More On "Brand"

Branding experts Ologie recently sent us a brochure that showcased the materials created for one of their clients. In one of the publications, they had written "simply put, brand allows others to see us as we see ourselves."

Hmmm. I like that. Lots of layers there though, if "we" is meant to be inclusive. Oberlin students would never agree on a single "brand," so how could a single "brand" let others see us as we (collectively) see ourselves?

And yet the traditional purpose of "brand" is to have a single thing that people see and recognize and identify with a given organization.

How do we satisfy both sides of this?

Factor in that the traditional model is growing obsolete - these days, blog entries, tweets, facebook posts about people's experiences at a college constitute as much of a college's "brand" as its marketing campaigns. Probably more.

Can we make soup out of these ingredients?

If I said to Oberlin students and alums "send me Oberlin's brand as you see it, in whatever medium works best for you," and put all of the responses together into some sort of collection, would that be useful to anyone other than me? What do you think would emerge? Obviously this is what fearless what supposed to capture, but it simply wasn't organic enough.

I suppose this idea is a bit like the Stories Project in that they are both reactions to a brand that was created for us instead of by us. But really this would be the Stories Project boiled down - instead of 500-word essays, the submissions would be a handful of words, or an image, or a video, or a picture, or a piece of art - something that could be absorbed in a matter of seconds. I don't know what we'd do with them. Maybe part of me fantasizes that somehow the perfect commonality would emerge.

The seeds are there but I can't yet picture how to grow them. Help me think this one through.

Responses To This Entry:

I think Oberlin is the type of place with a brand that emerges the second you step onto campus and meet everyone. What if you guys redirected the money you spend on "branding" to a $100 airplane ticket voucher that you give to all of the kids who get accepted to Oberlin? Strike a deal with Airtran! They have a really cool student standby program to begin with, and even without it, I could get to Oberlin for less than $100 roundtrip! Do it!!!!!

Posted by: Christina on September 3, 2009 11:22 PM

As the definition of a "brand" continues to evolve and encompass so many types of media, the request for ideas you've suggested here might be a fascinating survey. I'm sure it would start many conversations. I, for one, would be very curious to know what kind of a sound defines Oberlin to someone. I have to think this would be worth a test at any rate!

PS Hooray to continuing to think outside of the box :)

Posted by: Kay on September 8, 2009 12:37 PM

I'd be fascinated to see the sort of submissions you get, and I feel like many people would be too. I think this option is one that fits Oberlin perfectly, because we do out-of-the-box things for the usual requests. Thoughts on how to share/display them?

I have found the Oberlin Stories to be akin to a post-acceptance application essay for Oberlin, which is all good and lovely, but the multi-media option seems like the way I urge people to approach their college essays: to have it embody themselves, and sometimes that involves a different format or medium than a block of text, as another underlying theme to present about themselves. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a fabulous option.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on September 9, 2009 1:04 AM

Best brand book I've read is "The Brand Gap" by Marty Neumeier, followed by "Zag." Both incredibly readable, and offer what I consider a more compelling (and ) opening truism on brand than Ologie's offering:

It's not what *you* say it is.

It's what *they* say it is.

Posted by: emily on December 6, 2009 2:14 PM