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Drake University Gets A D+

These days it's easy to generate buzz.  Just do something stupid.

Drake University in Des Moines, IA set out to re-brand itself.  The result is over there to the left.  Apparently some faculty, students and alumni (read: donors) aren't impressed.  I don't blame them.

Drake officials refer to the campaign as "intentionally edgy" and seem quite sure that those who are "Drake material" will understand. 

Lest you think those of us NOT living in central Iowa are insufficiently edgy, we, too, get it.  Drake's name begins with a 'D' and adding the '+' sign is subtle and cool because Drake is a university with aspirations...what's not to get?

Maybe we're better at ignoring the "even bad publicity is better than none at all" crowd.   Had this controversy not erupted, it's entirely probable that Drake's name would never have appeared in this modest little blog.  So should we say 'mission accomplished?'  Nope.

All that "love me or hate me, just spell my name right" stuff begs a very important question:   

Deep down, at your organization's proud, mission-driven core, is the re-branded you really, well, YOU? 

Is it something of which you're able to be proud, today, tomorrow, three decades from now?  Or is it vanity-driven image for image's sake?  Edgy without substance or connection?

Some agency (Cedar Rapids-based Stamats, Inc in this case) went through the typical agency machinations - brainstorming, thinking deep thoughts, concepting, creating, developing options - and finished with "We really like THIS "D+" concept!  It'll get noticed and talked about!  It'll put you on the map!"  (Subplot: maybe even win US an award!)

And given the uproar, it's doubtful the concept was tested internally to any great extent, thus depriving the university of a wonderful opportunity to build pride and engagement among three very important constituencies.

Tossing aside a decades-old brand in favor of "edgy" is intellectually shallow if not downright shortsighted, don't you think?   Today's edgy is tomorrow's cringe-inducing.

Add Drake University to the list of organizations lacking the humble self-confidence to say "No. That's not us.  Try again, agency types.  We're better than that."

More here from AdFreak and The Huffington Post.

(Thanks to the Omaha World-Herald for the heads-up.)


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