All posts by Ian Repp

The STEM Lifestyle

We know STEM jobs are in demand. Within the next 25 years, those in the STEM fields must find solutions to some of the world’s most complex and frightening problems, like drought, famine, disease, energy-consumption, and cybersecurity. Today, we have more STEM job vacancies than people to fill them. It’s vital we find new and creative ways to promote a career in STEM.

At Michigan Tech, we understand the importance of demonstrating the ROI of a STEM degree. We also understand the impact of those who choose a career in STEM will have on societies, economies, and the world. Make no mistake; it’s easy to rely on data to tell our story–job-demand, starting salaries, job placements, are all very powerful stuff to promote. Today however, in higher education, the brand power of a university is equally critical.

Simply put, brand power is a result of a strong relationship one has developed with a product, business, or organization. Today it’s not enough for a university to promote what they offer (the product of a quality education).

Data, statistics, and rankings can only empower a message so much.

Now university marketers and communicators must also demonstrate the importance of the relationship one can have with their university as well.

Michigan Tech is a Lifestyle

1980s and 1990s companies targeting skateboarders provided some of the first examples of businesses that made product marketed to embody the culture of their customers. Today, we call them lifestyle brands. Lifestyle brands identify with their audience by embodying and extolling their characteristics to build a relationship. Data can be a powerful tool to demonstrate affinity with STEM enthusiasts–mathematicians love numbers, as an example. However, successful lifestyle brands help to foster a kinship between a brand and an audience. And when done well, it can last a lifetime.

I want the STEM fields to be seen as a lifestyle and I want Michigan Tech to be a lifestyle brand. I want to demonstrate what life is like for a mechanical engineer, a quantum physicist, or a biological scientist at Michigan Tech. I want to focus on the journey and not just the outcomes. I want STEM to not only be seen as necessary and important for our world, but also just plain cool to be a part of. If we can tell this story correctly, not only will it strengthen the Michigan Tech brand, it will also help to fill the current void in STEM jobs for years to come.

Ian Repp
Director of Marketing and Communications


Brand Vs. Campaign

All too often marketing professionals blur the lines between brand and campaigns. It’s easy to do. Buzzwords like “brand campaign” muddy the waters even more. It is important to note that a brand and a campaign are different. Understanding this concept is key to successful brand management.

A campaign is for a targeted cause or initiative. Brand is enduring.

Campaigns should align with the brand, and target a specific goal. Sometimes a business or institution will have several campaigns concurrently, and that’s okay. However the one enduring theme that unites multiple campaigns together is brand.

I’ve seen businesses operate without a brand. These businesses churn out campaign after campaign–sometimes successfully. This approach certainly gets attention. However, this model is not sustainable. Usually the goal of a business is to be around for many years to come. This means succeeding in business objectives (campaigns serve as support), while solidifying and nurturing the relationship a company has with its intended audience (branding is pivotal). Campaigns can build on one another via the brand, and use the success of the previous campaign to help launch and empower the next one. This builds equity. And over time, equity is a business’s greatest asset for future growth.

Spilling Water is a Missed Opportunity

Imagine a brand as being like a potted plant. And every drop of water is a campaign. With every drop the plant receives, the plant grows. The more water, the more growth. When a drop misses the plant, it isn’t helping the plant grow. Continually misfire the water droplets and the plant dies.

A brand needs strong campaigns to strengthen it. This means the campaigns must align with the brand. Of course campaigns can be successful without brand alignment, but they will not help your business or institution grow.

Re-potting the Plant

When a plant grows too big for its pot, it’s time to replant. This kind of growth doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time. Doing it too early can disrupt the plant’s roots–doing it too often, prevents the roots from establishing themselves.

The same logic applies to branding. One shouldn’t meddle all too often. Of course if the target audience changes, or the business’s mission changes, then it makes sense. The biggest mistake one can make is changing a brand too frequently. It takes time to build a relationship with a brand. When changes to the brand are being considered, one must first question whether or not the change should be within the current campaign (or campaigns) instead. A general rule of thumb is that brand adjustments should be considered every 5-10 years, while campaign adjustments can happen yearly.

At Michigan Tech, it is important understand how brand and campaigns connect. This relationship positively affects the success of the short- and long-term goals of our University. So the next time a campaign is being discussed, ask yourself this question: “Are we spilling water?”

–Ian Repp
Director, University Marketing and Communications