Professional identities

August 15, 2013

Fred Inglis’ rage against marketing and the way corporate identities are reported to be created for universities (“Incinerated by the branding iron”, 18 July) may be shared by many academics and university administrators if comments heard in and around institutions of higher education are to be believed.

Professional practitioners and firms of such professionals tend to cultivate, protect, cherish and, in some cases, flaunt their professional reputation, and many staff of universities behave in the same way. The same people appear to hate the idea that they and their organisations can be branded, marketed and pushed in to the market with sales promotion campaigns as if they were packaged goods, like soap powder, which they are not.

The problems are well known among academics, administrators, advertising agencies, their support teams and other stakeholders in higher education. What are less well known are the solutions. I think I may have an answer. Wally Olins’ The Corporate Personality: An Inquiry into the Nature of Corporate Identity (1978) is a seminal book that gives a well-regarded introduction to the subject expressed by the title. G. Lynn Shostack’s “Breaking Free from Product Marketing” in the Journal of Marketing (1977) is a much-cited article on the issues. I would encourage those with a stake in higher education to look over the two works, reflect on the thoughtful and constructive ideas they develop and consider them in relation to their own work and to their home institution.

Nicholas Beyts
London

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