By Jeremy Engalla
A series of open forums in the Library Auditorium last Wednesday examined the findings of a marketing firm’s research on the College. Cognitive Marketing, a marketing and brand identity development firm based out of Rochester, N.Y., was hired last spring as part of an effort to “study our institutional identity, develop a strategic messaging platform, and produce a strong new marketing plan for the College,” President R. Barbara Gitenstein said.
Cognitive Marketing co-founder Peter Holloran began his presentation by reiterating the firm’s goals for bettering the College’s public image. These included increasing the out-of-state enrollment rate and “breaking down barriers of assumption and bias that have limited or effectively precluded consideration of (the College) by students of promise from outside the state,” Holloran said. Another aim, he said, is to foster a feeling of pride among both current students and alumni.
In order to do all of this, Holloran said, “We must build the one building that doesn’t exist on this campus. It’s brand.”
The College has an overwhelming sense of community, he says, but it is off-putting because that sense of community does not extend to students who are not from New Jersey. The recommendation is that the College must extend its appeal to out-of-state students because a “more geographically diverse student body will enrich the College and make it more appealing to more broad-minded students.”
Holloran also said “we must substantially reduce our reliance on third party endorsements and ratings to make our case.” It’s understood that the College is a difficult school to get into, said Holloran, “but there is not understanding as to why the college is hard to get into.”
The firm’s recommendation is to market the College’s production of a “uniquely educated” brand of nurse, businessperson, scientist and teacher by underscoring the advantages of civic engagement and liberal learning.
Another recommendation is to reach out to alumni and develop a sense of common pride. Holloran said that admissions should not concern themselves with the business transactions taking place but rather with “creating students who feel like they will be future alumni from the day they arrive.”
Alumni should be heralded as prospective “champions” rather than prospective donors, he said. All alumni, he argued, should look back at the contribution that this institution made to their lives and help to work to make the College more visible.
To accomplish all of this, Holloran presented several usable tools. These included The Promise (“The College of New Jersey readies exceptional students to take up the charge of improving the world”) and Key Messages, which state that the College is a nationally renowned, residential college with a state-of-the-art campus in the most diverse socio-economic region in America.
The most controversial of these tools was “Tomorrow at TCNJ,” which the firm said could be used as a catchphrase to help people outside the College begin to associate it with a new kind of education that fosters progression for the future. Many in attendance found this unsatisfying, however, because they felt as though it was not representative of the school and all that is currently happening at this institution.
During a brief question-and-answer portion, John Pollock, chair of Communication Studies, said he felt that the quality of the College’s professors should be emphasized more because they are a major asset.