Nov 29, 2011

23. University of Oregon's Brand Story Changed

Today I was presented with a list of the 7 Things We Should Know. The 'we' in question, refers to the advertising students in University of Oregon's Creative Strategist class, taught by Deborah Morrison (akin to our God). We spent the majority of our two hour class talking about the first point, not necessarily because it was the best or the most important, but because it is the most relevant to our school's current situation; the firing of our President, Richard Lariviere.

1. Brand thinking is relationships, actions, purpose, living in the world, good business + growing opportunity.
Scott Bedbury, "A brand is a story that is always being told."

The University of Oregon is a brand, as much as some faculty and students may deny it. President Lariviere was selected two and a half years ago to come to the University as a change agent. The school wanted someone who would help break the old pattern of doing things and someone who would help the school grow in all senses. When the President began changing the long standing system of rules by giving raises to some professors and lobbying for independent funding and governing of the University, Oregon's governor, John Kitzhaber, lost confidence in him.

What does this say about our school's brand story? What does this say about our true willingness to change? As our professor expressed her frustration with the decision, she began to cry (and she's not a crier). Deb explained, clearly emotionally exhausted, that it doesn't make sense for Oregon's seven different schools, located in seven separate and very distinct towns, to be operated under the same government. Every university would function better with individual governments. From a branding perspective, this would allow schools to have control of their own brand statement, control of who they want to be, what they want to identify with, and who their target audience is.

A great brand is constantly evolving; adapting to its cultural environment and its consumers' needs. It is impossible to grow seven university brands, located in different environments and targeted at different consumers, using the same strategy for each. 

Until today, I had never cried in a classroom, but listening to Deb talk with such passion and conviction drove me to tears. Deb is herself a change agent and worked hard to build Texas Creative at UT Austin, one of the best university-based portfolio programs in the country. Since then, she has moved to the University of Oregon to help build a similar model around advertising. She has inspired thousands us to be better then we ever thought we could be and to work harder, not for the grade, but for ourselves. Lariviere was one of our only presidents that worked towards that same goal.


  1. Sad to hear. Hope you find strength and inspiration from others around you. Lucky to have Deb.

  2. I, an independent voter in Oregon, lost confidence in John Kitzhaber.

    I, an member of the Oregon higher ed community, lost confidence in John Kitzhaber appointed Chancellor, and the Board.