Case Study

Indiana University Online Brand Tracking

Establishing brand imagery for IU Online using multivariate testing

IU needs refined brand imagery

Hunch that current visuals don’t connect with their remote student audience.

3 brand visual variations explored

We tried connecting with students through at-home visuals compared to more physical location imagery.

49% increase in positive impressions

The imagery displaying higher education was preferred to those showing at-home environments.

Business Challenge

Indiana University’s online team saw an opportunity to update their brand imagery to align with their audience of remote, at-home students. IU Online’s current imagery was carried over from pre-Covid days, and the imagery too heavily emphasized the physical IU campus.


Over the course of 2 weeks, the IU Online and Helio teams collaborated on multiple rounds of testing their brand imagery. Initial brand themes were tested for user comprehension and impressions in week one, and then a second round of iterations was tested based on the signals from the first round in week two.

Research Goals

The IU Online team aimed to more closely align their site imagery to the lifestyles and preferences of their remote student base. The goal was to establish a baseline for brand impressions towards the current imagery, and then determine a variation that outperformed the baseline in terms of positive emotional reactions and relevance.


Starting with 3 variations of brand imagery options, each was put to the test for satisfaction and emotional impressions with a different group of 100 participants:

Brand imagery variations

Each variation of brand imagery was spread throughout content sections on the current IU Online homepage in order to gather reactions from participants in a live-site scenario:

As the majority of their incoming traffic is on mobile devices, we tested the brand imagery in a mobile setting to provide the most accurate context to participants.

Once the results were collected across each variation, the data was loaded into a comparison framework for quick analysis:

Data comparison framework

Research Panel

The IU Online time tapped into Helio’s ready-made audience of Undergraduate and Graduate College Students in the US, as well as a group of ‘Stopout’ students who have completed some college in the path and are considering a return to school.

Test Setup

Within each survey, participants were asked to rank their satisfaction with the imagery used on the page:

Satisfaction likert scale

And then provided a list of 8 brand impressions, 4 positive and 4 negative, to indicate how they feel about the page:

Brand impression question

Since emotions aren’t binary, and you can feel happy & sad or confused & excited at the same time, participants are allowed to choose any and all of the impression options. This will typically produce the top 3 or 4 positive and negative feelings from participants.

Analysis and synthesis 

With responses from 100 participants on each variation of brand imagery, the data was loaded into the comparison framework for a bird-eye view of user reactions:

Brand imagery data comparison

We found that V2 produced by far the most positive impressions and levels of satisfaction, while avoiding the boringness and skepticism of the other themes.

One of the most interest observations was that the Online Education theme of V1, which the team thought might align well with an audience of remote class takers, did score highest in terms of relevance to participants:

Relevance of Brand Imagery

However, the Online Education theme produced by far the lowest amount of positive impressions from participants, suffering from a lack of showing success and respectability.

No one is in classes or doing anything exciting, they are just sitting at home doing homework

Undergraduate Student (US)

On the other hand, the Higher Education theme was able to impress upon visitors the sense of accomplishment that the team determined to be more valuable than relevance:

All images are pertaining to university life and graduation and feeling like one has successfully achieved their goal

Graduate Student (US)

The IU Online team moved forward with validation that their Higher Education theme would produce the most positive impressions from visitors to their site.


With the signals from the data comparison framework surfaced, the Helio team prepared an executive summary of the findings for IU Online:

Brand imagery top signals

This deck includes the top level signals surfaced by the testing, as well as the individual explanation of the findings from the data:


After discussing with the IU team post-launch, we learned that site engagement had increased by up to 80%, and page views were up by 39%, indicating that the new visual direction clearly resonated with visitors.

Next Steps and Recommendations


The use of the data comparison framework provided a clear comparison across brand imagery variations, and it was clear to the IU team which versions were testing best based on the data.

What may have been missing in this exercise was providing an opportunity for participants to provide their own ideas of what the imagery on an online college’s website should look like. This early foundational testing may have provided alternate ideas for the team to pursue when implementing the imagery onto designs for testing.

Build something your users truly want