June 10, 2004  
Volume 98, Issue 04  

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USC: making the brand

There is a scene in the movie Dave where the president (Kevin Kline) questions an auto advertisement program in the federal budget. To quote Kline, “we’re spending money to make people feel better about cars they’ve already bought?”

President Dave, meet the University Students’ Council. As part of its plan to increase its visibility around campus, the USC is beginning an extensive branding campaign by placing the council’s new logo directly onto the various operations that the USC runs.

There is undoubtedly a segment of the student population that has no idea about the breadth of USC operations, but the USC already has a strong presence in the University Community Centre atrium in addition to posting a list of its operations on the USC website and in the Westernizer. If some students still don’t know who takes such a large portion of their student fees, then there’s not much you can do about their ignorance.

In advertising circles, the purpose of creating brand awareness is to identify the company with the product (eg. how we call all tissues “Kleenex”). However, in this case, the USC isn’t trying to attract new business — they already have our money. Students will go to The Used Bookstore or The Spoke because they are convenient, on-campus spots for books and food.

Nobody is going to see a logo on a new plasma screen and think, “The USC is super!” Instead, they would ask why their student dollars are being wasted on advertising instead of improvement. “Brand awareness” could quickly backfire into resentment.

Furthermore, openly branding student media with the USC logo could indicate to some students that the council is controlling the output, an impression that is both inaccurate and harmful to students’ understanding of the media’s autonomy.

If the USC is really concerned about impressing the average Western student with its services, the council could just (get this) improve the services rather than spend student money promoting them. Instead of putting a USC logo on Wave napkins, the USC should put that cash towards hiring more service staff. The best form of advertisement is word-of-mouth, especially among such a fickle crowd as university students.

The USC prides itself on being the largest and most comprehensive students’ council in Canada, and it is perhaps natural that its members want Western students to be aware of this fact. USC communications officer Dan Perry insists that the USC is “not going corporate,” but how else can you describe an organization that promotes its own agenda ahead of the needs of the consumers (a.k.a. the students)?

That kind of reputation leaves a much more lasting impact than any logo.



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