A new reason to Know Y

By Shianna Gibbons

The first day of classes at Youngstown State University was also the first day of an official new brand.

YSU’s newest marketing campaign, “Know Y,” officially replaced the “Y and Proud” slogan many students, faculty, staff and alumni were familiar with. According to Ross Morrone, chief marketing officer, this new branding demonstrates that the YSU community knows what the university can offer.

We know we’re better than people might say we are, and that’s true for most institutions. We’re always defending ourselves in some way, and it’s time for us to stop doing that,” Morrone said. “It’s time for us to say no, this is what we are and who we are — and that’s why we ‘Know Y.’” 

The rebranding project took around eight months to launch and started in a board of trustees meeting. Morrone said you cannot establish a new marketing campaign without knowing your brand and your audience. 

A company based in Pittsburgh coordinated interviews with students, faculty and staff to figure out YSU’s brand.

Morrone said the interviews weren’t all positive or all negative, but YSU’s brand is made up of that balance and a new campaign was created.

We’re hardworking. We’re blue-collared. We’re ambitious — our students are ambitious. They don’t wait around for people to tell them what they do. They jump into things,” Morrone said. “That essence of what it means is knowing that although you might [not know] what you’re going to get out of it. You know that you made the right choice to come here.”

“Know Y” has started appearing around campus with new t-shirts, stickers, banners, social media, signs, billboards and website design. Morrone said the website design was the most costly.

Launching a new brand campaign and marketing is expensive, according to Morrone. He said the Office of Marketing and Communications annual budget was close to $400,000, but the campaign’s cost exceeded that and became an institutional investment, and conversations about the marketing budget began.

We weren’t able to afford that project the way we did … Through that, we looked at our budget … and we did a competitive analysis with other institutions around us that were sized like us. We [saw that] their budgets are way higher than ours,” Morrone said. “We got about a quadruple investment into [rebranding], and it’s still not enough for us to keep moving forward.”

Despite the large undertaking, Morrone said he feels good about the investment and ongoing conversations about the budget and how to promote YSU in bigger, more competitive markets.

“Youngstown is a very affordable market. When you get into Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Akron, the market goes up,” Morrone said. “The issue is that it’s never enough. Any marketer will tell you that we always need more money. The reality is that we have a good footing in those markets to attract, but if we want to expand more it’ll take more investment and strategic placement.”

Graduate assistant with the Office of Marketing and Communications, Trey Turner, is from Toledo, but chose YSU for new opportunities and the community. Here, Turner said he found a place full of ambitious, driven people

“We have great faculty and great advisors that push you to be successful. It’s perfect for me because just being surrounded by those people all day long is definitely helping me,” Turner said.

According to Turner, he was involved in “Know Y” before the launch, almost as an ambassador for the campaign with other student workers in the Office of Marketing and Communications.

Turner started off giving campus tours, and now Turner speaks to potential incoming students about the opportunities available.

“Going to college is like, ‘I don’t know where to go. Is Youngstown the right place?’ So, my job is to make the students know, ‘Hey, you want to come here. You’re going to be happy here.’ That takes pressure off the families as well,” Turner said.

According to Morrone, the previous brand, “Y and Proud,” is taking a step back from the spotlight and is aimed at alumni and graduates.

“There’s this kind of storytelling of, ‘Am I making the right decision? Am I going into the right program?’ Going through it and then being ‘Y and Proud’ of why you did it,” Morrone said.

Morrone also said the “Y and Proud” logos are being redesigned and will roll out soon. “Y and Proud” is slowly being phased out, and “Know Y” will be more present in and around campus, but it will be a process to shift into a new brand.