Speaker: Bill Toliver, Director, The Matale Line
One of your great goals as a professional should be to be fired - that’s when you know you’re pushing the envelope.
A brief state of the union:
- Economy is somewhere between bad and worse ever - we’re freeing up budgets, but we’re all still scared
- Politics: somewhere between “yes we can” and “over my dead body”
- Strategic gifts: a new definition of “ouch”
- Crop of new students: The best and worst, most focused and distracted ever
State of our Profession:
- Job Security: treat level orange
- Salary: 0% increase is the new black
- Retirement: death seems easier to contemplate
- Pure ethically infallible professors: barely tolerate us (Head of Marketing ’s note: and let’s be honest, we barely tolerate them)
- Machiavellian, ethically challenged administrators: barely tolerate us
- Existential conflict between values/ideals and reality
What if we were the solution to that existential crisis?
- What if we were not victims, but agents of change?
- What if we deeply understood what we were truly good at?
- What if we knew how to recognize an ideal student?
- What if we were the most desirable choice for that student?
- What if we had the resources to truly thrive?
What if we were Expert Marketers? (for God’s sake, don’t be an expert marketer!)
Taking the PSAT is as stupid as advertising on an orange - you get a certain score and you get mail regardless of other factors.
The emperor of marketing has been very naked for a very long time.
- The multi-billion dollar direct mail business is built on a 99% failure rate because you so inadequately understand how you’re communicating with.
- A typical American is exposed to 1000 sales messages in a day…and only 2 has a lasting impact, and one of those has a negative impact.
- Billions of pounds in landfills and millions of CO emissions
- Online video is so “new” that 11.2 billion were streamed in the US (July) - The biggest lie you can tell yourself is that you’ll come up with a viral video to describe your school perfectly.
- Second only to the Chemical Industry in regulations and controls (the advertising and marketing business)
And yet..There are the rarest examples of success that are powerful examples:
- Harley-Davidson - they don’t sell motorcycles, they sell rebellion. They understood there’s a way to transcend demographics and speak to values.
- Apple: You’ll have to pry my Mac from my cold dead hands.
- Nike: The swoosh says it all.
- Saturn (before GM destroyed it)
- Starbucks: They sell the 10 minutes of sanity you afford yourself at the beginning of each day.
- Schools who know who they are: Berea College, Oberlin, Naropa, Ever Green College
What’s different about these brands?
- They understand the difference between marketing and movement building
- The Obama campaign wasn’t about technology - it was about understanding people and allowing them to drive the bus.
- They are built around a very strong value system.
- They have the courage to sacrifice - the essence of positioning is sacrifice…to know who you are not good for. The moment you worry about pleasing everyone, you’re dead.
- They sell their product by marketing a view of the world.
- Others compete around them, rather than against them.
- They’ve evolved beyond a database to a true base of support
Great brands ask themselves a harder set of questions:
- Does our story reflect a deep understanding of a moral? People spend way too much time worrying about the semantics of the story they are telling.
- Does that moral speak to a underval/timeless truth?
- Do we know who can most benefit from what we do?
- Ware we “one of” or are we “the”?
Great brands know something that the rest of us seem to have forgotten: headlines , hardships and stock indexes aren’t suppose to define who we are, they’re suppose to test who we are.
The world isn’t have an economic, environmental or political crisis: We are experiencing an existential crisis of wisdom.
The only question ay of us should be asking is what/who/how will we rise above it?
The only question we should be debating today is what role your university can (must) play in this effort.
Will your engineers affirm human potential or prey on our basest instincts? Will your business majors destroy or build the next economy? How will we consume energy? How will we care for the least, last and lost in our society? How will we define the difference between smart and wise?
Marriage of marketing and movement building:
- Do we operate like an expert or like a real person?
- Do we rent space in someone else’s world or own content?
- Do we shine a light on ourselves or on the issues dear to us?
- Do we define community geographically or in terms of values?
- Do we treat our members as people or as profiles?
Let’s ask these questions in a very familiar context:
The High School Kid
- Confused but curious
- Afraid but excited
- Defining a short list
We should say “we know you’re confused but curious…but here’s some of the things you should be thinking about”. Tailor it with your values and beliefs - those who agree will come to you. Those who don’t, won’t.
What is the state of mind at each step? What is the message I can deliver? Don’t spend 99% of your dollar round the decision point - spend it on cultivation.
So what is your role?