Wednesday, April 09, 2014


NWU is going through a thing with an ad agency or something to establish some "brand" so that students in the area will want to come here (and, I hope, so taxpayers in the state will want to support state education, but here I am all naive and everything).

They're having some fancy thing where they're going to unveil "our brand." 

You can imagine how much fun some of us are having with the brand thing. 

But even more now, since they announced the fancy thing to announce our brand via an invitation in a small envelop.  The invitation is a once folded piece of cardstock with the information about the event.  Fine so far.

But also inside, on the same cardstock, are small colored rectangles, each with one or two words, each of which is supposed to make us think of NWU or of the brand or something.  (The fact that it's not quite clear what we're supposed to make of these is all the more amusing.)

That's right, we've basically been sent an envelop with fancy confetti.

You can guess that none of the inspirational words is "sustainable" or "environmentally conscious," can't you?

Alas, none is "snowy," "pays well," or "education," either.  Nor is "change," "feminist," "justice," "work," or "diversity" among the choices.

So my question is:  did we pay these folks more or less than we pay our athletic director?

And also, have your schools been doing "branding," and if so, what's your "brand"?


  1. Last year, my graduate institution did a rebranding. It meant, mostly, that we got a new version of our mascot, which is much more aggressive. It was pretty baldly stated that the new logo was meant to represent our sports teams, and to unify all the sports teams under a single brand because a bunch of the teams had very different uniforms. Since the mascot is a dog, they switched not only the image for the mascot on branding materials, but actually got a new dog (a puppy that is already 3/4 of the size of the previous mascot). There were a lot of people upset at everything but the new puppy, because it implies that the sports are the driving element of the university's brand, and the extremely aggressive image reinforces rather than helps defeat the school's problems with sports teams and sexual violence on campus.

  2. FGS went through a branding process last year and this, mostly trying to challenge the notion that some Adventure City residents have of FGS as a school for "social butterflies" (a phrase actually used in an infamous article in the Adventure City Magazine a few years ago). The project mostly revolved around trying to come up with a "tagline" that would capture FGS. What was interesting is that the original versions said nothing at all about education or learning or the like; the faculty objected, and I actually quite like the new tagline that the school finally settled on. Whether it will have a larger impact remains to be seen.

  3. I have experience with branding from the graphic design side rather than your side, and I have to admit it is one of the most infuriating aspects of graphic design I've had to deal with. It's design by committee, and the loudest voices almost invariably are the most vapid and superficial, or the most aggressively dominant. There ends up being a lot of fanfare and hooraw about launching the new branding and it's a lot of hot air.
    But I'm not cynical.

  4. We went through this and ended up with a new logo that is supposed to be culturally sensitive, but ends up using a symbol that just so happens to contradict a major project from our university, making the symbol hugely controversial for anyone local who pays attention to this kind of stuff. But since the rebranding isn't about our local community and students or the work the faculty actually does, the faculty that brought this up were completely ignored. This last fact might also be because the uni spent the money and approved of and launched the logo before showing any faculty or getting any faculty input. I don't like the logo (mainly because I think it isn't a particularly good design) and complained at the time. Some of my colleagues disagreed, saying it was clean and modern and the old one was old-fashioned and boring. But now that they're writing recommendation letters and getting business cards with the logo, they think it's kind of silly and doesn't really look professional.

  5. Anonymous12:55 PM

    One of my previous universities paid in the neighborhood of a million dollars for consultants to do a huge study and come up with branding ideas. The result? The name of the university changed from X State University to THE X State University. Yup, a million bucks for the word "the." Plus boatloads of money for new signage all over campus, new business cards and stationary for everyone, etc.

  6. Anonymous9:30 PM

    NLNRU "rebranded" its undergraduate college while I was there, polishing up local, national, and international perception of the place. I--and, I think, every other faculty and staff member--received a box in the mail containing a pamphlet, a license plate frame, and a lapel pin, all sporting the new logo. :-) Whee.

    SA has just been through a "rebranding" process, the concept of which I approve since I think our public face is out of date with the reality of the institution and that anyone looking at our website and self-descriptions like our mission statement would not get an accurate impression of the school. Specifically, we come across as kind of a cold, uptight, wannabe New England prep school, and not as the quirkier, more embracing, warmer community that we are. I participated in a couple of different focus groups and really enjoyed those discussions. It remains to be seen what exactly will come out of this process. I hope it will not just be a new license plate frame.

  7. My former instruction went through an expensive exercise 10 or so years ago ($450,000). The consultants redid our logo and color scheme to one that was"modern" and ugly, and gave us a vapid three word tag line that was on stationery, cards, etc. we joked that we paid $150,000 per word.

  8. Our most recent "branding" efforts is to say that our accreditation has been reaffirmed. After a couple of crisis years, it's a real selling point. But I can imagine an official re-branding around the corner. The kind of $$$ you're quoting makes think I should speak out against external consultants if we go down that road!