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University utilizes 'Red Hot' marketing

Campaign has cost IU more than $200,000 so far

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Feb. 2, 2006 

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It's on billboards, T-shirts, Assembly Hall's scoreboard and now even on Dasani water bottles.

IU is Red Hot.

This summer, Newsweek named IU the "hottest big state school." As a result, IU leapt right onto this honor to create its recent "IU is Red Hot" marketing campaign and experts say the swiftness paid off.

"The 'IU is Red Hot' label is a simple, distinctive message that is easy to communicate and conveys a positive image," said IU marketing professor Ray Burke. "It's a great platform for a marketing campaign."

IU has spent more than $200,000 since the beginning of the school year to promote its new slogan. There are nine billboards across the state touting the honor and T-shirts coining the slogan have circulated campus.

Lisa Townsend, executive director of the Office of

Communication and Marketing, said the campaign has been extremely successful and cost efficient. She said that IU has received a lot of free press about its slogan as it has been incorporated into themes for the IU Alumni Association and other groups. She compared the effort to Ball State's recent campaign "Cutting Edge Cool," which plays off the IU slogan. She said IU has spent far less than Ball State, which bought more than 150 billboards, and IU has received greater results from its campaign.

Townsend said she got the idea for putting stickers on water bottles when IU President Adam Herbert was handing out water on move-in day.

"I like the idea of cooling off with a 'Red Hot' sticker there," she said.

Part of the reason why the campaign has been successful is that IU moved quickly while the honor was still new, knowing such accolades only happen year to year.

"We wanted to strike while the iron is hot,"

Townsend said.

At the same time, University Chancellor Ken Gros Louis said he believes IU had to move quickly because the University might go down in the rankings. Gros Louis said he is always skeptical of rankings because he realizes they can be skewed and said for that reason, he thinks flash in the pan rankings aren't something to gloat about.

"I would be very cautious about our excitement with such rankings because they might not be that way next year," Gros Louis said. "U.S. News and World Report, for example, changes it's ranking every year because if they were the same they wouldn't sell the magazine. We very well might not receive the same honor from Newsweek next year."

Gros Louis said the accomplishments that IU should promote are the schools such as the Kelley School of Business, which consistently ranks in the top 10 or 15 in the nation.

The problem, Townsend explains, is that "top 10 or 15 in the nation" doesn't work as a slogan. She said marketing campaigns should be about the whole University and not just a school or a department.

IU Student Association President Alex Shortle echoed Gros Louis' comments.

"Advertising of the Newsweek rankings was useful for a time, but from this point forward I don't believe the promotion to be justified," he said. "They need to promote why we are 'Red Hot,' not simply that we are."

Townsend said that she couldn't say if IU would continue the campaign next year. Factors such as whether IU drops in rankings and project funding would play into that decision.

Assistant professor of marketing Adam Duhachek said he thinks because of the time span of the award, it can only last for a year.

"Next year's awareness campaign will likely have to emphasize different strengths," he said. "These popular press awards come and go, and the media are fickle."

Laura Buchholz, marketing lecturer, said that even if IU were to receive the honor again, a new campaign

might be needed.

"You may need to change the campaign even if we do earn that ranking again," she said. "Marketing is fluid. It must be timely. When it becomes stagnant, it becomes boring. Humans crave variety.

"After a year or so, though, even 'Red Hot' can become lukewarm. All campaigns have a shelf life," she said.

Marketing professor Jonlee Andrews disagrees, saying that the campaign can be tweaked to suit new honors.

"While the campaign focuses on a specific award, it could also be considered a clever tag line that will stick in the minds of those who are exposed to it," she said. "It actually provides a nice platform for future campaigns around anything great that is happening at the University."

Marketing professor Ann Bastianelli agrees, saying that it is immaterial if we receive the ranking again.

She said it's timing.

Townsend said she hopes the campaign will translate into increased awareness of IU's accomplishments, which could mean greater support in the legislature, more students applying to IU and maybe even more alumni donations. Duhachek said it's important that IU continues to market aggressively because "any positive point of differentiation can help steer bright 17 and 18 year olds to campus."

Townsend said IU has received great benefits out of only a small amount of advertising, but noted that she thinks IU rarely over-promotes its achievements.

"I don't know if you ever can really do too much," she said. "But at the same time, we are higher education and not McDonald's."

It's unknown if IU will keep the campaign around next year, but Buchholz has a suggestion if they do keep it.

"If we're rated at the top again next year I might follow up this campaign with a 'White Hot' theme," she said. "What's hotter than 'Red Hot?' It's 'White Hot.' IU is both."

 

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