I recently discovered a new word that describes many branding initiatives in higher education today: Vanillacide.
“Vanillacide,” according to this book excerpt posted on the Igor Naming Agency blog, is “an updated version of the old notions of death-by-committee, or the death-of-a-thousand-cuts by which new and creative proposals are diluted and diluted until they become universally acceptable – and wholly unoriginal.”
If you’ve been in higher education for any amount of time, you’ve probably experienced or have witnessed vanillacide. The need to gain consensus or buy-in on college campuses seeps into the work of marketers and brand managers. When it comes to big decisions, such as the launch of a brand strategy, buy-in is essential. But consensus at the expense of creativity and adherence to strategy can result in safe, stale, boring branding and marketing initiatives.
“The best way to get 100 people to sign off on a name,” says Steve Manning, the head of Igor, “is to come up with something that has no meaning and offends no one – the surest pathway to vanillacide.”
As a result, our brand strategies become bland strategies.
What’s a brand manager to do?
The Igor post suggests a technique known as “wild-carding.” For an agency like Igor, which focuses on naming, wild-carding consists of providing a client with a list of the favored potential names, “plus at least a couple of ultra-radical, even crazy solutions.”
“In rejecting the most extreme, they are likely to ‘compromise’ on something that is still fairly daring.”
In the play-it-safe world of academia, wild-carding just might work.
Photo via Pixabay.