This comment was posted in response to an article by Paul Redfern in Inside Higher Education about brand development, specifically the long-standing and successful brand work done at Gettysburg College. The story was then picked up by Elephant Creative, a UK marketing firm. 

The Cognitive Marketing team is very proud of the Gettysburg College brand—not just our role in developing it, but the College’s great care in giving it voice. One reason Do Great Work has stood the test of time is that it is not, as so many “taglines” are, an attempt at institutional self-aggrandizement. It’s a challenge issued, not a boast made. And it shines a light on an important, foundational reason to seek higher education. To do great work in one’s life is an aspiration the German Lutherans who founded the College in 1832 would understand every bit as well as today’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni understand it. The charge delivered by President Janet Morgan Riggs to the Class of 2016, conveyed in the video below, demonstrates this timeless message.

This kind of foundational thinking applied to higher education brand development is needed now more than ever. On May 27, David Brooks published an Op-Ed in the New York Timesreflecting on Nathan Heller’s recent The New Yorker article, “The Big Uneasy,” about the mounting unrest at Oberlin College in particular. Brooks concluded: “If we slowed down the frenetic pace of competition, and helped students think about vocation—the meaning and purpose of work—then life would have a firmer base.”

The best colleges do more than ready students for the job market. They do more than help students discover their true vocations. They help students learn what they need to know about themselves and the world around them so that they can build happy, productive and fulfilled lives. The Gettysburg College brand works because it doesn’t try to sell the college; instead it advances an idea, that “doing great work” gives life “meaning and purpose.”

What idea does your institution want to advance?