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Branding campaign hopes to erase “ZooMass” stereotype

Attempting to rid itself from the “ZooMass” party reputation, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has started a new branding campaign, which attempts to create an image that students and alumni can be proud of.

The campaign highlights the academic and research achievements of the University and hopes to promote UMass as a more competitive option for students. There are five main themes of the campaign: smart, wide open, real, entrepreneurial and maroon.

Each of the concepts connects to a different aspect of the school. “Smart” stresses the strong merit of the students and faculty, while “wide open” aims to show the diversity of the academics and professors. “Real” emphasizes a connection to state funding and more accessible education for more. The “entrepreneurial” theme focuses on innovative research and new technology. “Maroon” attempts to promote school spirit by highlighting the sports teams and students events.

“We are trying to position ourselves amongst the upper echelon of schools.” said UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski. “We are trying to identify some of the elements of the University and then use the attributes in a thematic way.” 

To illustrate this, banners flashed on the UMass website recently had messages such as, “This is UMass Amherst. We’re smart. Our current student body is the smartest in our history. We’re brainiacs- and proud of it.”

These headlines have since been taken down and replaced with an advertisement for a student video contest. The contest asks students to “show the world how SMART we are and win a cash prize.”

The campaign targets not only prospective students, but also potential professors and researches, University officials said.

In a broadcast e-mail to faculty and staff, Chancellor Robert C. Holub said, “While the primary emphasis for this branding identity is student recruitment, the effort extends to our other constituencies as well, including faculty recruitment, donors, and alumni, legislators and the public.” 

Some students expressed their frustration with UMass’ old reputation and are in supportive of the attempt to change the image.

“Before I came to UMass my parents’ friends told me I was going to ‘The Zoo,’ and that they use to party there in the 70s,” said Maggie Clayton, a peer mentor and member of Commonwealth Honors College.

 “I felt like I always had to defend the school,” she added.” People didn’t understand why a smart kid would go to a party school.”

 University media relations said the campaign also highlights UMass’ latest improvement in rankings across the nation, including the school being ranked 106 on Newsweek’s college report.  According to Blaguszewski, the incoming freshmen class has the highest grade point average in UMass’ history. While this may be due to economic hardship causing more students to choose UMass, the data has been incorporated in campaign, and highlights the University’s bright future, officials said.

The Alumni Association hopes to bring more support and donors in with the new campaign to reshape UMass’ image, said Blaguszewski. He continued by saying that the campaign would hopefully lead alumni to continue their “support in activities and fundraising.” This would lead to more involvement from alumni and provide a better experience for current students, he said.

“The evolution of the University has been over many years,” he said. “The campaign hopes to illustrate the growth in facilities and academics.”

Laura Lovett can be reached at lelovett@student.umass.edu.

Comments
4 Responses to “Branding campaign hopes to erase “ZooMass” stereotype”
  1. OutlawPete says:

    Does anyone actually refer to UMass as “ZooMass” besides a handful of girls in Southwest who think it’s cool? The only re-branding our school should be doing is getting rid of UMass “Amherst” and replacing it with either just UMass or the University of Massachusetts.

  2. Ed says:

    Two words: Polmkin Village.

    Yes, the UMass student is smart – so smart that only 54% of the freshmen will ever graduate.

    Yes, this campus is “wide open” – so wide open that even honorable leftists are complaining about leftist fascists on campus.

    Yes, this place is “real” — real debt, real arrests, real court and real problems. No Ivory Tower here…

    Yes, UM students have to be entrepreneurial — it isn’t like the university is going to do anything for you on its own.

    And yes, maroon is the color of blood, of which there is much. Anyone notice how Death Services has to keep hiring more suicide prevention folk? That say anything?

    It isn’t the happy and well-adjusted students who commit suicide…..

    ACT Delinda Est

  3. Jordan says:

    I would like UMass to consider taking ownership of the name “Massachusetts” for sports and other branding. Other public universities, including Oregon, Texas, and Florida, sell plenty of apparel to people/tourists that simply want something with the state name on it and therefore get lots of free marketing. I think the name Massachusetts also identifies us with the people of our whole state.

    When the basketball team played Memphis at Boston Garden, many fans indicated that they liked the throwback “Massachusetts” shirts.

  4. Frank says:

    I think we have a form-substance problem here. This isn’t just an issue of “branding” – the BASIS for the “ZooMass” image needs to be eliminated. Start by offering instruction 5, maybe even 5 1/2, days per week and holding BOTH students and faculty accountable. Weekends do not begin on Thursday night. This is not just a student problem. How many professors actually teach on Fridays? And I don’t mean their teaching assistants running review sessions?

    First, you eliminate the zoo. Then you reinforce accountability. Only then do you advertise. It appears the first two steps have been skipped. How Dilbertian.

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