As brand partners to our clients, we have to be thorough and truthful, completely. Every existing and potential obstacle for marketing success needs to be addressed and discussed. Doing this may cause some discomfort but, even so, it is the right thing to do if results are our main focus. Clients are putting their money in our hands and trusting us to make good on our promise to reach their business goals. They deserve our honesty. A client’s happiness should never trump our responsibility as a brand partner to deliver the best results.
For me, a good example of a lack of strategic thoroughness prior to the development and launch of a campaign is the current University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) advertising. The tactics that I have seen include outdoor boards, print ads and a new website design. The creative execution is very well done. The design and messaging is engaging. The campaign efforts reflect a quality, active University. Job well done, right? Yes, up to a point…the point when the location of the University is considered and compared to the other colleges on parents’ and students’ potential lists.
Whether it’s deserved or not, Pine Bluff’s brand image is not a positive one. For outsiders, the image of the city is a place with an unusually high level of poverty and crime. Understand that this is not an attack on Pine Bluff. The people I know from this city are highly educated, successful and have great character. There are strong, thriving Arkansas businesses that call Pine Bluff home. And the city has a rich historical significance in our state. But the gut feeling a lot of people currently have about Pine Bluff is it’s not a very safe place. This is a huge obstacle in reaching the University’s business goals.
The efforts of the current advertising campaign for UAPB knocks down buying barriers and motivates interest in the school but completely ignores what may be the biggest detractor to significantly increasing enrollment: parents’ concerns about the safety of their children in Pine Bluff. With the development and media spending that is being made, not addressing that obstacle is simply irresponsible marketing. People in advertising often overestimate the power of their creative product. Well designed advertising does not erase the concern surrounding the location of the school. New fonts and quality photography don’t reverse a negative brand that has been built over the last 20+ years.
The question that was either not asked or dismissed during strategic planning is “What do we do about the negative image of the city that we are located in?” Giving 100% honesty at this point the answer should have been- “move the school or start putting money and effort into repositioning Pine Bluff.” UAPB’s success is directly tied to the success of the city it is in. Pine Bluff’s current brand stinks. And through its name and its location that unappealing smell is associated with the UAPB’s brand. And advertising alone won’t make it go away.