Tippie marketing students help develop new brand for the Herbert Hoover Library and Museum
Wednesday, May 1, 2024

by Tom Snee

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum opened in West Branch in 1962, just the second such institution dedicated to preserving presidential legacies and one of the few National Park Service operations in Iowa. 

Its first significant renovation is planned for 2025 and museum leaders wanted to develop a plan to communicate the changes, as well as boost attendance and fundraising. They’ve turned to a group of UI Tippie College of Business students to help. 

The five Tippie students are a part of the college’s Marketing Institute, a three-semester program that gives top junior and senior marketing majors practical experience helping organizations solve real-world marketing and branding challenges. 

Iowa Outreach

Peggy Stover, associate professor of practice in marketing and institute director, says its immersion field program gives students experience working with businesses ranging from startups to Fortune 500 organizations. Past clients have included Fox Sports, Allscripts, Channel Fusion, Eagle View Health Center, Green Golf Partners, Open Loop Health, and The Tile Shop.

Stover also makes a point to line up client engagements that will benefit public entities in Iowa. Past public clients have included city governments in Muscatine, Mason City, Sioux City, and Clinton, and the Iowa Board of Regents. Stover said the engagements provide learning opportunities for marketing majors considering careers outside the private business sector.

“For students who want to work for a nonprofit, or a government or public agency—which is vastly different than working for a for-profit business—this gives them experience that will support their career directions,” she said.

She also said it’s one more way the University of Iowa can help the state solve its challenges.

“It’s important to give back to the state and provide value to those we serve,” she said. “So many people in these communities have told us how grateful they are for our work.”

Freshening up Hoover's brand

This year, the institute is working with the museum foundation on a new communications plan because of its importance to the state of Iowa and potential to strengthen the Iowa City-area tourism economy. Shelly Mott, executive director of development and planned giving for the Herbert Hoover Foundation that supports the museum, said they were looking for help developing ideas for an overall brand refresh to coincide with the museum’s $20 million renovation. The 2025 renovation, expected to last 12-15 months, will add a new glass atrium to the building and overhaul the interior with new interactive exhibits that make a visit more of an experience. 

The students started working with the museum foundation in Fall 2023, meeting with members and conducting their own research that was presented to the board in April. Their work uncovered a general lack of public awareness of the museum and its events, even among the organization’s members. For instance, a survey of University of Iowa faculty, staff, students, and retirees showed little awareness of the museum that was less than a half-hour from campus. A survey of members, meanwhile, showed little awareness of the museum’s events and speakers, with many learning about activities from local media after their conclusion.

They said the foundation’s most noticeable challenge is an aging brand.

“The brand is more than 20 years old and needs a refresh,” said Sarah Phan, a student team member from Altoona, Iowa. The students cited the logo in particular, which they said looked cluttered and suggested it should be replaced with something simpler and more modern that will match the contemporary look of the renovated museum. 

The students also suggested the foundation establish a more consistent and strategic social media presence that makes storytelling and interaction a priority over making announcements. Their research showed that word-of-mouth is one of the most frequent methods that people learned about events, so they should develop a social media strategy that gets people talking. 

Other student team members included Anna McDonald of Knoxville, Iowa, Grayson Kilburn of Warsaw, Ind., Marisa Vasilevich of Chicago, and Caroline Peavy of River Forest, Ill. Mott was impressed with their work and appreciated their ideas. 

“We love having the fresh perspectives of students with new ideas and we’re excited to be working with them on a project so important to the state of Iowa and to local tourism,” Mott said. 

Media contact: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010 (o); 319-541-8434 (c); tom-snee@uiowa.edu