In March of 2009 Oregon State University launched an integrated marketing communication plan for which the central message was “Powered by Orange.” The primary objective of the campaign was to build greater off-campus visibility for OSU within the State of Oregon, especially within the urban centers. OSU has a culture of humility and that has been reflected in relatively modest investments in institutional marketing. I have to give “props” to Luanne Lawrence (our former VP for University Advancement), Melody Oldfield (Director of Marketing) and their colleagues for championing this effort. As a faculty member at OSU for more than 20 years, I can say, with confidence, that “PBO” was OSU’s most ambitious communication campaign ever.
The PBO campaign is largely focused on leveraging social media to engage the broad community of OSU’s alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends and fans. The relative success of PBO could be seen in the display of the PBO emblems (essentially orange circles) in personal attire among alumni and friends, in the windows of downtown Portland office buildings, and on automobile bumpers and windows. Success was also noted by The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) awarding the campaign its highest honor, the “Circle of Excellence” Grand Gold Award, which is just one of the many awards the campaign received. The student newspaper published an editorial lauding the program, including these comments:
“The Powered by Orange campaign has revolutionized the way universities across the nation and the world have utilized social media to involve students, fans and alumni to create a virtual community where individuals with a wide range of affiliations can come together.
The fact that our rural university is at the forefront of the innovative use of new media is a pleasant surprise, to say the least. The campaign has caught the attention of several online sites and bloggers who are impressed by PBO’s visionary use of unconventional campaign tactics”
Clearly, this campaign demonstrates the application of basic lessons that come from understanding the application of Brand Community to higher education. I could go with further examples, but will, instead, refer you to the PBO website: http://poweredbyorange.com/
On that web site (or directly on YouTube) you can also see an impressive and creative campaign video created by one of our outstanding marketing students, Darryl Lai. We do have some amazing students in our program!
Well, success is relative. During the last year, I have “enjoyed” serving on the diverse committees that faculty “treasure” and have heard much criticism of the campaign. This criticism sometimes comes from faculty and, other times, from university administrators. Essentially, these colleagues don’t get the point of the campaign or appreciate its message. Academicians seem much more comfortable about telling our story in a fashion that would make Joe Friday of Dragnet very comfortable, as in “just the facts.”
So, I am curious, would a campaign like Powered by Orange, be possible at other universities? Would other university communities be more accepting of an identity campaign that doesn’t convey “just the facts?” What experiences do you, “dear readers,” have with working to build your brand, or “institutional identity?”
Welcome to our new BCI blog subscribers!
James McAlexander, Ph.D.
Dean’s Professor of Excellence
College of Business
Oregon State University