university of pennsylvania's wharton school hopes that knowledge is also a powerful branding message as it rolls out a new marketing campaign later this month.kate lord/the wall street journal
the philadelphia business school's new advertising tagline, "knowledge for..." will be completed with a variety of words—"action," "global impact" and "life."
"there was a certain inconsistency" in the school's previous branding efforts, says thomas robertson, wharton's dean and a marketing professor. the school's 20 research centers "weren't immediately identifiable as wharton."
to promote wharton's "quant heavy" reputation for strong finance programs, the new marketing materials rely heavily on charts and graphs, including an infographic with concentric circles to show how far students travel to study at the school and another with colorful vertical bars to represent finance professors' years of experience.
meanwhile, wharton is investing in three strategic areas: innovation, social impact and global presence—recently appointing vice deans for each initiative and adding classroom and extracurricular activities to foster the strategy.strictly business
wharton's bottom line:
source: wharton school
mr. robertson, 69 years old, spoke with the wall street journal about the campaign, how the school is building up a global presence and how innovation at wharton is on the rise. edited excerpts:
the wall street journal: what's the impetus for the branding campaign?
thomas robertson: it was important that we clarify and achieve consistency for the wharton brand. it was a matter of finding a shared understanding of what the brand is all about.
words such as knowledge, analytics, rigor came up [in focus groups]. initially, there was no single platform that we could identify.
one of the challenges was to look at [the websites of] the top 20 schools, take off the brand names and see if you could tell which school was which. even putting wharton in there, they all look very much alike.
we think we've come up with an approach that separates us. most of the [current] ads are testimonials. we're trying to get away from that so that it'll be identifiable as wharton.
wsj: do you think people classify wharton as a school for innovation?
mr. robertson: more and more, innovation is a part of our brand.
we have a lot of courses in innovation design, new-product design, marketing courses [about] diffusion of innovation or social contagion [viral videos, guerrilla advertising and social media]. and we have a large entrepreneurial program, a business-plan competition, a venture-initiation program where we fund a limited number of students in the summer to help them start businesses.
until the 1970s, the legal name of the school was the wharton school of finance and commerce. we're very proud of finance. it's great; we don't want to do anything, ever, to diminish its luster. but we're equally committed to nine other teaching departments.
wsj: many business schools are launching satellite campuses or partnering with schools in western europe or asia or latin america. how does wharton create that global presence?
mr. robertson: we were one of the founding partners, with kellogg [graduate school of management, at northwestern university], of the indian school of business. we were involved in curriculum design as singapore management university got under way.
penn and wharton are going into beijing, running executive programs, faculty seminars, symposia and so forth. [but] we have never put our name on a school in another country. there are no plans whatsoever to offer a degree in another country or in another part of the united states [other than san francisco, where it has a campus].
we have to be very careful about brand name. it's not for sale; we're not going to franchise it. we're not going to license it. we're not going to do joint degrees.
wsj: wharton is often ranked as a top-three business school [for m.b.a.s]. who do you consider your main competitors?
mr. robertson: at the undergraduate level, our competitors are harvard, yale and princeton. at the m.b.a. level, it's harvard and stanford. executive m.b.a. in philadelphia, it's columbia [business school], i suppose.
for the most part, we compete with harvard [at the m.b.a. level]. there are still tremendous regional biases.
wsj: why a wharton undergraduate degree? why should a 17-year-old want to study at wharton rather than be a math or economics major at penn or elsewhere?
mr. robertson: you could get an undergraduate degree at harvard, yale [or] princeton. a lot of these students would then compete with our students for jobs on wall street or with consulting firms. at wharton, it's half liberal arts and half business, and we think that's a pretty good mix.
wsj: few business schools still have ph.d. programs. how can talent continue to flow through the pipeline into academia?
mr. robertson: when we admit students, in the letter of admission, the expectation is that they will go into academia. the notion has even been floated that if they don't go into academia, they should pay back the cost of the ph.d. program. it costs about $400,000 to educate one ph.d. student, because they don't pay tuition and they get stipends.
if [departments] are not placing at top schools, or if their students don't go into academia, we will cut back the number of ph.d. students that they're allowed to admit.