Every Wednesday, our crew carves out some time to shake the hump day slump and exercise our critical eye by quickly evaluating design work that grabbed our attention in the previous week. No formality, no filter. Just reactions. If you love it, you hump it. If you don’t, you bump it. We want to bring you in on the fun. Remember, the goal isn’t to share the “right” opinion, it’s to share one at all.
There are few things that brighten my mood more than the mention of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I love the campus, I adore the town and I live for the basketball team. My passion for my alma mater runs so deep that I even managed to get into a heated debate with a fellow R+Mer about the merits of Dean Smith’s coaching style compared to Mike Krzyzewski while he was interviewing me for my current job. Seriously, I’ve got it bad.
So when said Dook fan pulled me into his office this week to show me an ad found on Mashable.com for the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, I was completely taken aback by the snooty copy: “The Online MBA You Probably Can’t Get Into.”
Believe me when I say it pains me, but this week, I must bump Kenan-Flagler Business School’s ad. Here’s why: in my opinion, brand consistency should trump eye-catching pithiness.
As a premier in-state university, UNC hangs its hat on a reputation of having the best balance of tuition, academics and accessibility for students in North Carolina. Kiplinger Magazine ranked UNC the #1 value in American public higher education the last 11 years in a row. With nearly 30,000 students (roughly 1/3 of whom are post-graduates), the university avoids an exclusionary image, while maintaining its reputation as a rigorous institution of higher learning.
In my opinion, this ad drastically departs from that market position by using a one-liner I assumed was meant to make me smirk, click and apply just to show them how wrong they are.
But my perspective is just one woman’s impression, so I reached out to Kenan-Flagler to better understand the intended strategy.
According to the school, this ad is intended to debunk the myth that an online program must have lower admissions standards than a traditional program. In fact, it’s part of a larger campaign that includes lines such as “All online MBAs are not created equal” and “You want the best? So do we!”
And, from a metrics standpoint, the school indicated that this edgier campaign is one of their most successful yet.
So that brings us to the fundamental question: can an ad still be successful if it makes you stop and take notice, regardless of whether it’s in line with its established brand?
In the case of UNC, I think the whole “best academic value for students of North Carolina” line has been drawn too deeply to begin touting a blatantly exclusive message now. But you tell me. Am I completely overreacting? (It’s okay, I can take it.) Is this advertisement more successful than I’m giving it credit for? There certainly are lots of factors to consider. After all, it’s several days later and we’re still talking about it.