Business

Welcome to the Mind Show

No, this isn’t a post about a hypnotist or a magician. “Welcome to the Mind Show” is one of the catchphrases created by the Educational Marketing Group for the University of Mary Washington’s brand campaign.

A number of banners along Campus Walk even read “Change Your Mind.” This leaves students confused about the message UMW is sending. Wait, are we supposed to transfer out?

College branding is a tricky domain; marketing education is nothing like selling smartphones, hair products, or car insurance. Five minutes could save you 15% or more on your liberal arts education!

Think about your typical shopping trip to the mall. It’s so much more than a quest to find the perfect pair of black heels. Your senses are bombarded by a flurry of stimulation. Glaring bright lights hit your eyes. Loud house music blares at you. Giant signs in bold, red font scream the word “SALE.” The next thing you know, you’re not just buying shoes, but also earrings, a new purse, and yet another LBD. The key to successful shopping? Don’t let yourself get distracted.

Like all colleges, UMW is a business. This particular marketplace is crowded, making differentiation between product offerings exceptionally difficult. Instead of trying to distract you, however, they must take a firm position with their brand culture in order to appeal to prospects. All institutions of higher learning boast rigorous academic programs, with interesting classes and top-notch professors. How then, can UMW stand out from the rest?

What EMG failed to do here is recognize and embrace the school’s identity. Only then could they have developed an appropriate brand personality for the school.

So what is UMW’s identity? What defines us? Small class sizes. Individualized attention. Award- winning faculty members. Dedication to community service. Proximity to Washington, D.C., allowing students access to prestigious internships. A tight knit community of smart and passionate students who support each other both inside and outside of the classroom.

With this and all future advertising campaigns, UMW must be mindful of the difference between who they want to attract, and who they’re actually attracting. Perhaps achieving widespread appeal using just a few catchy words is so difficult that it shouldn’t be attempted in the first place.

Feel free to disagree, but [no apologies] here. It’s how I think.

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