Yesterday, Purdue University, my soon to be alma mater, announced that it will be launching a new branding strategy during this weekend’s homecoming festivities called “Makers, All.” This new campaign is leaving many people puzzled as to what the point of the campaign is, what it means, and why it is necessary. Furthermore, the university has tried and failed to provide definitive answers to each of these questions leaving one to think, “What the hell were they thinking?”
When it comes to most branding campaigns, I could careless what people choose to do. I’m not a stakeholder in the vast majority of re-branding efforts which makes me nothing more than a casual observer. However, when it comes to my university trying to re-brand itself, I am stakeholder. As a marketing student, I also feel obligated to critque it and here is what I’ve concluded.
- University branding campaigns are relatively meaningless. Schools are known for their capabilities, achievements, and histories, not their slogans. What are Harvard and Yale known for? How about Kent State? What do people think of when they think of UC-Berkeley? The answers to all those questions are not a result of a branding campaign Purdue is already known for three things; being a great engineering school, producing NFL quarterbacks, and having a rich history of aeronautical achievements. It puzzles me as to why Purdue’s leadership thought it was necessary to attempt to force people to think of the university in terms of some abstract construct.
- “Makers, All” is just a bad, awkward phrase. Purdue is the home of the boilermakers, not the makers. Therefore, Makers, All is nothing more than a cheesy play on words. Can you imagine what other schools are going to say about the slogan? How about we drop an apostrophe in front of “Makers” and add a Y to “All”. Now the slogan sounds like redneck a person with less-than-average elocution skills had a seizure brain lapse when he came up with it. ” ‘Makers, Y’all”?… I don’t really think Purdue thought that one through.
- Teri Lucie Thompson, Purdue’s VP for marketing was quoted as saying, “I am very proud this strategy sets us apart and that, even its language, ‘Makers, All,’ is not replicable by any other institution.” Aside from the ramifications of copyright infringement, I’m pretty sure that any school could replicate this slogan. It’s language definitely sets Purdue apart mainly because it doesn’t make any sense. Most schools have slogans that people can understand and/or correctly interpret. Most people are drawing a blank on this one.
- “Our creative strategy uses disruptive marketing techniques to draw the audience in to conversations about the brand,” said Rwitti Roy, senior director of brand and advertising in marketing and media. I will give them credit that this new strategy does get people talking. However the value of conversation in undermined when everyone is talking about why your slogan stinks instead of why it’s really good which is exactly what is happening.
- Finally, this campaign is designed to express what people say the university’s strengths are: “energy, optimism, enthusiasm, curiosity and reliability.” For the life of me I cannot figure out how “Makers, All” conveys those ideals. How do you get reliability out of “Makers, All”? It just makes no sense.
I think that Purdue is going to really have to be receptive to ALL the feedback they get on this campaign. That includes both positive and negative feedback from everyone ranging from prospective students to long time financial supporters. In the past Purdue has discounted what voices of dissent have said and consequently have stuck with poor strategic decisions. They cannot afford to that now. I would like to see my university, my Purdue, reconsider this branding campaign because I would hate to see my school lose some of its reputation in the eyes of people whose opinions matter. Until then however, I guess I’ll just have to put up with ” ‘Makers, Y’all.”