Market workshop results revealed

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A marketing research firm retained by the University has revealed the results of workshops in which more than 600 SVSU students, faculty, staff and members participated during September and October.

Dartlet, a leading reputation strategy firm, hosted one reveal session on Wednesday, Dec. 2, and two sessions on Thursday, Dec. 3, to communicate the results of 22 live workshops in which 595 people participated and an online workshop in which 309 people participated.

These results, intended to get a sense of what the University is and what it aspires to be, will ultimately culminate in a new reputation strategy and communication platform for SVSU.

According to Dartlet’s website, its research-driven, consensus-built, objective approach “reveals the unseen and delivers clarity and metamorphosis for entities in need of change, revitalization and growth.”

In each workshop, participants were posed questions about the personality and “best, authentic Self” of the University.

Market researchers at Dartlet use a psychological categorization that classifies entities’ initial personality types as one of nine color categories, which include artisan, monarch, entertainer, dreamer, contender, neighbor, rebel, wizard and discoverer.

The live workshops concluded the University could be categorized as a guide, provider and neighbor. Nearly 60 percent of participants concluded the University is a neighbor, 22.3 percent believed it is a contender and 10.7 percent said it is enthusiastic.

Then, a separate categorization sought to describe the personality the University aspires to adopt. Thirty-three percent of participants said SVSU aspires to be a trailblazer, 38 percent said it aspires to be an innovator, 12.6 percent said it aspires to be enthusiastic and 10.7 percent said it aspired to be a creator.

Results of online workshops showed similar trends, but these were used only as comparisons to the results of live workshops. Because the online workshops were not conducted in controlled environments, their results were not used to influence other data.

The next part of the study’s methodology sought to discover the University’s mode of attraction.

Forty-one percent of participants indicated that SVSU’s mode of attraction was “join me.” This indicates that SVSU is an entity that calls students and prospective students to join who it is as a university.

Slightly less than 50 percent of participants indicated SVSU is not a rebel, 39.6 percent said it is not elegant or refined and 8.9 percent said that it is not powerful and assertive.

However, that is considered a point of contention; although this particular section of the study concluded that 8.9 percent of participants said SVSU is not powerful and assertive, 10 percent of participants on a separate section of the study claimed that SVSU is powerful and assertive.

The third section of the workshop offered participants a list of descriptive words; they were then asked to select words they thought best described the University.

These word selections were crafted into a word cloud, the most prominent descriptors being approachable, supportive, dedicated and safe. About 40 percent of the word cloud’s content was consistent with the purple neighbor archetype.

However, only 8.7 percent of the words in the cloud were words previously dictated as aspirations for the University.

Dartlet market researchers said this seems to indicate SVSU has aspirations higher than it is able to attain, or aspirations not likely to be met.

The fourth section of the workshop prompted participants to discuss the University’s weaknesses.

Twelve percent of participants saw the University as bland and boring, while 8.45 percent thought that SVSU was money-minded.

A separate external workshop series that was conducted with residents of Bay City, Saginaw and Midland revealed community members aren’t exactly sure how to place SVSU as a University.

Forty-eight percent of those polled externally concluded that SVSU was not subject to any major weaknesses, but 11 percent agreed with the claim that SVSU was money-minded and 9 percent agreed with the claim that it was bland and boring.

The conclusions drawn from these workshops were used to form what Dartlet calls a cause philosophy, which sums up why an organization exists in three words without mentioning product, people or profit.

It was determined that the University exists to “unleash infinite opportunities.”

This is not a slogan created for the school, but a communication tool intended to help the University reach its goals.

The final conclusions drawn from the Dartlet workshops show that SVSU today is pale purple, which means it fits into a nice neighbor archetype.

As a university, SVSU is not a contender nor is it enthusiastic; it’s just nice.

Dartlet marketing researchers believe the University’s current aspirations are somewhat unreasonable. Even with millions of dollars and 30 years of work, it seems unlikely SVSU could ever meet its stated goals.

The researchers suggested that SVSU should aspire to be the best with its current personality — a supportive environment passionately dedicated to excellence and service — rather than try to be what other universities are.

The implementation of these research conclusions will be taught through training sessions with each department; these sessions are slated to begin in the winter semester.

The University has also retained The Image Group, a Michigan-based branding and marketing firm, to help implement the conclusions of this research.