Lane is in the process of setting its direction for the next five years, and so everything is up for review. At the Board of Education retreat on the weekend of Nov. 14-15, Tracy Simms, director of marketing and PR, offered the possibility for “telling Lane’s story” in a different way.
Her words struck a chord in me.
A suggestion she presented, as an example, was for the Lane marketing literature to say “the focus of our work” instead of saying strategic directions. Using simple plain language to describe what we do might actually be different and refreshing.
Marketing guru Seth Godin says that being different is the key to being noticed. He says that not only does marketing need to be remarkable, so does the product being marketed – meaning it’s worth remarking about it.
Lane is already different in a good way, and I think our marketing should reflect that.
There’s nothing different about corporate-speak and college-speak. It’s everywhere. The language might seem intelligent and even eloquent, but it doesn’t engage people — it doesn’t reach them, in fact it often leaves people cold. I can’t think of a valid argument for using it. Lane sure doesn’t need to prove its intelligence; that’s a given.
On the Lane website strategic directions page, for goals, it says:
Create and nurture learning environments that support the intellectual, social and civic development of all students from under-prepared to high-achieving, across all areas of the college’s comprehensive mission. In simple language this would read:
Create and nurture environments that help every student with what they need.
Simple. Easy to understand.
Godin tells the story of driving in the countryside when his sons were young. They were playing noisily in the back seat and then suddenly went quiet. When turned to find out why. They were staring at a cow. A few minutes later they lost interest, but the incident registered with Godin. If the cow had been purple it would have kept their attention.
Simple words conveying an authentic message would actually stand out. It certainly wouldn’t be a negative. The dry language of business, no matter who the target audience, just isn’t necessary.
Particular audiences, such as accreditation evaluators, are just ordinary people, after all, with challenges and problems just like the rest of us. Simple heartfelt language might just hit the right note with people.
Such a marketing approach would naturally lead to new imagery, giving the college a new and different look. Most importantly, it would be like no other college.
A purple cow would get people talking about the college — isn’t that what we want?