Education

Tired of competing for ‘USC,’ South Carolina pushes a new abbreviation

The University of South Carolina is done trying to compete for an acronym with the younger USC out west.

Rather, the university, founded in 1801, is charting its own path by doubling down on the “UofSC” abbreviation — most visibly with a set of new logos released Wednesday — which officials say avoids confusion with the University of Southern California, circa 1880.

“Once you get outside the borders of the state, USC means something different,” said J.C. Huggins, USC’s Director of Brand Strategy. However, “Over 71 percent of the people we surveyed associated UofSC with South Carolina.”

Students, alumni and fans were not receptive to the brand change on social media.

“The school needs to ask a refund of the company they paid thousands of dollars to make these. Give the money to me and I’ll have a random 4 year old draw us up something better. #ForeverOfToThee #USC,” the Twitter user @jeremydeer said.

Some Twitter users said they were upset because they thought the rebranding would affect sports logos, which officials said it would not.

“In terms of the response, we get it. There was some confusion,” Huggins said. “Once they see it come to life throughout the semester, they’re gonna like it. They’re going to like the emphasis it places on South Carolina.”

The $238,000 re-brand was based on two years of research and design, most of which was done in-house, USC spokesman Wes Hickman said.

However, there is more to come. The three, revised logos USC posted Wednesday on Twitter make up only about $25,000 of that, Huggins said.

Huggins did not elaborate on what would come next in USC’s refreshed brand strategy, saying “it’s a surprise.”

The UofSC abbreviation isn’t new. The university has used UofSC as its Twitter handle for the last 10 years, Hickman said. Still, officials say they don’t expect fans to change overnight.

“We’re realistic about the fact that many people won’t start saying ‘UofSC’ right away,” USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said. “It will take a while for people to get used to it, and that’s OK.”

The State did its own analysis, and it’s clear that when people are searching for “UofSC,” they’re looking for garnet and black, not red and mustard or whatever the “other” USC Trojans are (cardinal and gold), according to Google Trends, which tracks keyword searches by location. Virtually nobody west of the Mississippi is searching UofSC, and outside S.C., the “UofSC” search term is most popular in North Carolina, followed by Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland, Google Trends data show.

Those are also the states that send the most students to four-year schools in South Carolina, according to Commission on Higher Education data.

The distinction matters, and it’s something colleges take seriously enough to take to court. In 2009, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office determined the “USC” belonged to the University of Southern California. Carolina sued, but the courts sided with Southern California, according to an article from the Los Angeles Times.

  Comments