Branding Higher Education

At an event at UC Berkeley, I lucked into a keynote by Rich Lyons, Dean of the Haas School of Business. He shared the new strategic plan for Haas, and it was great to see brand strategy tools applied to higher education — and applied very well.

In a time when business school thinking is being blamed for the economic meltdown and there are countless schools and graduates fighting for market share, what does it mean to have an education from Haas? Why would you choose Haas over other schools? Why should you hire a Haas grad instead of a Stanford grad? This type of inquiry is exactly the basis for brand strategy.

From their research, they identified four “defining principles” of Haas:

  1. Question the status quo: We lead by championing bold ideas, taking intelligent risks and accepting sensible failures. This means speaking our minds even when it challenges convention. We thrive at the world’s epicenter of innovation.
  2.  Confidence without attitude: We make decisions based on evidence and analysis, giving us the confidence to act without arrogance. We lead through trust and collaboration.
  3. Students always: We are a community designed for curiosity and lifelong pursuit of personal and intellectual growth. This is not a place for those who feel they have learned all they need to learn.
  4. Beyond yourself: We shape our world by leading ethically and responsibly. As stewards of our enterprises, we take the longer view in our decisions and actions. This often means putting larger interests above our own.

They’ve done a great job. Reading these really conveys a story about who a Haas student is — you can imagine this person and how she thinks, and this image feels exactly right for a business program at UC Berkeley. Kudos!

What’s also smart are the plans for communicating this identity. In the best example, Lyons talked about writing an applicant recommendation form that would ask questions about the characteristics, e.g., does this candidate have confidence without attitude? Not only does this filter out many candidates, but each recommender — many of whom are top thinkers and executives around the world — comes away with a distinctly positive impression about the qualities of a Haas graduate. That’s an amazing brand reputation tool, in the shape of an admission form.

This level of work shouldn’t be a surprise when one of Haas’s marquee names is Professor Emeritus David Aaker, a founder of Prophet and one of the biggest names in marketing and brand strategy.

West Coast Green Coverage

This year I wrote about West Coast Green for Triple Pundit, a site devoted to green business news and ideas. Links to my posts:

“Green” Marketing Lessons from the eBay Box

Backstory about the development of the reusable eBay Box, tips from an intrapreneur involved in the project, and the importance of community engagement.

Madrone League: Open Source Sustainability Education

Hunter Lovins’ vision for affordable sustainability education that would be global, participant-driven, and collaborative.

A Look at Women’s Leadership in Sustainability

Wrap-up of a panel exploring how women lead and how that leadership style can benefit sustainability.

The Social Entrepreneurship Era of Burning Man

The Burning Man community’s values and innovation are generating social ventures that have potential to address global problems.

The Valuation Trap: How ROI Can Undermine the Case for Sustainability

While measuring outcomes helps sell sustainability initiatives, emphasis on quantitative proof can have unintended consequences.