Creating a Digital Front Door for a Complex, Sophisticated Research Group

The Applied Biological and Biosecurity Research Laboratory (ABRL) needed marketing help. Like many of our higher ed clients, they came with two sets of goals.

First, they needed to make sure their brand-new organization felt polished and sophisticated, not only to academic audiences but also to government, corporate, and non-profit groups. ABRL was assembling world-class researchers, and they were already in conversation with world leaders. Their identity as a group had to reflect that level of maturity.

Second, they needed support explaining their message and reaching out on a digital platform. A full website — deeper than most research lab sites, with a robust ability to share press and news. Digital analytics to help them understand where in the world (literally) their message was sinking in. And all of this in a format that could be managed by non-technical staff.

Project Goals

1

Make a splash with a sophisticated website and visual identity

At the top of their list of needs was a website and a visual identity. Both needed a high level of sophistication to position the lab appropriately.

2

Understand and prioritize audiences

ABRL works with universities, global governments, non-profit agencies, and corporations. That’s a broad set of audiences. Before we started, we had to define and prioritize who we were talking to and why.

3

Create a strategic plan

The lab’s work was already outstanding, but they were brand-new to marketing. How could we grow their marketing presence, one piece at a time, into a solid system to spread the news about their good work?

4

Develop an information architecture

While planning their site, ABRL didn’t just need a page map, they needed an information architecture that would clearly show the types of messaging that belonged in each website section — now and in the future

5

Stay fresh and relevant

They didn’t want the classic research-group problem of creating a website that lingers untouched for a decade. They needed to be able to post regular updates with news, press info, and the (excellent) photographs taken by their researchers around the world.

6,000


At Penn State, ABRL has access to over 6,000 expert faculty members. Working with departments, institutes, and centers across the University——ABRL can access not only cutting-edge labs and equipment but also the minds that make it work. Having a solid website presence builds credibility, allowing ABRL to build these valuable partnerships internally and around the globe.

Discovery

Getting to know ABRL’s world was a treat. From government leaders to researchers and global non-profits, the people they work with are doing really, really interesting work. What we brought to the table was a new lens. ABRL was focused on what type of research each entity needed and how that could be matched with University resources. We were able to focus on what the audiences wanted to hear in order to trust ABRL, get a general sense of the group’s capabilities, and pick up the phone for a conversation.

Strategy

ABRL works in global health: specifically, doing research and interventions to understand and control disease emergence. (Seems particularly relevant post-COVID, right?) Their audiences are broad and the topics they need to cover are serious. At a high level, after researching and speaking to many of their partners and audience members, we realized how important it was to keep their online messaging brand-level, focused on expertise, experience, and partnerships. The website content itself would never be the right place to dive into the details of their bovine tuberculosis work or antimicrobial resistance capabilities. But, that work was a cornerstone of their credibility. So we developed a content plan that gave them high-level messages to return to, and we designed their website with sophisticated information architecture to feature detailed research papers where needed. Instant credibility.

Design

The visual identity played out on ABRL’s website had to (of course) fit within the University brand, but it also needed its own look and feel. We developed a visual approach that highlighted the group’s global reach and played with the idea of contagion without becoming too literal or off-putting. We also relied heavily on wildlife photos for this site, since that’s a central focus of their research. The groups director takes excellent photos on his travels, so we were able to incorporate those for a unique and personalized visual identity.

Development

The website needed to be a little bit of everything: university and corporate, simple and sophisticated, detailed and high level. The information architecture was aimed at providing different types of information and messaging at different levels. And the development itself was focused on creating and easy-to-update website that could be managed internally by ABRL’s own non-technical resources. Using WordPress and a modifiable stripe-based design, we delivered just that, complete with a future-oriented strategy for how the information architecture and messaging could mature over time.

Awards and Recognition
CP Squared logo

2019 CP2 Bracket Award

Category: Online/Digital Website

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