Focus groups end for “Fearless Minds”

NMU finished conducting focus groups across campus this week for the “Fearless Minds” branding campaign of the university. Northern began the branding initiative with President Les Wong in 2011, according to Martha Haynes, vice president for advancement.

“We’re really exploring on ‘how do we make this work,’” Haynes said. “The Board of Trustees when Dr. Les Wong was here actually charged the university with rebranding itself. It’s a process that will continue on ever after President Haynes is gone and there’s a new president.”



The focus groups finished with six student focus groups, two staff and faculty groups during last week as well as two community groups for more feedback.

According to Martha Haynes, the focus groups have brought good insight to the university’s branding and that students have been thoughtful during the process.

“The students have been awesome,” Martha Haynes said. “They’ve come in maybe with a little bit of apprehension but they’ve all been very open minded and willing to give feedback. I appreciate that they’re taking the time to come out and hear more about it.”

Amber Lopota, president of ASNMU and student member of the branding work group that started in October and has been working with Genesis to get the student body involved and informed in the process of branding.

“Upon entering the student energy has been pretty oppositional. They’ve only heard two words being thrown around ‘fearless minds’ and they have no idea what the context is going to be so naturally they’re upset going into something like that,” Lopota said. “But as the context gets exposed and discussion starts to unfold a majority of the students I saw left the focus groups feeling content and really understanding why this is happening which is something that wasn’t addressed in the big reveal and understanding why it was necessary.”

The brand is still a work in progress but plans are being made to have a rebrand go out for everyone to see sometime early in the Winter 2014 semester.  Haynes said the changes will take place incrementally but that the first pieces being developed will be using some of a new branding strategy for recruitment pieces.

“We’re taking all this feedback and we’re going to tweak it,” Haynes said. “What we’re talking about now is can this compliment ‘Northern Naturally’ not replace it; it was never intended as a replacement.”

“It’s a progression and we’re just at that stage of this process where I don’t know where it will end up,” Haynes said.  “I think we’re getting close but we need to take all these focus group comments into consideration before we do the final, and what that will be and how that will roll into what we’re already doing.”

According to Haynes, NMU plans to reach out to the NMU community further by filming one of the Genesis presentations for faculty and staff, students and the community that were unable to attend one of the focus groups.

“We had to be strategic in what students we invited because we couldn’t accommodate all the students,” Haynes said. “You don’t want to invite so many people that you have to turn them all away because that’s another negative experience.”

Haynes said the presentation will be around 25 minutes and will be available as a way for the community to see the context behind ‘fearless minds’ and leave feedback.

Lopota said  for this presentation to be successful that students should take the time to participate and voice their opinion on the brand.

“I hear a lot of talk and a lot of talk on social media, everywhere I go it’s ‘branding, branding, branding and fearless minds’ but I saw 180 invitations go out to students and only 37 RSVP. I found it just crushing that more people weren’t jumping on board.”

“If there are students that are really feeling strongly we do have the capacity to expose them to the context. I’d be willing to do that. I don’t think that anyone should be running around not know what’s going on. This is their school. This is our home.”

“I encourage students to be open minded, I don’t expect them to all like ‘fearless minds’ or whatever we come up with but to just be open minded.”

“Send email communication to ASNMU or come to one of our formal meetings and get on record so we can connect them with a representative that is versed in the campaign and really understands what is happening so they can inform them.”


  • Sam
    November 21, 2013 | Permalink |

    It says that 180 invitations went out and only 37 replied BUT I know that many people invited were invited more than once. I got three myself for being involved with different things. These numbers may be deceiving

  • Mike J
    November 21, 2013 | Permalink |

    I went to one of the groups and frankly came in not liking the slogan. After hearing their pitch and seeing the materials, I see its value. The branding agency set out to create an edgy 21st century slogan designed to get 17-20 year old potential students to take a second or longer look at NMU. When you look at the other promotional materials based on Fearless Minds, you see their value. The theme is that an NMU education positions you for success and overcoming obstacles. That has real value. It also puts the NMU faculty in a very good light as facilitators of this ability. It does work quite well.

    Lots of faculty and older folks don’t like it. But the slogan is not for them and it does not matter all that much if they dislike it. It is for students looking at colleges. They like the concept of being considered fearless and able to overcome what may face them in their careers. Northern Naturally is just a catchy play on the environment. It says nothing about what it can do for the student. Its dated. Go with it.

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