December 13, 2006
B-Schools Become Brand Names
In an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, "How to Keep Your School From Being Brand X," Ronald Alsop discussed how Business Schools are learning to use brand management to distinguish themselves, since many have failed to develop a resonant brand image of their own.
As the Dean of Indiana's Kelley School of Business points out, "When you have an experience product like an M.B.A. program, the customer's risk is high because you can't test drive multiple schools and you can't change your mind once you make your purchasing decision." The Kelley School of Business has branded itself as the best MBA program for career switchers.
The Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley, on the other hand, is launching a major strategic branding project with the theme "Leading Through Innovation." This is despite the fact that the word "innovation" has already been used by many schools, including the University of Pennsylvania, MIT and Carnegie Mellon University.
Johns Hopkins announced a new free standing business school, the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. It is interesting to note that most business schools are named after their biggest donors - the only ones that are not are the University of Chicago, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia and Yale.
It can mean, sometimes, that schools have to change names a few times to keep up with funders, like the University of Hawaii's Business School, which did just that after a $25 million donation by real estate investor and alumnus Jay Shidler. The motivation: push the school into the upper ranks.
B-schools have to think creatively about promoting their brand names. Sometimes that means engaging in some non-traditional advertising, such as the National University of Singapore Business School's ads that you can see here and here. The ads aim to position the NUS B-School as part of the upper ranks.
Those who pursue their MBAs at lesser-known schools take heart - a recent documentary shows that it might be that half of the Harvard MBA classes will be "utter failures" and lesser known schools seem to produce grads that are just as successful as their Ivy League peers.
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