You make me feel brand new

Editor’s Note: In some weeks, changes in higher education are of sufficient moment to warrant extended treatment. We are happy to devote this entire edition of The Poppletonian to just such a development

March 6, 2014

“When higher education branding professionals look back in years to come, they will realise that this was the time when pivotal branding decisions were made.” That was how Georgina Edsel, our Deputy Head of Brand Management, reacted to the two dramatic changes in university branding that were widely reported in the branding press this week.

In the first of these changes, Queen Mary University of London threw caution to the winds and boldly announced that it would be outlawing such familiar shorthand versions of its name as QM, QMUL, QMU, QMW and QMWC. All these traditional versions would henceforth be jettisoned in favour of a daringly terse new abbreviation – QML.

Ms Edsel told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that she not only admired the “admirably authoritarian manner” in which this change had been presented to staff – “Start using QML on all documentation”; “Use QML in place of ‘the university’ ” – but also the extraordinarily useful before-and-after examples given in the change document. She instanced the following “helpful” illustrations:

BeforeIt is also important to note that QM will retain its status as a member of the University of London

AfterIt is also important to note that QML will retain its status as a member of the University of London

BeforeQMUL on social media

AfterQML on social media”.

But this revolutionary rebranding by QML (formerly, of course, better known as QM, QMUL, QMU, QMW or QMWC) was, said Ms Edsel, still “almost modest” alongside the even more profound rebranding exercise undertaken in Scotland, where the former “University of Abertay Dundee” had “in a veritable sea change” transformed itself almost overnight into merely “Abertay University”.

What gave this change its especial significance, said Ms Edsel, was the “professional recognition” by the Abertay University Communications Centre (formerly the University of Abertay Dundee Communications Centre) that the new name was “shorter” than the old one. But this was not all. The Abertay University Communications Centre also went on in its change document to point out that the new name (“Abertay University”) had the merit of sounding “much friendlier” than “The University of Abertay Dundee”.

Ms Edsel described both statements as “masterful examples of branding expertise in action”. “‘Abertay University’ was indeed a shorter formulation than ‘The University of Abertay Dundee’; and one had only to say the two names aloud several times – The University of Abertay DundeeAbertay UniversityThe University of Abertay DundeeAbertay University – to realise the much greater friendliness of the latter designation.”

In conclusion, Ms Edsel expressed to Ponting the hope that her remarks on these branding changes had not been too specialised for those unversed in the higher reaches of branding theory.

She also told our reporter that she had been inspired by these two examples to issue a reminder to all staff of the importance of vocalisation when referring to our own university. For although “PU” was an appropriate abbreviation for “Poppleton University”, when spoken aloud care should be taken to place an equal emphasis upon both letters as in “Pee You”, rather than using the “phonetically ambiguous abbreviation ‘Poo’ ”.

She hoped that this now clarified the branding situation.


Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

“After last week’s session on Fundamentals of Transcendental Meditation, two secret mantras were left behind in the seminar room.If you wish to claim one of these, please write to the office marking your letter either ‘Shrim’ or ‘Ayinga’.”

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Reader's comments (6)

Dear Ms Edsel, I feel I must write and say how grateful we are for your help in publicising our decision to simplify our name. I don't think we could have achieved so much publicity without your generous efforts. We were, of course, partly inspired by the example of the Times Higher Education Supplement when it decided to change its brand to the "shorter and friendlier" THE, so we feel we are in good company. But by drawing extra attention to our decision with your comments, you have made our job so much easier than it might have been, and for that we thank you very much. Cheers, Kevin Coe Director of Communications Abertay University

PS: thanks also for the "veritable sea change" comment. We hadn't said that in our email to THE and others announcing the name change, and we think it's a bit of an over-statement, but I suppose it helps to get the point across. Thanks again. Kevin Coe Director of Communications Abertay University

Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but has Mr Coe (Director of Communications - Abertay University) just replied to ‘Ms Edzel’? Has he failed to notice that the author is Laurie Taylor; writer for ‘The Poppletonian‘. Mr Taylor is merely reporting on the statements previously made by Ms Edzel? So either Mr Taylor has a cross-dressing weekend skit as Ms Edsel, or this foolish, child-like, reply by ‘Abertay University’s DIRECTOR none-the-less, has only exacerbated the point that Abertay University is policed by complete incompetents.

Dear Mr Johnson, I fear you have missed the point on two counts: first, in responding to comments attributed to 'Ms Edsel', why wouldn't I reply to her direct? Second, whatever else you might think (and however much you might know) about Abertay University, we do at least know how to take a joke. Best wishes, Kevin Coe Director of Communications Abertay University

QMUL used to correspond to Queen Mary, University of London but the name was then changed to Queen Mary University of London. The amount of paperwork and discussion regarding the presence or absence of the comma baffled me, as did the severity of the diktats and associated threats in the case of non-compliance that followed. (From the discussion I understood that grammar was more consistent with Queen Mary, the University of London). Droping "University" from the acronym is probably sensible. Next acronym choice for the managers: QMBL. Why not be the first ones to openly admit what they wish their instution to be?

Mr Coe My apologies if you have taken offence, none was meant. However I would reply to you by saying it would be foolish to reply to a comment, which is directed to a particular individual, in a forum that she is unlikely to see. As regards making a joke, I do understand. But again I personally see no joke in such a serious issue. Rebranding may be ‘joke’ to Abertay University and it is true that I know nothing about the inner workings of your institution but as Fanis Missirlis indicates there is no doubt an extremely large overhead associated with a project of such a scale. I would imagine that your University brand has headed paper, website notes, graphics; typesets, and so forth attached to it. This seems a frivolous waste of money for… well… nothing at the end of it. From what I am led to believe from recent publications Abertay likes to play it fast and loose with their finances anyway. They make a saving from the worker: but seem to have no problem throwing it at the management: It seems to me that wasting money on a needless rebranding project should be the bottom of a priority list for an institution that should pay more attention to its performance than to its name and appearance. That is unless the rebranding is a deliberate attempt to re-sell ‘Abertay University’ as ‘new and improved’ as opposed to its old counterpart ‘The University Of Abertay’ which sits a proud 119 out of 120 in the rankings: Again, no offence intended.

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