Michigan State Alumni Video – A Sign of Trends to Come?

I’ll be honest, when I think about Spartans, I think about this guy:

Michigan State would rather I think about their nearly 500,000 alumni around the world and what they’re doing. This summer, they’re collecting stories from alumni and will be showcasing them on a new site, Spartan Sagas.

Here’s the video they’ve recently put out to solicit stories. It’s pretty nice.

The New York Times writes about the project here, noting:

In addition to the microsite, the campaign includes commercials, on television and YouTube; print ads; posters and signs in airports; and online ads. The budget for the media spending is estimated at a thrifty $478,000.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have that sort of budget. Here’s one more snippet from the NYT story that’s stuck out in my mind:

The campaign is indicative of how institutions of higher learning are trying to sell themselves in the marketplace with the kinds of tactics more commonly used to sell soap, soup or sedans.

Do you think that’s a fair statement? Yes, the pool of students to attend our colleges are getting smaller, and we need to set ourselves apart or ensure we’re reaching the right audience. That’s different, I think, than selling soap and soup – both of which are more common denominator type products and get common denominator type marketing.

4 thoughts on “Michigan State Alumni Video – A Sign of Trends to Come?”

  1. I think I’m skeptical about the “soap and soup” statement also – each one of those accomplishment bullet-points that flip across at the end is meant to appeal to an idiosyncratic interests. I came away with “Saving the Great Lakes” stuck in my head. There’s a special brand of investor commercial that runs during, say, televised golf tournaments, commercials for corps. that don’t really sell anything specific but have a roster of services, usually financial, that enable investment and research.

    Unis don’t ever sell one thing, and it’s that necessary mix of advocacy and entrepreneurial success that they’re trying to get across, right? Can’t do that with Dove soap. What bugs me, which you pointed out, is the budgetary issue. I feel like as the web becomes a development platform, unis are using it as a more static, delivery-based media platform to deliver PR materials and solicit donations (Case Western’s recent redesign does both, for instance). But individual departments have both less funds and less wherewithal (and, often, less ability) to develop these initiatives on their own.

    I have to assume the growing “no Frankensites, pls” rule is a bit of our own fault, but I think giving the websites over to alum/prospective student outreach diminishes the value of the web for instructors. CMEs are becoming like a sort of ghetto where all the academic work gets done, and admin gets to say leave our fancy website alone please, follow the branding guidelines, here’s your portal and Blackboard or D2L.

    As we’ve seen with a certain petroleum company, if it becomes all about the brand, when the brand goes down, everybody goes with it. I’d like to see more universities staking their credibility on department web presences as well as PR initiatives, because it certainly affects my credibility in the classroom.

    ach, I’m tl;dr. Great post man.

  2. I think the New York Times got it wrong (I know, who do I think I am to make this kind of statements 😉

    What I’ve observed for the past few years is that soup and soap makers have started to try to sell their products the way institutions appeal to their target audiences – by focusing more on identity and affinity with the “brand.”

    Actually, Dove and its campaign for Real Beauty is a good example of that. Don’t you think?

  3. Mark Malafarina

    The concept MSU is layout is nice in theory – but they have to continually follow up with great content.

    If they can get enough Spartans to follow through, go to the site they are promoting in the ‘ad’, make it easy to add their stories & really show what MSU grads are doing, then it’s a compelling piece for potential students.

    However, if there are no updates & if MSU is not engaging the alumni that do add to their minisite, then it will fail.

    It seems like they have a great opportunity here to step outside the boundaries of what most universities are doing to promote the school & that is worthy of attention.

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