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Go forth Grinnellian

Topics/tags: Grinnell, advertising, short

This past Sunday, Grinnell placed a full-page advertisement in the Sunday New York Times.

A photograph of a page from the "New York Times".  The top reads "Elisabeth Krueger followed a passion FOR FOLKLORE and found herself FIGHTING FOR POLAR BEARS".  At the bottom, there is a tagline that reads "GO FORTH GRINNELLIAN.

I learned about the full-page ad from an alum. Another alum graciously sent me a photograph which I think had been posted to the Grinnell Alumni Facebook page [1].

The same day, I received a similar, but different, advertisement in the New York Times app on my cell phone.

A screenshot from a phone.  On the right, it reads 'Luna Ranhit '00 found an aid organization OUT OF HER BACKPACK'.  On the left, over a photo of a woman at a microphone, it reads 'Know someone like Luna?' with an arrow to the text 'GO FORTH GRINNELLIAN'.  There is also a button labeled 'LEARN HOW'

I’m not sure how I feel about Go Forth Grinnellian as a tagline. At least it’s not Go Fourth Grinnellian. And it’s certainly much better than No Limits [2]. But it would have been nice if there had been some discussion with the faculty about taglines, or at least a presentation. The last I’d heard, it was Individually Advised Learning for the Intellectually Motivated [3]. I wish Communications would, well, communicate more with us.

What does an advertisement in the Sunday Times cost? With a little effort, I found a pricing kit for Education advertisers in the Times. It looks like the advertisement cost about $135,000. That seems like a lot.

My first reaction was to ask Couldn’t that money be better spent? For example, we could have used it on the new Student Activities position rather than cutting the core Student Activities budget (and, along the way halving the budget for KDIC [5]). There likely would have been some to spare. Or, better yet, we could increase wages for all of the Academic Support Assistants on campus. Our ASAs are awesome and underpaid and deserve better wages. But there are other factors too; given recent experiences hiring in the Dean’s office, you’d think that would be an obvious move.

My second reaction was to wonder whether it would affect donations. My first inclination as a donor was If Grinnell can afford pointless ads, it probably doesn’t need my money. But I tend to donate to specific causes on campus, and those causes always need money. My next donation is planned for the student food pantry [7].

Then I talked to a colleague who is sometimes wiser about such matters, or at least provides a different perspective. They suggested that there’s a value to building our name recognition. It is important to build our name recognition, not just so that we can recruit more students [8], but also so that people are more likely to consider hiring our students [9]. If the ad contributes substantially to us getting one more full-pay student for each of the next four years, it has paid for itself. Will that happen? I don’t know; I’m not wise in such matters. But the stories look compelling and might get some folks to take a second look [10]. If a thousand people follow the link to read more, and that leads to ten more applications, one of whom decides to enroll this year, it’s a start.

There you have it. You probably anticipated a rant. I admit that, were I in charge, I’d spend the money differently. For once, I’m willing to accept that there are different perspectives.

But Go Forth Grinnellian? I’m still not sold. How about The Grinnell Impact? Or Changing the world, one Grinnellian at a time? Or something from the mission statement, such as Serving the common good? No; none of those is very good. It appears I’m not cut out to be a slogan writer.

Postscript: In writing this musing, I ended up browsing a variety of College pages. I’ve already mentioned that we have new pages about our marking page. But there are changes everywhere. When did Free Speech, Inclusion, and Community: Guiding Principles get added to the page on our Mission statement? And can we claim that The College [h]as recycling bins for paper, metal, cardboard, glass, plastics, and redeemables at every residence hall when we no longer recycle glass? For that matter, why is Sustainability one of the three subpages for our Mission and Values page rather than Excellence in Education for Students in the Liberal Arts, which is supposed to be one of our three core values? [11]

Ah well, those are topics for another musing.

[1] Even though I am an honorary member of two different classes at Grinnell, I am not permitted on the private Grinnell Alumni facebook page. That’s probably a good thing.

[2] I would definitely prefer Know Limits to any of our taglines. But I’m not in charge.

[3] Hmmm … it appears we have a new set of pages about our story and messaging. I’m not sure how to parse To ensure our creative feels authentically Grinnellian, we created a series of traits that align with the brand personality and set the tone for how our communications come to life. I’m also not sure why we have our marketing strategy on the public Web site [4].

[4] In spite of my preference for openness, I do think there are some things that should be kept private.

[5] I’ve always wondered why our radio station is KDIC. The only explanation I’d heard had been that it was a stupid student joke [6]. But perhaps the IC stands for Iowa College. The K is because we’re west of the Mississippi.

[6] Write the station name a few times in a row and you’ll understand.

[7] Yes, there are Grinnell students who do not get enough to eat. I’m glad that the thoughtful people in the CRSSJ have set up a food pantry on campus.

[8] Including more full-pay students.

[9] In CS, we didn’t need advertisements. Once one Grinnellian CS major gets a job at a company, they naturally pave the way for others. I assume that others find the same thing. However, since there’s a relatively limited spectrum of top companies in CS, the impact may be more obvious.

[10] Or even a first look.

[11] I’m glad that we are promoting sustainability.

Version 1.0 released 2018-10-23.

Version 1.0.2 of 2018-10-24.