HYP -- Harvard, Yale, Princeton. Like it or not, these three schools are generally considered the nation's top three schools, the most selective and elite. Dartmouth may be an Ivy League school, but some don't consider Dartmouth in the same league as HYP. In truth, Dartmouth beats the pants off these schools in some areas (quality of life and accessibility to professors come to mind). Yet, however much better Dartmouth is in its quality of academics, student body, or even athletics, Dartmouth will not be considered in the same sentence as HYP. Why? HYP are hyped. Dartmouth isn't. HYP are brand names that people use interchangeably with "smart" and "successful." Dartmouth has the credentials and possibility to supplant one of these three, but it has to fight the battle not in the classrooms or libraries, but in the world of imagery and branding.
HYP take their names seriously. Yale, for example, encountered some problems in (where else?) France. The French were translating American movies to say, "He went to Harvard," instead of "He went to Yale" because Yale is not as widely known in France as Harvard. Yale promptly opened an office solely to deal with licensing of the Yale name. Imagine a movie that was translated to say, "He went to Harvard" instead of the actual line, "He went to Dartmouth." Dartmouth wouldn't react. In good years, Harvard and Yale pull in a cool $2 million in licensing revenue. In addition, HYP license apparel to Asian countries to increase name recognition and the number of international student applications.
Some think Dartmouth should not meddle with "branding" or "business." I disagree because Dartmouth already pays attention to business -- the endowment, hello? Dartmouth is a large institutional investor in financial markets. Others argue image is superficial, which I agree with, but image matters because the public and applicants strongly consider image. We forget how much reputation matters to those applying. Educational researcher Howard Greene found a whopping 74 percent of students in the top 20 colleges say that reputation played a role in picking a college. While in college, 18 percent of students say reputation is an important element of their college experience. Others say Dartmouth doesn't need to compete with HYP, or branding the Dartmouth name is counterproductive to Dartmouth's purpose. I accept these views, but let's say that Dartmouth did want to increase its brand recognition
Imagine if Dartmouth was ranked first in the U.S. News & World Report. Just imagine. We would be thrilled. We would receive more media attention and applications. Our prestige would soar. Yeah, we'd be snottier. HYP -- not! Try, DHY. I'm not saying Dartmouth should prostitute itself to controversial and inaccurate rankings such as the U.S. News. I'm saying Dartmouth should think big in terms of its public image. We have the tools to do so. We just need some ideas.
Idea one: The Dartmouth Poll. The New Hampshire Presidential primaries are around the corner. Instead of polls by the American Research Group or the Concord Monitor, how about a Dartmouth poll? I'm not being terribly original (Quinnipiac College conducted polls on education, and it worked!). Watch CNN, "According to the latest Dartmouth poll" Sounds good, eh? For you academics, you could teach a class on polling, increasing the visibility of Dartmouth and teaching students simultaneously. If starting a new poll is too difficult, join forces with another poll. "According to the Zogby-Dartmouth poll "
Idea two: Bring CNN to Dartmouth. We could host "Inside Politics" during the primary season. How about hosting "Crossfire" on Dartmouth's campus for two weeks next January for the primaries? Hey, George Washington University usually hosts Crossfire. Dartmouth alums have influential positions at AOL-Time Warner, CNN's parent company. It's do-able.
Idea three: T-shirts. When admissions officials go on the road, they should be armed with buckets of t-shirts. Teenagers walking around with Dartmouth shirts will inevitably increase the image and "buzz" about Dartmouth.
Idea four: D-Crew. This is kind of like H-Crew but for branding. We could have a group of current students that tour the country (with or without admissions officials) promoting the Dartmouth brand. D-Crew could stand outside (or inside) MTV's or NBC's studios and pass out Dartmouth paraphernalia.
Idea five: Move the New York Dartmouth Club. Did you know there's a Dartmouth club in New York where you can sip something besides Keystone Light? Here's the problem: the Dartmouth Club is located in the basement of The Yale Club. What better way to promote Dartmouth's image than showing how we truckle under someone else's club? It will cost money to move, so find a less expensive place. Independence is worth the price.
Idea six: Honorary Dartmouth Branding Council. Christina Aguilera's former agent, Normand Kurtz, runs the company "Dartmouth Recording." He told me that he named it after his alma mater. Let's make an honorary council that recognizes those who name their company, restaurant, or school after Dartmouth. There are legal issues involved, but honoring those who promote the Dartmouth name sends a powerful signal. A respected Dartmouth alum could chair the council Jeff Immelt of GE, Louis Gerstner of IBM, Hank Paulson of Goldman Sachs spring to mind. It would be a good way to honor retiring Senator Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois, a Dartmouth alum.
We need to increase the hype to beat HYP. Dartmouth is a powerful name. We can make it a powerful brand.