Branding Your School: A Better Way

If you spend much time with folks who work in offices that attempt to shape the public image of a college or university, you know that “branding” is a very big deal these days on many campuses.  Wait….let me capitalize, color, underline, and italicize that: BRANDING IS A VERY BIG DEAL Part of this task involves coming up with an inspiring, largely substance-free phrase that can catch a website reader’s attention — the sort of embedded, irresistible “hook” that pop songwriters strive for (“She loves you…yeah, yeah, yeah!”).  See if you can match the following 5 hooks with their home institutions:

1.  “An education greater than the sum of its parts”

2.  “Unconventional wisdom”

3.  “Where preparation meets opportunity, there is greatness.  Are you ready?”

4.  “Be the difference”

5.  “Uncover your passion”

A.  Marquette University

B.  University of South Carolina

C.  Bentley University

D.  Rice University

E.  University of Louisville

Not so easy, eh?  (Correct answers: 1-C, 2-D, 3-B, 4-A, 5-E)

The problem with these phrases is that they express sentiments that are pretty interchangeable, in the sense that just about any school would claim that it subscribes to them.  Therefore, as a public service I am offering a few statements that institutions can use to more transparently communicate what they’re all about.  I provide these free of charge.  No need to thank me.

Private, Elite Institutions:  “We don’t need you, and if you’re the sixth generation in your family to have your first name, you probably don’t need us.  But you’ve got to find something to do over the next four years while your trust fund matures, and our cafeteria receives top ratings from both the Michelin Guide and Zagat.  So, please come dine with us!”

Left-Leaning Institutions:  “Every human utterance and action — including this one — can be deconstructed in a way that will make you angry with the hegemonic patriarchy.  You bring the attitude, and we’ll provide the jargon.”

Military Institutions: “BOOM!  RAT-TAT-TAT.  BOOM!  You know what you want, and so do we.”

Fundamentalist Religious Institutions:  “We have the answer.  Really, we do.  We’re not kidding.  Why think, when you can believe?  Why go elsewhere and risk eternal damnation?”

Large State Universities with Division I Athletic Programs:  “Develop an identity that’s all your own by sitting in a cavernous stadium with 100,000 others, rooting for people you need binoculars to see.  Get skull-crushingly drunk — or not — after the game.  It’s your choice.  It’s your future.”

Right-Leaning Institutions:  “You don’t need to change.  Ever.  We guarantee it.”

Tuition-Driven Institutions on the Brink of Collapse:  “Please choose us.  Please, oh please, OH PLEASE choose us!  Bring 5 friends, and we’ll create a degree program for whatever you all want to do.  Just come!  Now!”

If your institution needs assistance in developing a website persona that will attract applicants like metal shavings to an industrial magnet, feel free to contact me.