Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rhode Island College brand

I was minding my own business when I came across this: “Rhode Island College has a new slogan and logo.”

…followed by: “RIC President Nancy Carriuolo says the fresh design will be part of the school's new advertising and promotional campaign.” I was snoozing along until I came across this flapping red flag: “And it was all done without spending a penny on outside consultants.”

Whaaat? No consultants? I kicked our old heating vent into silence and read on. It was noted that “there are firms that focus on images and slogans and charge hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop them” and that “In keeping with her theme of new leadership and vision, RIC President Nancy Carriuolo formed an 8-person branding committee using in-house staff.” The committee managed the process and selected this:

Oh friends, I wanted to love it. The story is so touching. Brassy little college eschews the ghastly, over-paid consultants and goes it alone with – a COMMITTEE! No dashing, smooth-talking brandsingers for them. We can do this IN-HOUSE. These are bad-news bears… feisty underdogs… avenging nerds. Go you little college go! Find your slogan… It’s in the dictionary... We just have to get everyone involved… have a process… piece it together… I see Inspire… it starts with an I – which goes perfectly with Island… and we’ll need a logo… so pass around the Crayolas and tablets… Okay, who is for burnt umber – hands please! We all have to feel good about it… and then… we’ll ask our committee to choose the type-face… All in favor of sans-serif!... Do we agree that it looks clean and modern? and then… we can get consensus on which word goes up-and-down and which one goes left-to-right… People, please! If you can’t decide by 3:30 we’ll have to hire a consultant!

Dear friends, I did want to love the fruits of the committee’s labor. I often despair at the high prices consultants charge for mediocre work. I wanted the gutsy guys in this little state by the sea to reach out, inspire one another and connect with the spirit of Prometheus or Athena and not with Gerald Ford or Katie Couric. But friends, try as I might to be smitten by their logo and “slogan,” as it’s called, I cannot in good conscience (sorry to lapse into cliché) say about any of it a single, solitary good word.

To prove that my scorn is not baseless, professional pride and protectionism, I give you the first two lines from RIC “about us":
RIS is “located on a 180-acre campus in the Mount Pleasant section of Providence” a “location” that “combines easy access to the benefits and resources of the metropolitan area with a suburban atmosphere.” And lo! for more inspiration read on “about us”: “Rhode Island College has undergone expansion in recent decades” ready for this? “at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

You need a true understanding of who you are – beyond “located on a 180-acre campus” offering metropolitan and suburban amenities. You need to identify and express what you and only you offer the world. It is there within your hallways in the laughter of your students and the wise words of your staff. You are a unique place with eager, talented learners and caring, knowledgeable teachers. You need to throw away your logo and slogan and hire – for peanuts compared with what you will get in return – someone who can plumb the depths of your institutional soul and find words and pictures that will help you and the citizens of your tiniest of states come up with – and realize – the biggest of dreams.



Todd Merriman said...


twoeightnine said...

That was great and an even greater piece of advice.

Speaking from a design standpoint that logo is downright awful. I can't decide if it wants to read RIC or RIIC or even RTIC. I guess that it doesn't help that their old crest is a meaningless mess too (at least without an explanation.)

Todd Merriman said...

Okay, now that I've gotten the requisite Gen-X snark out of my system, I would like to see what the little Rhode Island College that could came up with in terms of advertising. The tagline is fine as far as taglines go (and as we know, they tend not to go very far), but if their About Us prose is any indication, the college's marketing communications might not exactly live up to that bold, all caps, shouted-from-the-rooftops promise.

brandsinger said...

Todd-eroo: The tagline is not fine as far as taglines go. It's predictable and generic. But you are ingenious and one of a kind!

Twoeightnine - Thanks for writing in. I'm afraid you're right. That big C is just kinda hangin out there over the cliff...

Look, guys, logos and slogans don't a brand make. But if you're going to go to all that trouble, you might as well start with a bit of self-reflection... leading to enlightenment... leading to a new suit of clothes worth crowing about.

Todd Merriman said...

True, True, Singer of Brands. It isn't a very good tagline, but I guess my point is that most taglines aren't, even ones thunk up and strategerized by professional Brand Poobahs. I personally would like to see the tagline locked up with "swept into the dustbin of history." Just do it.

Todd Merriman said...

Oh, and thank you. You're both too kind and infinitely wise.

brandsinger said...

Thanks for the smile, Todd. Agree on taglines being a wasteland of words, normally. However, some lines are memorable. in Avon, Connecticut practices a healthcare professional with the alluring line: "The dentist who caters to cowards."

Todd Merriman said...

That's the dentist for me!

gretchen steen said...

Christ on crutches, I blew the door off my office laughing at this post. Usually, I can point to one or two lines or "themes" that contribute to my gaffaw, but not this time. The entire thing, from start to finish, A-Z, soup to nuts, had me in some fitful laughing attack. I think I burned off calories, thereby justifying my happy hour today v. my usual trip to the gym. Thanks for the laughs and the justified cocktail. Cheers!

brandsinger said...

Ah Gretchen, you're too kind - and expressive! I'm glad you had a chuckle, but I'm feeling guiltier by the day that I panned the process here and waxed condescendingly at the expense of these well intentioned Rhodies. Let's just smile and wish them best luck!

Michael Halligan said...

G'day brandsinger. Good post - i think your spot on, but i would think there's a few bruised ego's at the college after reading that!

I'd like to see what nonsense they put in their brochure!

brandsinger said...

Thanks, Michael. I feel worse and worse every day about this post. I know these guys tried hard... I sense that I overdid it. The last part is truth... there is a genuine brand here undiscovered. A missed opportunity. But my mocking is kinda overkill.

A contrite brandsinger

Jerry said...

If I wanted to really hide what RIC stands for, I would create a tagline beginning with the letters R I C to throw the curious off the track.

These letters are not likely to become the next USC or UCLA.

Unfortunately prospective clients don't seem to realize there is a middle ground between spending hundreds of thousands and doing it for free.

I just typed in Nogroma for my security verification, do you know if the URL is available?

brandsinger said...

Agreed, Jerry. Clients can spend hundreds of thousands or a reasonable handful of thousands for terrific creative talent these days. The old consulting model is fragmented -- resulting in many options, to the benefit of clients.

thanks, brandsinger