What’s in a Name?

By: Patrick Coskren

While on http://www.smartbrief.com, I came across the following article: “The Name Game Colleges Rebrand to get More Students,” by Lisa Rathke. In this article, Rathke discusses the thoughts and concerns some colleges face with declining enrollment, reduced public funding or both. There are state colleges and universities who are adding graduate programs and changing their names to attract more students and compete with private institutions.

Some colleges, such as Castleton College of Vermont, have begun adding additional graduate classes in hopes of attracting more out-of-state and foreign students. This is because those students pay more in out-of-state tuition rates and could help offset budget concerns. In terms of marketing, I found this fascinating. While the college is taking the initiative to add additional classes, I see this as them using a differentiation strategy. Many times in marketing companies are competing on two main fronts, either cost or differentiation. With the costs of all colleges increasing in today’s day in age, by differentiating themselves, these community colleges become state colleges, and state colleges become universities, based on what they now offer students is a simple yet very effective way to differentiate and attract more students to ultimately generate more money.

According to Collins English dictionary, “rebranding is the process of giving a product or an organization a new image, in order to make it more attractive or successful.” Throughout this article I was plagued with the question that I remember having read back in a high school English class while reading Shakespeare: “what’s in a name?” As I have already mentioned above, in terms of differentiating and the possibility of growth through attraction/rebranding, the name of a college could prove to be extremely successful for potential and future students. However, what impact might it have to those who walked through the halls of these campuses years prior? I could not help but place myself in the shoes of alumni who had recently been informed my alma mater would be changing its name. For me, the name of the school in which I chose to pursue my undergraduate degree holds significant and deep meaning. Although changing the name might be more attractive to rising and potential students, and even ultimately be a great marketing plan, to someone like me, as an alumni, I do express contempt towards this idea. The name of where I chose to spend 4 years of my life holds significant meaning to me. Please understand the bigger picture of what these colleges are choosing to pursue is not lost on me. I am confident there are many out there who would be delighted to know the college they attended was choosing to rebrand and go through the necessary qualification to become a University. Yet, to me, it would not be the same. I would much rather see schools follow the inspiration approach presented by Simon Sinek in a Ted Talk from September 2009, and encourage these colleges to inspire those looking to attend through his famous quote, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. If these colleges were to successfully rebrand using this simple quote I feel they would see much greater results in the long run.

Overall, it is clear to see that branding is something that every company does. Take Ralph Lauren, for example: why would someone want to spend $80 for a shirt when they could spend $10 on one at Wal-Mart? Through branding and consumers habits, those who buy this shirt want those who see it to know who manufactured it. They are wearing those clothes as a symbol. I bring up Ralph Lauren to attempt to draw a parallel to customer loyalty through branding. While it might be less expensive to try out a shirt than to try out a year at a college, my message remains constant: through the use of intelligent branding, companies and colleges have the opportunity to draw in those who will remain loyal to them. This will, in turn, result in brand equity. When a customer values the product or service not only will they be loyal, but they will also share the experience with others. Whether it be clothes or college, the most important fact to remember is that branding in today’s day in age, when done correctly, can prove to be extremely profitable.

Source: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/03711914ec5746fcb973aed61ff1cfda/name-game-colleges-rebrand-get-more-students

5 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Mark Lindquist September 23, 2015 / 12:09 am

    I found it very interesting how colleges and universities, public or private, can use these “name change” strategies to differentiate themselves from the competition. Bentley University in Waltham, MA did this in 2008, changing their name from Bentley College. Bentley College was already well-known in the New England region, for its excellent business program that on a resume looked strong to businesses such as CPA firms and investment banks. According to Bentley’s website http://www.bentley.edu/newsroom/latest-headlines/bentley-college-becomes-bentley-university… the university had “become the model of a 21st Century business university.” Bentley University may or may not have specific out-of-state tuition rates, but from the name change I sense an aura of prestige to a school that needs to compete with the likes of Boston University, UMass, Harvard, which are nationally famous. To an out-of-state student, the name Bentley University would offer some added value over Bentley College. The message that the school is showing alumni, is that the school is trying to make a bigger mark on its current students, attract more students, make innovations to its graduate programs, and eventually expand itself as a prestigious university regionally or even nationally.


  2. Taylor Mason September 27, 2015 / 11:04 pm

    I found this article extremely interesting as it is relatable to the vast majority of us. Most of us have just completed our undergraduate careers so it inevitable that we look back and think of all the different factors of why we chose the schools that we did. We all chose the schools we went to for specific reasons so it is strange to think about how our live would’ve been if these things were to change. Similarly to this article, I came across an article about how Purdue college is essentially looking to reinvent themselves as a polytech college. Most students are in complete opposition to this as they believe people associate this with lower quality and performance. This has been something that has been in the works for a few years now as the college is looking to create a more innovative education and bring in a higher influx of new students.



  3. Matthew E. Dulac December 3, 2015 / 9:16 pm

    I found this article to be very interesting as I know people who went to Castleton State College and I witnessed firsthand the change as I went to a college in Vermont myself. The name change could be seen in the news outlets around the state and it brought about an interesting change as some alumni were angry that they would need a new diploma. They felt that the school was different and the name change didn’t represent the institution that they went to, the school that they once called. The name change can not only be seen at Castleton, but also schools such as Bentley where my brother goes. The name change is supposed to give an institution more pull to acquire students and it can be seen that more international and out of region students have applied to Castleton because of it. Schools such as Castleton are using this as a campaign to attract more students and to gain more funding for research.


  4. Patrick Coskren December 5, 2015 / 4:51 pm

    Matt, I can only imagine how interesting the experience would have been for those who where there during the time of the change in names. At first as an alumnus of Merrimack, if they were to change the name I would be as you said upset and frustrated. A place I called home for 4 years changing like that would feel like something was being taken away from me. However, as this semester has progressed I feel I would feel more pride than disappointment. I can say this now because like anything in society today things need to adapt. In this case if the changing of the name can offer more prestige praise and acclaim down the line for a college I attended I would be in full support.


  5. Melanie Barbarula December 8, 2015 / 5:28 am

    Rebranding is a fine line where each step has to be strategic in nature. For the prospective students they will not know the difference but the current student body and the alumni will be affected the most by this change, which a lot of times administration does not take into consideration. The idea of adopting a differentiation strategy is a positive in terms of attracting new business especially when competing in term of cost does not have a significant price differential.
    Education institutions should beware of rebranding unless it is an absolute must.


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