On my flight to Stetson University today, I found myself grabbing for an old copy of the Smithsonian Magazine that had been sitting in my seat back pocket. The last page of the magazine had an article with this image:
I started reading the article with two goals: find out what bacon buns are and start planning my trip to Latvia (I love me some bacon). However, as I began reading, I realized it was about something more than ham products and a random Balkan country. The article, entitled Strike Up the Brand, was actually discussing a term called nation branding. The article claims a key part of this mission is to sum up that country in a single phrase; nations are trying to find the perfect tagline to boost them in the competitive global market that is… well… the globe.
My favorite part of the article was the hilarious, imaginary taglines the author, Richard Conniff, created for some nations. Some of the best, besides Latvia’s, include: “China: Now 55 Percent Less Communist!” or “Amazing Asian Myanmar: Not Just for Jailed Dissidents!” (What would your school’s overly-honest tagline be?!)
Whether you think the idea of nation branding is genius or ludicrous, the author makes a point that marketers in any industry can relate to: “A lot of countries don’t have much of an identity, as far as the outside world is concerned. They proliferate like brands of soap, with only so much sparkle to go around.” And we all know how scary it can be sometimes to be the generic brand of soap.
After this past weekend concluded, the final four of the Men’s NCAA Basketball tournament have been identified. Not ironically timed is tonight’s airing of PBS’s Frontline entitled Money and March Madness. It is an insider’s examination of the lucrative business of the NCAA and its brand of amateur college sports.
Comparing the NBA or the NFL to NCAA athletics reveals several parallels. Corporate sponsorships by companies such as Nike or Adidas provide logo placement opportunities galore. Royalties are paid to colleges on co-branded clothing. Performance bonuses are earned by the winning teams. Signing bonuses are received when colleges and universities switch to a competitor company. However, the one major difference is that the players do not receive salaries. But should they? Sonny Vaccaro, a former marketing executive, strongly believes college athletes should be paid. He is in the process of suing the NCAA. He has become the face of a law suit insisting that student athletes be paid because their likenesses and images are being used without compensation.
According to NCAA data, 50% of the schools in this year’s March Madness graduate less than 50% of their players. According to the USAToday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would like a new restriction banning teams from March Madness participation if they are not on track to graduate at least 50% of their players. Duncan’s restriction comes at a time when college athletic departments are commonly losing money based on high facility and maintenance costs as well as coaching salaries. This unbalanced budget issue often increases the importance of March Madness participation and success. With wins, subsequent marketing opportunities will arise, often applications increase. All final four teams have current contracts with Nike.
Should athletes receive direct payment? Should institutions be required to graduate at least one in every two athletes? These questions are explored in tonight’s Frontline at 9pm.
Dana Edwards, Senior Consultant
You may have noticed that SimpsonScarborough has dramatically overhauled its visual identity! Why in the world would we do this? We argue with our clients all the time that the visual identity is not to be tinkered with for trivial reasons. Certainly, you don’t change it just because you’re tired of it and feel like you need a “refresh.”
There are actually some really important factors that drove our decision to make this change. When we started SimpsonScarborough almost five years ago, our lead partner was Christopher Simpson. For those of you who knew Christopher, it’s probably obvious to you why our initial visual identity consisted of a heavy and masculine use of blue and orange. Our identity was strong, conservative, bold, and outspoken…just like Christopher. Our logo was a series of two letters “s” designed to look like flags…or the sails of Christopher’s boat.
Unfortunately, Christopher has been gone for more than two years now and our company has changed dramatically. We are no longer the go-to firm for media training and crisis communications support, Christopher’s specialties. We’ve focused our company around market research and brand strategy development, my passions both!
I’m often asked if we plan to change the name of the company and my answer is always a very quick, “absolutely not.” We plan to retain Christopher’s name to honor the memory of his vision for our company. But, our visual identity, on the other hand, really did not feel like a good fit for the firm we have become. We wanted a more feminine, bright, and light look and feel to our communications, which explains the extensive use of white space and the flowering color palette. We wanted to emphasize research and measurement, which is how the colorful dots with varying degrees of shading emerged. (We’re already referring to them as the “fruit loops.”) We also wanted to show the enthusiasm and personality of our company. We love working with our clients. We think math is fun. Many of us are closet research-geeks. And, we wanted that to shine through.
So, here we are. The SimpsonScarborough of 2010. Not forgetting where we started or the great man who brought us together. But looking forward, building on our strengths, and communicating all that through our fruit loops.
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All of us here at SimpsonScarborough are excited about a new project we just launched to help the 14 Disciples of Christ institutions explore their collective brand. Under the leadership of the presidents of Eureka, Lynchburg, and Midway colleges, SimpsonScarborough is tasked with conducting qualitative research designed to explore the defining attributes of a DOC education. What is it that binds these institutions together and makes them collectively unique compared to other types of institutions? This is the guiding question of the work.
Ultimately, the results of our research will be passed along to creative firm, Mindpower, of Atlanta, Georgia. They will develop a toolkit providing each DOC institution with baseline information about how to communicate the distinctive attributes of Disciples of Christ institutions. It’s a first-ever effort for this particular collection of schools….and a unique initiative in higher education generally. Only the Jesuits have done a truly exceptional job of marketing an entire “category” of schools.
The project will surely be fraught with challenges. Mobilizing just one campus around a particular strategy for promoting its identity is difficult enough. Getting fourteen on that proverbial “same page” will be even trickier. But, we will pursue the truth and authenticity and trust that we’ll ultimately uncover a strategy that will effectively supplement the messages of each individual institution and build the visibility and credibility of foundational DOC brand. We’ll keep you updated on our progress here!
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American University launched its new brand strategy through a big campus event yesterday. One of the brilliant elements of the launch was the creation of an 11-minute video (long, I know!) designed to help AU’s students, faculty, and alumni understand the process, research, and thinking behind the new strategy.
We all know that launching any sort of “new” strategy on a college campus is likely to be difficult. There will always be detractors. To counter this, AU went to great lengths to bring internal audiences along. The video explains the research that was used to develop the campaign, describes who was involved in the process, discusses the importance of managing AU’s identity, and works to get people excited about the idea of being a WONK.
An article in the AU Eagle this morning still describes students who argue they should have been more involved in the process. But students were extensively focus grouped as part of the process to develop the strategy. And, every last one was invited to participate in a survey about it. Even with this level of engagement, there is still more work to be done…..which is why the video is such a great idea. It was produced internally in about two weeks and was certainly worth the investment of time. A great examples of best practices for an internal brand launch.
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American University is launching its new brand campaign today. Executive Director of Communications & Marketing, Terry Flannery, and team have led the institution through an exhaustive process involving research, evaluation, strategy development, and creative development to arrive at the new plan for promoting the identity of the University.
Today they are staying true to “best practices” and engaging in a comprehensive internal launch which will include a video link from the Website (will post later today) and a major presence on their quad with t-shirts, balloons, and excitement (will post photos later today).
So, what does it mean to be a member of the AU community? It means you are a WONK. What is a WONK, you ask? Click here to find out!
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A month or so ago I was flying home to SC and forgot my book, so I picked up Delta’s Sky Magazine and I came across this article about crowdsourcing. I immediately started thinking of ways that our clients could use this tool, and I brought the magazine back to DC to share with the team at our next retreat (it isn’t stealing, they want you to take them!).
I did some background research on crowdsourcing, and it isn’t as new of a technology as i thought. I guess I am behind on the times. It has even been applied in the world of higher ed.
Crowdsourcing is a mass collaboration enabled by web technology. It is a way to include the masses to get opinions on just about anything from product design to brand campaigns… to the design of a new bus station at Universty of Utah.
The term was coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 article in Wired.
”Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”
Since te term was coined in 2006, there has been a explosion of different sites using the technique to accomplish a multitude of different tasks. It is inexpensive and in theory it seems like a great way to reach more people… my only question is how? Are you only reaching people who are tech saavy enough to have accounts on these sites? How can you harness this idea on your campus? Think of the possibilities… and please email me (email@example.com) if your campus has used this technology. I am just beginning to learn about it and I am dying to see more of it in action!
These are the articles I read. Definitely worth reading…