Today in Bad Marketing Campaigns, a College without “College”

Those of us who follow higher education know that if one thing is constant in higher education it’s the effort colleges make to “rebrand” themselves, as more selective, more Christian, more artistic, or the ever-popular “more prestigious.”

American colleges are, compared to the rest of the world, mostly pretty new. Some of this is understandable because so many institutions are really still figuring out what they want to be. But it turns out this sort of behavior is not unique to the United States.

King’s College London a public research university in London, technically a part of the University of London, was founded in 1829. But it too is still figured out what to be. But its latest rebranding campaign has failed.

According to an article in the Independent:

King’s College London became the latest rebranding casualty after it was forced to abandon plans to drop the word “college” from its name and introduce a minimalist new logo and website.

The idea – which is believed to have costs tens of thousands of pounds – had been strongly resisted by students, who dismissed the proposed new name “King’s London” as “pretentious” and more suitable for a brand of aftershave.

And also a little vague. King’s London could be a brand of aftershave, or stationary store, or Houston housing development, or cigarettes or something but it certainly did not suggest something devoted to education. At the very least, after all, an institution of higher learning has “college” or “university,” sometimes both, in its name. Students thought the rebranding plan was kind of stupid.

The rebrand had been due to be implemented next month, but students were told that their campaign had been successful. “The decision is to keep that name [King’s College London] in every way, both as our official name and how we talk about ourselves. So, no more ‘King’s London’,” Principal Edward Byrne told the student publication, Roar.

Bryne (principal is sort of like a college president in the U.S.) announced he wanted to start calling his school King’s London about 18 months ago. He thought it would be useful because,

“Our current name was causing considerable confusion: is King’s a residential college, is it an academic college akin to the colleges of Oxbridge, or is it an educational institution of some other type such as a further education college?”

Well, valid point, Bryne, but removing the word “college” didn’t really make the situation any clearer to prospective students, did it?

The rebranding campaign cost the equivalent of between $130,000 and $450,000.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer