brand, with specific focus on the visual and verbal language of the brand (only one aspect of any business’s brand identity system, which encompasses “a brand’s vision, mission, values, internal mantra, tagline, logo and visual and verbal language”).
GetSmarter’s brand promise is to help students stand out from the crowd (more often mentioned as “Set yourself apart” as depicted on their homepage, and in numerous advertisements).
Their visual and verbal language serves to reinforce this brand promise in the following ways:
GetSmarter’s logo embodies a graduation hat, that can be used as an independent, and recognisable brand symbol when used in isolation from the brand name. This is used as a favicon on their website. It’s a bright pink graduation hat, which is visually unique and recognisable – reinforcing a unique qualification: one that helps you stand out from the crowd, a unique and recognisable achievement.
GetSmarter’s colour palette is grey and pink, yet the pink is used only as an accent (you can see this on their homepage with the use of bright pink buttons. In doing so – using a bright colour as an accent against a dark, plain grey – the brand attempts to visually reinforce its brand promise of “stand out from the crowd” or “set yourself apart”, with the pink accent “standing out” against a broader palette of greys.
GetSmarter brings its brand story across through the use of student success stories, as featured on its website homepage (video content) and on social media channels through ‘Notable Achiever’ features. By focusing on real student success stories, they reinforce the authentic nature of their brand personality, as well as prove their claims that they promise to “improve lives through better education” and help their students to “stand out from the crowd”. These real-life stories, centred on relatable career challenges, help prospective students self-identify and peer validate, and ultimately believe that the GetSmarter brand can and does deliver on its promise.
The challenge with the GetSmarter brand is that it’s managed in correlation with the University brands its products represent. Thus assessing the brand identity of the GetSmarter brand in isolation is tricky. It could be comparable with Big Concerts, who represents World Famous Artists who perform live concerts served by the Big Concerts brand, or Ster Kinekor, who showcases Oscar-winning Movies. This means that the GetSmarter brand personality takes on certain characteristics by association with the brands it works with.
GetSmarter therefore acts as an extension of the University brands it “sells”. As such, their verbal language and visual brand identity serves to reinforce their positioning of offering “certified online short courses from world leading Universities”: you’ll see the use of more academic terms like a Course Prospectus for download, or an Online Campus with reference to the online learning platform; much campus imagery, and use of certificate images – all serving to reinforce the academic, university association. Their brand tone and voice tends to adopt a slightly academic personality, with a tech spin – to reinforce that they’re combining top-tier renowned education, with a solid history, with a modern mode of delivery: an online campus.
The prominence of the University logos on the GetSmarter homepage again serves to reinforce the association of the brand with the world’s leading universities. This extends to platforms like Facebook, where the header image is illustrated versions of the Universities it works with; as well as to the login page of their Online Campus, which uses moving imagery to try and recreate a real campus experience and affinity.
Where the GetSmarter brand seems to fall short is in its positioning of offering a human-centric online learning experience, which is not consistently reinforced in brand touchpoints. If this is a unique differentiator, then the brand needs to do more to communicate this through visual and verbal language. Also, the visual interpretation on Facebook is very different to that on the homepage where illustration is largely ignored. GetSmarter therefore has work to do on its verbal positioning of its product, and the visual consistency of its brand positioning across brand touchpoints.