East Carolina University wants to only be called ECU

Published: Aug. 30, 2017 at 7:57 PM EDT
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There's a change coming to East Carolina University that administrators hope will give the university the prestige and recognition it's lived up to now with 30,000 students and multiple academic disciplines.

East Carolina University wants to be called just ECU, similar to universities that also go by their initials, like TCU, UCLA, and LSU.

Chief communication's officer, Tom Eppes, said in a statement, "One challenge in communicating the stature of today's ECU was the branding, which did not seem consistent with the look of other national universities."

After a survey of more than 8,500 people, more than 80% wanted to see an elevate brand and moniker for ECU.

Eppes said that too commonly the name was misused as "Eastern Carolina" instead of "East Carolina".

We spoke to a few students and alumni members about their reactions to the change.

"I like the new change because hopefully a lot more people will recognize our school, because we're not that popular, but still kinda of popular," says freshman Parker Merchant.

"East Carolina University has been a staple in Eastern Carolina for years and to change the name now, I don't think it would be a good idea," says ECU alum Jeremy Blizzard.

The university is rolling out the changes gradually. While the new logo can be seen on some websites and letterhead, they plan to have the switch complete by mid-September.

Read the full statement by Eppes below:

Chancellor Cecil Staton recommended an update of the East Carolina University branding elements, including logo, stationery, signage, website, etc., in order to better represent the leading national university the institution has become. He recalled being surprised during the search process for a new chancellor that the university’s nationally recognized work was not better known. There’s some amount of frustration that people west of I-95 don’t know that ECU enrollment is close to 30,000 students, with faculty and several colleges gaining national attention for their work. Established more than 100 years ago as a teachers college, the university now offers 85 bachelor’s degrees, 72 master’s degrees and 19 doctoral degrees in a wide range of fields. ECU has the largest number of business majors among N.C. universities and graduates the largest number of nurses and health care workers of any four-year institution in the state. The university also produces more teachers and education staff than any other university in the state. And it’s Brody School of Medicine has gained national attention for research in cancer, diabetes, and other diseases, and for producing doctors who stay in North Carolina to practice primary care.

One challenge in communicating the stature of today’s ECU was the branding, which did not seem consistent with the look of other national universities. Most use a seal or some iconic structure associated with the university. A study of branding by other national universities followed a survey of faculty, staff, alumni and students, as well as focus groups and discussions generated through social media, to determine whether there was support for a change in graphics and in the way the university was commonly described. Everyone seemed to refer to the university as ECU, but the branding then in place still leaned toward East Carolina University. Too, it was common to hear the name misused as “Eastern Carolina” instead of “East Carolina.”

There are many factors to consider in changing a name.

· How much equity is there in the old name? Are you leaving significant value behind?

· How easy will it be for people to remember the new name?

· How easy will it be to create a brand, a logo, with the new name?

· How easy will it be to create signage, printed materials, uniforms and other branded materials?

· Is it possible to own the new name? Can it be confused with another organization?

· How will long-time supporters react? Will they embrace the new name?

· Does it work well with current communications tools – such as the website?

· Does it communicate something different that’s important to the future of the organization?

Changing to ECU was as natural as Federal Express Company becoming FedEx.

· Most people were calling the university ECU already. There’s no big challenge in creating awareness for it.

· It’s already used in the website address.

· The shorter name is much easier to apply to uniforms, merchandise and printed materials.

· It’s ownable. No one else uses ECU. In fact, it’s trademarked for this university and has been for many years. Contrast that with university acronyms like OSU, MSU, FSU and BU, which are each used by many universities. On the other hand, universities like LSU, NYU, BYU, UCLA and UNLV (formerly Nevada Southern) have become very well known by their acronyms.

· This change solves a problem that’s been annoying for years to lots of ECU stakeholders – that people sometimes mistakenly referred to us as Eastern Carolina University, as opposed to Western Carolina University. This solves any confusion about the name.

· Too, the change allows us to broaden our reach. ECU has grown to almost 30,000 students from across North Carolina and from across the United States. What was once a university focused only on eastern North Carolina continues to serve the region but now serves a much larger geography and is involved in research that has national or global implications, not just regional solutions.

· Too, it’s a change that fans can easily get behind. We didn’t take that for granted however. Research was conducted that indicated more than 80 percent of those surveyed supported ECU as the name and the development of a new logo.

· And finally, it addresses a need to update the reputation of the university. The chancellor, Cecil Staton, quickly picked up on the frustration of stakeholders that people west of I-95 didn’t know much about East Carolina University. It was perceived to be for eastern North Carolina only. But the university has grown substantially, in enrollment and in its research capacity. It’s having a national impact and deserves to be included among the great national universities. Changing the primary reference to “ECU” creates an opportunity to update the university brand to more accurately communicate its capabilities today, much different than it was yesterday.

Support for the change was expressed by more than 80 percent of respondents to our survey. The logo, which features the university’s historic Cupola, has been introduced through a variety of printed and electronic materials kicking off the new academic year, and the response has been very positive. A new tagline, Capture Your Horizon, appears in marketing environments. And a new website home page will launch in mid-September. The new look will appear on the university’s new television commercial which will appear during televised football games and other athletic events, as well as some primetime programming. The goal is to ensure North Carolinians, from the mountains to the coast, know that ECU has become one of the state’s great national universities.