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Strategy case study. SRH Berlin: the values behind the brand

This special feature is sponsored by SRH Berlin.

The six schools that make up SRH Berlin University of Applied Sciences – Berlin School of Design and Communication, Berlin School of Technology, Berlin School of Management, and Berlin School of Popular Arts, Dresden School of Management, and SRH Campus Hamburg – were unified under a new brand in late 2020. The new brand programme applies not only to SRH Berlin but to the entire SRH organisation, and it is the product of a years-long research and development effort.

“Our brand is built on an authentic commitment to quality and service going back almost 70 years,” says Oana Lelcu, marketing and sales director at SRH Berlin. “That commitment translates within the university into an understanding that every person learns differently, and that learning needs to be both instructive and fun. Our task is to provide each student with the education best suited to their needs and goals; help pave the way for an accomplished life.”

Those underlying values trace back to the very origins of SRH Education & Health, which from its beginnings as a non-profit foundation has grown into a major health and education provider operating private universities, training centres, schools, and hospitals; employing more than 16,000; and reaching almost 1.3 million customers, students and patients. SRH was founded after the second World War to provide rehabilitation and training for veterans. It continues to operate as a non-profit foundation today and that commitment to quality of service, alongside its founding mission of improving peoples’ lives, carries through to the present day.

And it was that true line of care and service that shone through as SRH started working through a comprehensive rebranding initiative more than two years ago. The process was led by Martin et Karczinski, a top agency based in Munich and well-known for its work with category leaders such as Lufthansa, Swiss Air, and Audi. The work of developing the new brand unfolded over multiple phases and with the input of more than 1,000 SRH employees.

“What this means for us is that we now have our unique colours, matching our core values” explains Ms. Lelcu. “The bold choice of orange for the education unit within SRH literally translates the passion for life and education that fuels us, along with the deep sense of commitment and responsibility we feel towards our students’ future.”

“After all, it’s not the degree students dream of” she adds. “They dream of an exciting university life and getting a career in the end – and that is precisely our mission.

As a non-profit foundation, SRH has a strong social mandate and at SRH Berlin we have a genuine commitment to delivering quality education programmes at an affordable price.”

That last point is an interesting one and it speaks to the underlying importance of authenticity in a brand position. It is one thing to say that you offer quality programmes or that affordability is important to your university. But it is quite another to back that up with real supports that provide international students with better access to higher education.

SRH Berlin brings this idea to life with financial aid for students visiting from other European Union countries. The university’s Education Fund programme provides “Study Now, Pay Later” financing for EU students, with repayments only starting once the student’s post-graduation income rises above a specified threshold.

Illustrating the repayment cycle for “study now, pay later” participants.

Scholarship supports are available for non-EU students as well. The Deutschlandstipendium programme, for example, provides a monthly stipend of €300 for a year or more. And the SRH Berlin Scholarship Programme provides funding for the first-year tuition fees to a selection of talented, motivated students.

The relevance of such supports to the new SRH brand is clear. When any organisation reflects its core values in this way, it makes a brand so much more than a new colour or logo, or even a new website. It creates a true expression of the shared purpose and goals of the university, staff, and students. That is the test of integrity and authenticity that any great brand has to meet, and it bodes well for the future of SRH Berlin under its new identity.

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