Skip to main content

Depressed and obsessed (or Putting the marketing campaign behind me)

Topics/tags: Miscellaneous, marketing, short

The advent of Grinnell’s new institutional identity and noun-phrase-centric marketing campaign have put me in a funk. I realize that we need to market Grinnell. But I’m bothered by so many things, including the awkward noun phrases that seem to be at the center of the campaign, the confusing change from individually advised curriculum to individually advised learning [1], the sometimes awkward typography and typeface choices, the weird banners on lightpoles around campus, the now-common Communications approach of make a big change without first thinking about the consequences [2,3], and the incorrectly colored, fuzzily rendered, and inadequately cropped logo that lived on the Web site for a full month after I first reported it [4].

My frustration with the campaign got so bad that I started dreaming about it. In the dreams [5], someone would come up and ask how I was doing. All I could do was rant about the approach. It became on obsession, of sorts. The campaign also entered my dreams in other ways, too. For example, when I was working on my attempts to match the new letterhead [6], I also dreamed a lot about fonts.

Then there are the days that I decided to post pictures of the new banners and signage to Facebook. While those posts generated a lot of fun conversation, they produced no forward motion.

I love Grinnell. I hate many aspects of the marketing campaign and worry about what the problems in that campaign suggest about broader issues at the College: issues of shared governance, transparency, willingness to consult, attention to detail, love of language, planning. I’m not thrilled about how the language represents Grinnell. I also know that a bad marketing campaign can negatively impact the institution; I’ve heard many people credit the undermining of the concept of self governance to the No Limits campaign.

But worrying about the campaign harms me [7]. And my complaints won’t make the campaign any better.

It’s time to put my obsession behind me.

I’m going to try to trust that people with authority and sense will help make sure that we have a sensible campaign. Things like the new admissions site give me hope.

Don’t worry, though. I’ll find something new to obsess about. I’ll try to avoid the next obsession being Communications’ failure to live up to their promises about a general public Web site.

[1] I hear rumors that someone had the bright idea that Students now have three advisers. Curriculum suggests only their academic advisor. Let’s substitute another word.

[2] How can others get access to the fonts? They probably can’t. What are the policies about other Web sites, such as We haven’t figured that out yet. I see that we now have new designs in the stationary store. We used to have a standard Word document for people who needed electronic versions of the letterhead. Where can I find that? Since we use a custom font for the letterhead, we still need to figure that out. Use the old one for now. Did anyone on the faculty review the language of the new campaign? Silence.

[3] I say now-common because it’s also what they did with the Web site. We’re throwing everything off that doesn’t pertain to prospective students. Where will it go? We’re not sure. We’ll figure it out eventually. Here it is, four or five years later and, well, they haven’t figured it out yet. And we’re increasingly hiding things behind a password wall because the primary site available for non-marketing purposes is GrinCo, our Sharepointless site, which is intended only for on-campus-only materials. Unfortunately, our administration is relatively clueless about the Web and no one in power is pushing for (or perhaps even understands the need for) the promised general public site.

[4] It should never have been there in the first place.

[5] Nightmares?

[6] It would be so much nicer if the letterhead were documented somewhere, preferably with a helpful guide similar to the old Graphics Standards Guidelines.

[7] I can tell, for example, by how quickly that prior paragraph grew.

Version 1.0 of 2018-05-27.