Sending the Right Message: Insights From the SAMC Portfolio

The Gunrock, Spokes Grill, Scrubs Cafe

Case Study: Spokes, The Gunrock and Scrubs Cafe

If you’ve enjoyed a meal at The Gunrock, Spokes Grill or Scrubs Cafe recently, then you ordered from a menu designed by the SAMC team as part of the rebranding efforts marking UC Davis’ return to self-operated dining facilities, after 46 years with Sodexo.

Student Housing and Dining Services (SHDS) worked with SAMC to create a new brand for the three restaurants. Our goals for Spokes Grill and Scrubs Cafe were to communicate that the restaurants are student-friendly and serve as hubs of campus life while providing a variety of healthy, tasty and locally sourced food options. For The Gunrock, the goal was to achieve a more formal, yet still casual feel, while making it clear to students that it is also a space for them and not just a place for staff and faculty to meet.

Key Message

Through surveys, we found that access to diverse meal options is what students want most. UC Davis students come from diverse backgrounds and have varied dietary needs and preferences. Increasingly, these necessitate more food customization. Therefore, it was important for the identities of each restaurant to reflect both diversity and unity with the campus’s mission and brand identity.


The new brand incorporates aspects of each restaurant’s menu, theme and history, along with an infusion of distinctively UC Davis spirit through allusions to the school colors, culture and mascot. In addition to website design, photography, LCD screen displays and social media promotion, we designed logos, posters and permanent signage, food packaging, menus, uniforms and more.

Feedback was and continues to be extremely positive, and all three restaurants now have strong identities that feel both distinctive and familiar in the campus context.

Developing a totally new brand for these restaurants was a collaborative effort and could not have succeeded without strong cooperation and communication between SHDS and SAMC.

Next time you find yourself there at lunch, see if you can make out the subtle hoof in The Gunrock’s logo or puzzle out all of the biking references on the Spokes Grill menu. And let us know what you think!

The Graduate and Law School Information Day information campaign increased attendance markedly.

Case Study: Graduate and Law School Information Day

Twice as many students attended the Graduate and Law School Information Day (GLSID) in 2017 as did in 2016. Why the sudden surge in grad school curiosity?

Some background: At the event, students have the opportunity to interact with 100+ representatives from various graduate and professional schools. Staff in the Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services (formerly part of the Student Academic Success Center) had noticed that students tended to perceive the event as primarily intended for those interested in law school, and they enlisted SAMC to help reimagine the way it was promoted and reach a broader base of students.

Key Message

The campaign had two primary goals: to communicate that GLSID was about more than just law school and to boost overall attendance at the event.

The Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services (OEOES) and SAMC worked closely to develop messaging that was timed to build up slowly over the course of months, recalibrating perception of the event before an intensive, multi-channel push to raise awareness and instill a sense of urgency in the weeks before. Calls to action referenced the attainability of graduate school, the idea of needing to think about “what’s next” after college and emphasized that the event was one day only.


Students encountered messaging on social media, LCD screens, postcards and magnets, and in the week leading up to GLSID, coffee cup sleeves from the CoHo anchored the final push. As a result of feedback from student focus groups, we also modified the event’s graphic element, a cube with degree abbreviations spelled out on its sides; MBA was moved up to share space with JD, a tweak in the visual language that better conveyed the diversity of graduate school programs represented at the event. The cube is a great example of how a small change in marketing can have a big impact. And the overall campaign is a great example of how well-considered messaging can motivate more students to take advantage of a resource.

Here is one student’s experience of the messaging around GLSID marketing and of the event itself:

I saw many posters of the “Graduate and Law School Information Day” around campus, in my email and on social media. Since I was preparing to apply to programs this school year, I thought I would benefit more from learning about the application process first-hand as opposed to reading about it online.

I found the participating schools I visited and their unique programs were very engaging, and all had something interesting to offer (yay free swag!). I found myself going to booths that did not particularly pertain to college interests, but it ended up being very rewarding! The event gave me the tools and information I needed to achieve my post-graduate goals.

Going to GLSID changed my graduate school trajectory, as I learned much about what would be my future graduate school there. Now, eight months later, I’m happy to report I will be going to San Jose State University. Go Spartans!—Melissa Marston '18

This year Graduate and Law School Information Day falls on October 25.