Communicating the Brand
The new image of UTM in terms of placement of logo and typeface with its name to the right of its insignia
A Brand Defined
Our personal identity and the image that we project tell others a lot about who we are. Organisations too have their own brand identity. But what exactly is a brand? A brand has been defined in many ways. Some look at it from the spiritual perspective, referring to brand as the ‘soul’ of the organization in relation to what it believes in, and the values and virtue associated with the organisation. Others view brand as the summation of an organisation’s attributes and values, and a representation of what it stands for. A brand can also be seen as the culmination of the visual, emotional, rational and cultural image and identity associated with the organisation. A brand therefore entails both the ‘intangible’ elements related to the intrinsic value and principles that guide an organisation, and the ‘tangible’ or physical elements that relate to external forms and appearance.
Another definition of a brand is the “collective intent of the people behind it” (Stengel, 2008). Stengel further added that we must put people at the centre of everything we do. This is important because in a service organization such as UTM, the people are the brand. The ideal brand that UTM aspires to achieve needs to be articulated and communicated clearly so that the whole university community has a clear direction towards achieving a common goal and stay united behind a single brand identity.
The emotional connection to the brand that we subscribe to is crucial to engage the heart and mind towards the same intent and purpose. Shared value creation should therefore be the ultimate goal, with the hope that the experience and learning gained from the whole exercise will ultimately become a culture of the organization in the strive for distinction and excellence.
Importance of a Brand Initiative
In an increasingly challenging and competitive global environment in the field of higher education, a brand initiative is important for UTM to remain relevant, competitive and dynamic especially now with more than 61 institutions of higher learning in the country. As such, UTM has taken the initiative to establish and promote its brand for the following reasons :
• To enhance the visibility of UTM and position itself more prominently as a credible higher learning institution
• To establish UTM’s image, identity and reputation locally and abroad
• To communicate the intrinsic value and principles in which UTM subscribes to in terms of our value system, knowledge culture, academic idealism, intellectual ecosystem, community engagement and outreach, and work culture.
The focus of UTM’s brand initiative is thus on identity building, image creation and establishing reputation. The aim is to formalise and share with others the brand that UTM aspires to project, not just among the university community but also among peers in higher learning, locally and internationally. Various steps have thus been taken into consideration to instill the awareness among the UTM community, especially the academic community, of the value system that UTM is ascribing to so that everyone has a clear direction of the roadmap the university is taking. This is important to instill focus and clarity while generating engagement and commitment among all the university staff.
It is however important to make everyone realize that the basic notion of building brands is not merely about changing, or creating an impression. It is a way of looking at how we can harness and manage our potential in the most effective and efficient way to remain relevant and competitive. In response to the current demands and expectations in higher learning, there is a need for change in the way in which we function and operate as an institution of higher learning. What is important to note is that it is not about doing different things but doing things differently in the most purposeful and meaningful way to make a difference.
With its focus on excellence in engineering, science and technology, UTM’s main objective is to produce graduates who are competent and responsible to their Creator and the community. The university’s mission to be a leader in the development of human capital and innovative technologies and vision to be a world class centre of academic and technological excellence would be the key guiding principle in the way in which the university functions and operates, based on the university’s motto “For God and Mankind”.
Tangible Elements of Branding
This refers to the image creation to enhance the corporate image of UTM through physical images and external forms. This visual identity will be the signature that unifies UTM with a single, strong brand that is distinct and easily identifiable. The placement of our logo and typeface is important to project UTM’s image, and the principles in which it serves and function. As such, the logo and name symbol should always be used together to form the complete signature, which reflects UTM as a steadfast, strong and scholarly institution. The affiliations of academics as well as support staff to the various faculties, departments, centres of excellence, research alliances and other units will be clearly depicted in the namecards. At the same time, based on our heritage and history, the corporate colours of UTM are maroon, gold and moccasin or sand colour, which signify certain essential traits, standards and value that reflect UTM’s identity and image. The use of these colours will be consistent in all forms of printed materials and other media.
A complete nomenclature system for all forms of publication and communication medium has been developed and documented as a guide to ensure that the UTM signature remains intact and consistent at all times. UTM has also adopted the tagline ‘Inspiring Creative and Innovative Minds’ in place of the usual phrase used to describe UTM, ‘A Premier University in Engineering and Technology’. This tagline is in line with the Ministry’s goal of inculcating creativity and innovation in our students. The new image and visual identity, which will be reflective of the values and principles that UTM subscribes to will be the brand that the whole community of UTM will uphold and carry to project UTM as a distinct and prominent institution of higher learning.
The Value Creation of UTM
Apart from the ‘tangible’ brand initiative, UTM also aspires to instil the intrinsic value among the university community that will be reflective of the principles in which the university stands for. This is to create a positive, recognizable and distinguishable identity for UTM.
The four main strategic thrusts of UTM as highlighted by the Vice-Chancellor, Dato’ Prof. Ir. Dr. Zaini Ujang are as follows:
1. To contribute to human capital development by providing quality education
2. To provide leadership and contribution through research and innovation
3. To achieve desirable image and branding that fulfils the requirements of stakeholders
4. To contribute to society through community engagement and outreach
The four thrusts would be the premise in which UTM operates and functions to achieve its goals and aspiration, guided by UTM’s philosophy, mission and vision and benchmarked by global academic culture and values. UTM takes into consideration critical issues of importance for a higher learning institution such as research focus, refereed publication, knowledge culture, internationalisation, branding, performance appraisal, teamwork, and students’ soft skills, to name a few. This is to ensure that UTM is at par with other renowned and established institutions or at least strive to reach the standard expected.
The value system to be adopted and the academic culture that UTM aspires to instill were then deliberated in a comprehensive and rigorous Strategic Planning for UTM Transformation exercise which set clear targets and expectations in the form of a Key Performance Indicator (KPI-bound) Management System. The transformation and restructuring plan of UTM were clearly spelt out, disseminated and permeated to the whole university community at all levels to ensure that there is shared mission, vision and purpose towards achieving the targets and goals specified.
As part of the Strategic Planning exercise, the value system to be adopted by UTM has been translated into a Balanced Score Card in the form of the UTM CORPORATE STRATEGY MAP which outlines the strategic thrusts and objectives to be achieved based on the Stakeholders’ Perspective, Internal Processes Perspective and Learning and Growth Perspective. The KPIs and Initiatives to achieve the objectives were then cascaded to the whole of the university community so that there will be unity in mindset with a shared understanding of what UTM aspires to achieve. In accomplishing the goal, the need to work collectively in the spirit of teamwork and togetherness is emphasised. The action plan, which is based on consensus, has measurable and achievable KPIs which will be implemented and monitored in a more efficient way. The focus is on key-enabling factors with clear deliverables in promotion exercise.
The Transformation Plan of UTM
Three levels of transformation have been identified to realize the goals of UTM, namely:
• Culture Transformation
• Research and Innovation Transformation
• Teaching and Learning Transformation
As part of the Culture Transformation, the university should be seen as a conducive environment for more discourse and intellectual exchange with vibrant educational and scholarly activities that engage the mind and thinking, not just among staff but students as well. The university should thus be seen as creating the right ambience for intellectual growth both formally and informally. One example of an initiative towards this end is the ‘Engaging Knowledge Culture’ programme jointly organized by the Council of Professors and the Sultanah Zanariah Library. Several signature programmes in the pipeline which have been planned include the University Presidents’ Forum for Global Academic Network, and the CEO Technology Forum, to name a few, as well as the continuous Intellectual Discourse programmes frequently held at the university.
At the same time, the academic community are expected to be IT-savvy, adept with the use of technology. Most importantly, the culture transformation calls for the celebration of team spirit and team effort, an important element towards achieving the aspiration of UTM.
Research and Innovation Transformation
The Research and Innovation Transformation calls for a restructuring of the research set-up in UTM to make it more effective and dynamic. All academic staff are to be attached to research centres, with ‘idea-cluster’ groups formed. The research community is thus encouraged to form Research Alliances (RA) related to diverse areas of expertise or multidisciplinary fields to inculcate interconnectivity aimed towards a sectoral approach to research initiatives. This move is deemed necessary to encourage researchers to be actively involved in multidisciplinary high-end research and to be publication-citation-driven. This is to ensure increased scholarly publication and citation in high impact journals by the UTM academic staff to achieve better ranking and recognition at international level. At the same time, involvement of staff in Global Alliance programmes is also encouraged to spur research and publication effort.
In addition, quality management of research and postgraduate students is given emphasis to encourage and facilitate a more vibrant research culture at the university. Intellectual property-driven initiatives are also encouraged. Ultimately, outstanding leadership and contribution in research and innovation are called for in order for UTM to become a notable and outstanding research institute.
Teaching and Learning Transformation
In terms of the Teaching and Learning Transformation, the focus should be on education and not training. The approach to undergraduate programmes should be broad-based with an emphasis on problem-based curricula. This is to ensure more wholesome graduates equipped with competent skills and credible attributes to function effectively in the workplace environment.
At the same time, there is a need to ensure up-to-date and industry-relevant curriculum. Most importantly, continuous academic quality improvement is necessary to ensure quality academic programmes that meet standard requirements specified by the Malaysia Qualification Framework and the Professional Accreditation Boards. To support the Teaching and Learning Transformation, the aspiration of the university is to have a world class digital infrastructure in the near future.
In addition, there is a need to encourage strong national and international linkages and academic exchange programmes both among students and academic staff. The aim is to obtain international recognition and strengthen collaborative efforts in diverse areas of expertise. This will also earn UTM a respectable and reputable standing locally and internationally which will ultimately improve its visibility and branding capability.
The UTM staff is also encouraged to participate in community engagement and outreach programmes through its University Social Responsibility (USR) initiatives. This is UTM’s commitment to support the community at large by collaborating with the industry towards a noble cause of helping and improving the lives of people in need. There have already been various projects implemented for this purpose and more have been planned in future.
With all the strategies put in place and action taken by the university community at all levels to achieve the goals specified, UTM aspires to eventually become a notable Technological Research University in the region. It is also committed to instilling a culture of academic excellence and inculcating a passion for knowledge and intellectual growth through a scholarly environment in a conducive social atmosphere on campus. The drive to instill a collegial culture among the university community towards achieving the goals set by the university and the strive for continuous improvement will be the driving force to steer UTM in its pursuit of excellence.