Colatriano: College branding obscures real message

Colatriano argues that the Temple Made campaign betrays the intentions of higher education.

Chelsea Colatriano

Chelsea ContralinoThe Bell Tower on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.

By this point, that ominous date, time and place must sound familiar. More than 950 people have RSVP’d on Facebook, and that number will only go up, despite the fact that no one seems to know what will happen.

It’s not only the event of the semester that everyone’s talking about, but it also must be the most seductive mystery to hit Temple in recent memory.

Why would so many Temple students be going to an event on a Thursday night, prime “studying” night might I add, with absolutely no idea what kind of chaos will ensue? Quite simple: Temple Made.

It’s been impossible to avoid the game faces, posters and the statement: “Self Made. Philly Made. Temple Made.” I’m sure it must ring a bell.

And what is Temple Made selling? A product, essentially. It seeks to bottle up the “essence” of the university, encompassing what appears to be school spirit and the Big East move, and attempting to sell it to the masses, even beyond the reach of the students. Yes, Temple Made is selling a product along with an ideal, not too different from Apple, McDonalds or Urban Outfitters.

Neiman is the Philadelphia-based agency that worked with Temple to create the branding campaign.

A press release from Neiman reads, “In a world of higher education marketing sameness, Neiman has been tapped to help Temple University reveal its unique identity through a new brand transformation assignment.”

Translation: Every other university is doing it, so we have to keep up with the competition.

Just these two words, “Temple Made,” carry so much meaning among Temple students that they are willing to flock to an event that they know nothing about.

Quite a marketing campaign isn’t it? Bravo, Neiman. That is the kind of influence most brands aspire to get to, and Neiman has reached that status with Temple Made in about two months.

But doesn’t such a high profile campaign distract from what should make Temple a respectable university?

Shouldn’t Temple’s credentials, such as its high-ranking academics and move to the Big East, be able stand on their own without a branding campaign? Or is Temple first and foremost a business, as I’ve come to fear?

“It might blur the line between education and business,” Tom Carney, sophomore anthropology major, said.

One of the university’s goals is to make money off its product — a degree. Temple Made, however, is a shockingly blatant reminder of that fact. Essentially, before this campaign was launched, the line separating higher education from business was carefully toed. Now, I feel that I can equate Temple Made advertising the Big East move with the improved sense of community with the launch of Apple’s iPhone 5.

Both are supposed to be bigger and better than before, after all.

Yes, Temple Made may have improved the feeling of unity on campus. It perpetuates the idea that Temple students are independent, yet have a great sense of community and pride in the university and Philadelphia.

“It is great walking around campus and seeing posters and signs,” Carney said. “It feels like there is a sense of unity when I walk the campus, am in the classroom or when I’m at a football game. I think it was launched for that very reason: unity.”

A strengthened sense of school pride can definitely be credited to Temple Made’s influence. After all, successful advertising can create a bond between the consumer and the company. Brand loyalty.

“Building a brand, if you want to call it that, means working to ensure there are more successes than failures — and it can only be done by the academic and administrative staff working together, with good leadership,” Paul Temple wrote in “Branding Higher Education: Illusion or Reality?” in Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education. “Nobody else can do it. That is the reality: branding, as a route to success, is the illusion.”

Temple Made has instilled brand loyalty. It is a facade. By no means is this campaign tangible.

Actual academic success? That is tangible. The campaign has obviously tugged at the heartstrings of the student body and it has been welcomed with open arms.

Temple students, however, should keep in mind that Temple Made is a marketing campaign for a business that seeks to increase its profits, created by Neiman, which also works for Comcast Sportsnet and Dietz and Watson.

When Sept. 27 rolls around, I imagine a mass congregation at the Bell Tower, the heart of Temple’s Main Campus. Excitement and wonder will fuel the crowd, just like at the launch of a new Apple product. But what, exactly, is the difference?

Chelsea Colatriano can be reached at

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