Brand Messages

Brand Platform

What separates us from the hundreds of colleges and universities in California and the thousands of institutions across the country? What does Cal Poly do differently — and even better — than all the rest of them? The answer to these critical questions can be found in our positioning.

Based on comprehensive discovery and research, our Brand Platform reveals the key insights that establish our positioning and guide our brand strategy. Ultimately, these elements all work together to describe the scope and impact of our most important differentiator: Learn by Doing.

  • Brand Position presents our strongest and most unique position in the market. This is not a tagline, but rather, a simple, distilled phrase that forms a foundational point for our strategy.
  • Brand Pillars further define our competitive advantage through our three biggest strengths: what we believe in, what connects people to us, and what we do differently (and better) than other institutions.
  • Personality helps us establish and maintain a consistent tone throughout our communications.
  • Our Foundation uses strong yet non-differentiating pride points.
Brand Position
People and problem-solving centered in California and impacting the world.
Brand Pillars


(our approach to education)

We educate the head and the hand, readying accomplished students who value the link between knowledge and application and are confident in their ability to make an impact.


(how we do it)

We focus on putting learning into practice by working across disciplines and having extensive partnerships to address today’s (and tomorrow’s) most pressing challenges.


(our impact on others)

We make a difference every day in industries, communities and lives across California and around the world.



Energetic, yet disciplined approach to discovery.


Engaged, hands-on approach to collaboration.


Confident individuals with experience in problem-solving.


Uniquely California

Comprehensive Polytechnic

Undergraduate Education

Academic Rigor


Brand Narrative

The role of a narrative is to lay the foundation for writing in a distinct voice, as well as to inspire the messages we communicate going forward. No matter who or what we’re writing about, our voice should stay true to the spirit of our brand narrative and our brand personality. Our narrative should be used as a guide for tone and style. Individual lines shouldn’t be copied and used directly. Instead, mirror how the language gets to the point and uses a confident, active tone to describe Learn by Doing.

Learn by Doing, Ready Day One

At Cal Poly, we believe that experience is essential — that whatever you’re learning, you learn it best when you do it for yourself. For more than a century, we’ve made this the center of everything we do.

This is a place for people who are ready to dive in head first and put knowledge into action. For those who come together from all different backgrounds to relentlessly pursue better solutions, across disciplines and boundaries. For those who know that if you want to build a better world tomorrow, you have to put in the work today.

This is Learn by Doing, and it’s what makes us ready, day one, to take on whatever comes next — from everyday challenges to the world’s most pressing problems. Cal Poly inspires us to imagine a brighter future for California, our nation and our world, and Learn by Doing empowers us to make that future a reality.

Key Marketing Definitions

Learn by Doing

As with our narrative, the definition of Learn by Doing is not necessarily to be used word-for-word in your communications, but rather to inform and inspire your writing. When writing out Learn by Doing, use an uppercase L and D. Don’t use hyphens, quotes or italics, and avoid other Learn by phrases, such as Learn by Winning or Learn by Innovating, etc.

Learn by Doing means that we don’t see a difference between the education we provide and the “real world.” Here, experiences are part of the curriculum. That’s because knowledge is inextricably linked to the world around us. To learn is to do. To do is to learn. At Cal Poly, each fuels the other.


Ready Day One

Readiness is the result of a Cal Poly education and the expression of Learn by Doing. It is more than a mindset. It is a tangible, marketable skill and an earned expertise, both hallmarks of our graduates.The phrase is only to be used when describing or showing the work of students, faculty, staff and/or alumni. Use to highlight our people, not our products. In other words, focus on the students we serve, rather than the services we offer.

From their first moments on campus, Cal Poly students are ready to dive in to their education, head-first and hands-on. It’s this eagerness to immediately contribute, combined with Learn by Doing, that prepares graduates for anything and primes them for excellence, both personally and professionally.


Brand Messages

Marketers and communicators at Cal Poly should leverage at least one of these key messages in every piece of communication they create, from press releases to feature stories to social media posts. By looking at the diverse stories of people in the Cal Poly community through the lens of these core truths and enduring messages, our storytelling can more clearly illuminate the value of our university.

Learn by Doing

Learn by Doing stories should emphasize that experience is our curriculum. The concept was born here, and it is the defining experience of our university. These examples put students in the driver’s seat as they sharpen important skills for the real world. This is our chance to expand on the familiar concept with more depth: showcase and celebrate the full continuum of the Learn by Doing process, through initial curiosity, teamwork, resilience through failure, and impact on the problem and the people solving the problem.

Ready Day One

The ultimate result of a Cal Poly education is not a good grade – it’s a lifelong state of readiness for the real world. Readiness requires that we excel at more than one thing and embracing diverse perspectives along the way. The state of readiness endures in our alumni community, driving innovation, resourcefulness and confidence.

Impact on California, Our Nation and Our World

Cal Poly is focused on solving problems in California because what’s discovered here goes on to solve the world’s problems. California taxpayers invest in Cal Poly and its people; we return the favor by educating its people and tackling its problems. Our central location gives us access to opportunities across the state so we can play a role in nearly every industry that shapes life here. Wherever you are in California, you find Cal Poly students, faculty and graduates shaping the future.

To download a content strategy worksheet to help your stories leverage Cal Poly’s brand messages, visit the University Marketing Wiki.

Voice and Tone

Each story we tell should have an authentic tone that feels distinctly Cal Poly, as well as possess a single purpose tailored to an intended audience. As such, when you write with the Cal Poly voice — especially for a general audience — you should use straightforward, practical, easy-to-understand language. Use the following writing tips as a stylistic gauge.

  1. Use everyday language
    Write clearly and in a straightforward tone avoiding jargon, clichés, acronyms or exclamation points.
  2. Know your audience
    The Cal Poly brand appeals to a wide variety of audiences. Know precisely to whom it is you’re writing.
  3. Make it personal
    Establishing a personal connection is important to getting your audience to listen to what you are saying. Use the second-person voice “you” or “your” to engage and motivate the reader, when possible.
  4. Keep it brief
    Simplicity is your friend. Establish your main point and don’t be afraid to omit unnecessary words.
  5. Focus on the present
    We have a rich history, but we’re doing our most important work right now. Demonstrate Cal Poly’s relevance by telling the world about our work today.
  6. Provide a benefit
    What’s in it for the reader? If you can’t answer this question, it’s time to pause and reconsider the piece.
  7. Prove it
    Our storytelling should feature relevant points of pride, statistics, testimonials and emotion. But use them to support our messaging, not as a substitute for it.
  8. Be active, not passive
    The Cal Poly experience is all about DOING. Avoid the passive voice. Write about people doing things rather than things being done, or even worse, just happening.
  9. Be accessible and less institutional
    Lofty knowledge is only useful when it is accessible. Address even the most elevated, complex topics in a way that keeps the audience’s understanding in mind. Use analogies, examples or graphics if necessary.
  10. California’s in our name
    Always speak to our service to California and to its subsequent impact on our world.