All posts by Ian Repp

Brand Versus Campaign

Brand Versus 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?”

Three Storytelling Strategies for Michigan Tech’s Brand

A lifestyle brand does not push a product. It does not have a single focus. A lifestyle brand must be as multifaceted as the people it serves. At Michigan Tech, like all universities, we have a diverse audience of people connected to our University in a variety of ways. If Michigan Tech is a lifestyle brand (and I believe we are) here are three simple storytelling tips that can help strengthen our brand and further connect us to the people we represent.

1. Engage in unexpected topics that our audience has an interest in
We love our location and so do our students and alumni. We have water access for boats, kayaks, and canoes. We have amazing skiing opportunities, and great trail systems for hiking and biking. Rather than simply boasting about our locations attributes, why not dig deeper? Let’s talk about the latest in mountain bike technology or the best kayak for the big lake? Why not mention trends in Lake Superior fishing, or the latest advances in skiing and snowboarding product development? Get specific. Talk shop, and show an interest in what activities/topics your audience loves.

2. Allow our audience to share the Michigan Tech Experience
Gone are the days of a controlled marketing message. Messages that a lifestyle brand conveys should also come directly from the people they represent. For social media that means sharing content produced by others. For University marketing material that means allowing students, faculty, and alumni to also be primary vehicles for our message. Word-of-mouth is vital in today’s message-cluttered world, and by encouraging our audience to share their “Michigan Tech Experience,” we are improving our chances of being heard.

3. Speak to your audience like you would a friend
Marketing-speak can be sniffed-out instantly. This means anything of value delivered in this manner is ignored. Lifestyle brands talk to their audience like they would a friend. This doesn’t mean it has to be casual, but it does have to be relatable. Don’t camouflage your message with too many words when a short sentence will do. Don’t speak in generalities when you can be specific to Michigan Tech. When you’re not specific, you’re not being honest.


Michigan Tech Launched a Brand Today

I’m fascinated by brands. Not the cowboy kind, but the kind you see on a polo at a conference. The business kind. The kind that’s become a buzzword in our consumer world.

There are many definitions of brand, and if you found 10 brand experts and stuck them in a room together, odds are even they couldn’t agree on what exactly is a brand? But certainly no one would underestimate the power of a brand. And not a single person would argue a brand isn’t necessary.

A brand is vital. Continue reading

We wore hooded-sweatshirts

Last month I attended a national college fair in Minneapolis. The fair, held in a large convention center downtown, featured hundreds of universities from across the country, and for three days university representatives met with hundreds of students looking to make an important decision about their future.

I saw mostly stuffy, traditional, conservative, (and a handful of edgy) university identities on full display–most had the same “we’re unique like everyone else” messages for the swaths of high school students they encountered:

“Your adventure awaits.”

“Find yourself.”

“Ready to thrive.”

You get the idea. Continue reading

Higher Ed Marketing is Playing Catch Up

Higher Ed marketing is playing catch up. Administrators are figuring out what the business world already has—brand is just as important as the product.

With more than 2,500 universities and colleges in the United States—it’s clear prospective students have options.

So how does a college stand out? The answer: a memorable brand. A brand that connects.

Michigan Tech is looking inward by developing its brand to clearly understand the It Factor that attracted 1,277 new undergrad Huskies this year.

What is a brand anyway? And how does it fit into higher education?

A brand is the emotional connection our audience has with what we offer as a university. Conveying that message is the tricky part. It has to be simple and flexible for all departments, organizations, and units to effectively use. Continue reading