Crazy talk

When’s the last time you tried something crazy with a project?

I’m talking silly walk, mad-as-hell, call-the-whitecoats, dangerous-for-your-career kind of crazy.

Yeah, I can’t remember the last time I did something crazy, either.

How pitiful.

This AdAge post (hat tip: @frankmartin) — about Apple’s now-legendary Think Different ad campaign and one of the lions of advertising, Jay Chiat — got me to thinking about how tame and timid much of our marketing, PR and advertising ventures are. How much we settle for the timorous and the mediocre. How much of our work is the product of compromise and committees.

And how unfortunate that bloggers have to reach way back to the 1990s to find a single example of an ad that celebrates going against the grain.

It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs, isn’t it.

And I know I’m part of the problem. Hell, I had a hard time accepting the incorrect grammatical structure of Apple’s famous campaign, so you have to know that the wild and crazy stuff just doesn’t come naturally to me.

Maybe there are daring, beautifully subversive marketing campaigns in the works somewhere out there. But I don’t know of any — certainly not in the realm of higher education. Do you? (Well, okay, there’s this one, but it’s from the University of Phoenix, and they didn’t get where they are by playing it safe, so you expect something that goes against the grain.)

What do we need to do to bring crazy back?

Bart Cleveland, the guy who wrote the AdAge blog post mentioned above, point in that post to another article that says “the secret to staying relevant in advertising is twofold: mess with culture and help make companies successful.”

So, how are we messing with culture?

Cleveland thinks the script to the Think Different commercial “should be the mantra of our industry.” He’s talking about advertising. That’s true. But shouldn’t it also be the mantra for education?

Read the script and decide for yourself.

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them. Disagree with them.
Glorify, or vilify them.
About the only think you can’t do, is ignore them.
Because, they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to change the world,
Are the ones who do.

Now, go forth and get crazy with it.

P.S. 6/25/09 – I meant to work this recent Seth Godin post, On the road to mediocrity, into this post but forgot. It’s worth 30 seconds of your precious reading time.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

7 thoughts on “Crazy talk”

  1. I’ve thought Brown University’s redesign a couple of years ago was pretty bold and set their website apart from the crowd. They caught a lot of flak for it, but I liked the interaction. Yeah, it’s a lot of brown, but they are… Brown University.

    I also feel that shrinking bravado as I get older… but I’ve also seen a few “out there” ideas get shot down by administrators.

  2. I think you bring up a great point. Just the other day, I listened to a speaker that wove some unusualy, but highly funny, stories into a speech he was giving. It inspired me to write a post about the Power of the Unexpected:
    http://www.varsityoutreach.com/blog/2009/06/power-of-unexpected.aspx

    Every college can’t be everything to every student. I think it’ll help help colleges stand out if they highlight what makes them unique, maybe even a little unusual, wacky, or even crazy.

    Again, great post!

  3. DeWayne – Yep, I agree with you about Brown University’s redesign. It was particularly edgy for a university. Thanks for the reminder.

    Mark – Thanks for sharing your post on Varsity Outreach. Nice story.

  4. I’ve gotten over being shocked at how risk-averse so many people in higher ed. Or how hard it is to convince CEOs and & other senior staff people how important it is to differentiate their institutions from others & especially their competitors. I think that part of the challenge of developing great creative lies in this inability to articulate–and build on–what makes an institution different from another. One challenge that Apple doesn’t face: easy to say how an iPhone differs from other (so-called) smartphones, or a Mac from a Dell.

  5. I think so many institutions are focused on following the leaders, that they fail to take bold opportunities to differentiate themselves. There’s a void of good information coming from the marketplace about “what people want,” and they’re almost too sensitive to allowing their audiences to position them, rather than using the core values which might shape the academic experience to influence the way they brand themselves.

  6. More great points from Michael and Ron.

    Michael – Since going through our campus name change this past year, we (our communications staff) have worked hard to incorporate our distinctive qualities into materials. Unfortunately, too often our internal customers want the bland over the distinctive. They say they want differentiation, but when it comes to creating the copy, the imagery, the design — it’s the same ol’ same ol’.

    Ron – Amen to the following the leaders trap. More like following the lemmings over the cliff, if we don’t pay attention.

  7. Andrew, I like this post. You’re right. The reasons are varied, but perhaps the biggest ones are the lack of respect marketing has on university campuses with the power structures (faculty and faculty leadership), and tied to that, the way decisions are typically made on campuses (committees and approvals). I’ve paid the price for bolder moves, since branding and marketing decisions take so long to take hold and pay off. So, it makes you think twice the next time around.

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