College community responds to Bison with resounding ‘Meh’
By Rachel Kimbrough
The college just forked more than $120,000 over to Bernstein-Rein Advertising (B-R) for a rebranding project, as detailed in the center spread of this issue.
What B-R came up with as a recommendation for the new mascot is the JCCC Bison. See pages eight and nine of this issue for a preview of that image. Spoiler alert: it’s a flaming bull head.
B-R’s research report states that many members of various focus groups said the Bison inspired feelings of intensity, energy and masculinity.
Masculinity? Heads up: the average student at the college is a mid-twenties female (which, by the way, defines Yours Truly).
And anyway, the proposed Bison idea has not been super well-received, including among the sports department, weirdly.
That means one of two things: either the college just spent over a hundred thousand bucks on a mascot proposal that no one particularly likes but that we’ll accept because we paid for it, or the college just threw away that amount toward literally nothing (if we decide not to go with the Bison).
Rebranding is not about a new mascot, logo or colors. Rebranding and redesign are not the same things (though, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts, either).
No, rebranding has more to do with changing how an entity is perceived to its target audience. That may include making an entity’s visual elements a little easier on the eyes, but that’s not the whole shebang. It is “changing the corporate image of (a company or organization).” Thus sayeth Oxford Dictionary.
So, what the college is trying to do with rebranding, again citing B-R’s detailed research report, is draw “positive emotional reaction and attention to the Johnson County Community College (JCCC) brand.” It’s an effort to maybe not change, but refresh how the community sees us.
B-R’s report said that most focus group participants’ view of the college amounted to positive things like value, good reputation and progressive thinking.
Value and progressive thinking. When considering rebranding, how could we go about speaking to those generally accepted perceptions of the college, and augment that reputation? Hire a firm for six figures to come up with something different to slap on our sports jerseys?
Nope. How about this: let the graphic design students have a go at it first. Go on the college’s website at http://www.jccc.edu/graphicdesign/awards /awards-aaf-addy.html real quick. That’s how many of our students have won national graphic design awards. Not regional. Not state-wide. National. Have a look at the other awards while you’re there.
That could have been a way to demonstrate that this college is appropriately frugal-minded, has the capacity to make smart money decisions when in the midst of our first-ever budget crisis and is generally forward-thinking enough to use a very valid but apparently untapped resource—students.
That could have been something to present to the community. Right now we can show our new design, whether that’s the Bison or whatever else it turns out to be, and all we can say for it is, “This company designed that for us.” If we’d used internal sources (like students, or even graphic design faculty), that frugality and resourcefulness itself could have been something to market. That would have actually been relevant to rebranding. So meta.
Contact Rachel Kimbrough, editor-in-chief, at firstname.lastname@example.org.