How Far We’ve Come – How Far We’ll Go.

A bold new brand promises greatness, but should not change our understanding of who fulfills such a pledge.

The very idea of ‘authentic marketing’ is an oxymoron. Generally, the express purpose of marketing is to promote and distribute a service – though we may take this definition with a 21st century bent and assume that this also generally includes representing said service in the best possible light. In the past, and even today, criticisms have existed of the integrity of the Hamline ‘brand image’. Such things as Hamline’s genuine diversity were legitimately questioned as being underrepresented and understated – or, conversely, and perhaps more importantly, oversold.

In the ongoing semester, Hamline has undertaken a grandiose restructuring of its brand image, the most visible aspects being new sidewalk stickers, new window decals, and new product design. However, it includes a larger imagining of what it means for ‘Hamline’ as an institution to exist. “Hamline sets the standard by educating big thinkers and difference makers who take the lead with purpose and passion. Our locally engaged, globally connected graduates reach across boundaries of culture and class to make the world better—together,” states the university’s website as of this year. In some regards, I would say that this brand – one that Hamline has always pursued – has generally made steps toward actualizing. The Class of 2021 numbers – according to the university – over 530 students: the second largest in Hamline’s history. Nearly half of said class are first-generation college students, and 41% of students identify as persons of color. According to US News, this generally marked Hamline as ‘above average’ in terms of diversity of demographics.

So then, this new class spearheads the momentum to mark Hamline as a school which “leads the way”.  “[W]e don’t sit back idly and wait for the world to change. We make it happen by working tirelessly, being persistent, and broadening our perspective with an education deeply rooted in the liberal arts,” the school’s website claims. It is an admirable goal. The ideal of a liberal arts education – one which revolves around interdisciplinary education and cross-cultural exchange is one which contains great merit. However, the question of whether or not we have truly achieved such a goal is not one left to brand marketing to answer. As always, the best way to ascertain such a goal lies in those most affected by its answer: the student body observing it and the faculty enacting it. As such, criticisms of this institution’s achievements and self image can – and should – be questioned deeply. Change does not come through administrative marketing.

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