Political Correctness

Tagging colleges

In the land of bullshitters, the creator of college tag lines is king.

The institution that signs my paychecks is a good case in point.

Under the previous university president, her first act was to hire a marketing consultant for your non-existent god knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars to change the tag line from something nobody remembers to something nobody understands: “Boundless”. (Which I think came from the marketing firm called Boundless Marketing — if it didn’t, it should have.)

They covered billboards and posters with “Boundless” like that is supposed to make people want to pay $40k a year to go to a middle of the road state school.

Well fuck me, enrollment went up.

A few short years later, that president was gone. The marketing didn’t piss people off, but everything else about her did.

Enter new president. Sign new marketing contract. Hundreds of thousands of dollars later, the incomprehensible “Boundless” was replaced by the meaningless “Wonder” as in “Wonder makes us who we are,” which makes me think “Wonder why we support this school.”

You can tell when a product or university has nothing unique — the marketing is just a bunch of bullshit that may make everything under the sun have something in common. “Wonder” — one tag fits all.

Well fuck me, enrollment went up again.

Just like vaccines, correlation is not causation. But I’m sure the marketing consultants will have a couple of charts that prove it was all about the “Boundless” and the “Wonder”. The pitch worked so well, when one state school dropped “Boundless”, the third-tier state school (in a state with only 3 schools) picked up “Boundless” and has run with it for 4 fucking years.

I get it. Getting paid to make up meaningless bullshit is an art. Like all great art, plagiarism is the first step to a passing grade.

This tag line, motto and slogan shit ain’t easy. There’s a very small space to say “something.” And these enormous state universities try to do “everything.” If you get specific like: “Great business school, law school kinda sucks” you might be right, and you would be right out of a job.

When college was cheap in the 60’s and 70’s, I don’t think they even had tag lines. They competed for students based on cost and “reputation” (rumors about who had the “best” faculty).

But when budgets and staff ballooned, and the baby boom subsided, it became a scramble to fill all the dorms and classrooms they built when Johnson and Nixon were president. In walks the film-flam marketing man with a tag line and a song to bring in the new crops of student cash.

Tag lines have become so ridiculous, one dude turned 85 of them into a poem.

Here’s a snippet:

Change Your Life. Start Here. 

Life’s Calling 

It’s Your Life 

Your Extraordinary Life 

The Life of the Mind 

Change Your Mind. Change Your Life. 

Minds. Motivated. 

Steve Kolowich, 2015

How do we rid ourselves of this costly bullshit? Give up on trying to say everything — summarize what students want to know.

Top five College Tagline

5. University of Chicago: “Number 1 Gay Friendly. Try it, you might like it”

4. University of California, San Diego: “75k out of state — surf lessons free.”

3. University of Hawaii: “Come to the Islands, we’ll get you laid”

2. University of Oregon, Eugene: “Just like you, magic mushrooms grow wild here”

  1. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque: “Write us a check, we’ll get you high like Jesse.”

OK all those tag lines suck too. But I’ll bet if they were adopted, enrollment would go up anyway.

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