The ROI From College

Competition: University Brands

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Dec 29, 2012    •    524 Views

It can be tough to represent a college through a logo.

Drake University thought it was saying that it gave students something extra when it added a “+” to its logo. The problem was that the other half of the logo was a “D.” Soon, for many reasons, they realized they did not want their school associated with a D+.

A petition at the University of California pushed the school toward eliminating its new logo when more than 50,000 people said it looked too slick and corporate. Hoping to modernize its 1868 seal, the University had traveled too far from a traditional image of an open book on an intricate background.

NY Times Picture of Old and Rebranded University of California Logo

During 2010, Johns Hopkins faked a rebranding on April Fools Day when it announced that it was eliminating the “S” in Johns because of all the confusion it generated.

And finally, I came across this “Les Misérables” parody from Boston University students. We could say that it rebrands the entire college experience.

Our Bottom Line: Like any business, colleges compete. For many schools, competition means you need a “brand,” an identity to distinguish yourself from others. How you brand yourself could depend on whether your market is an oligopoly where you compete against a small number of schools or monopolistic competition in which there are many.

Sources and Resources: A hat tip to the NY Times for their column on college rebranding, more on the Drake story here, and on Penn’s Wharton School rebranding through a new marketing style that relies on charts, graphs, a “quant” feel. I do recommend reading more about the Johns Hopkins April Fools story in The Washington Post and looking at one person’s list and pictures of the 15 ugliest logos.

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