Trustees Approve Fearless Campaign
The Board of Trustees unanimously voted this past Saturday to approve a new marketing strategy that will use the concept of “fearlessness” to improve Oberlin’s image in the outside world. This vote will catapult the campaign, conceived by marketing strategist Mark Edwards, into a three-year period during which time “fearless” will be incorporated into new admissions materials.
“The Board endorses President Dye’s work with Mark Edwards in developing and launching a comprehensive marketing and communications campaign,” said Board of Trustees Chair Robert Lemle.
Edwards first introduced the results of his months of research two weeks ago, in the form of a PowerPoint presentation to the General Faculty. The campus has been buzzing ever since. “Fearless” is meant to encapsulate Oberlin’s long history and continuing tradition of breaking social norms, exercising intellectual curiosity and taking risks in both academic and personal endeavors.
Dye explained that the decision to hire a marketing consultant arose, if somewhat indirectly, from the goals outlined in the Strategic Plan.
“One goal of the plan is to improve the value and perception of the value of an Oberlin education,” she said.
Class Trustee Adam Sorkin, OC ’05, agreed that Edwards’s marketing savvy will help distinguish Oberlin in a new and profound way.
“The old slogan [‘Think one person can change the world? So do we.’] spoke to me, and it spoke to a lot of us, but that doesn’t pull everyone in like it pulled us in,” Sorkin said. “Kids applying to colleges today want their peers to know where they’re going and that it’s a good school. If people haven’t heard of Oberlin, prospective students may not want to come here.”
While the general sentiment appears to be one of optimism surrounding the “fearless” campaign, some apprehensions and anxieties have been expressed since the General Faculty presentation among faculty and students alike. Some professors wanted to know more about the context in which “fearless” would be placed; some students did not like the idea of Oberlin, an institution long-heralded as “non-conformist” and “outside-the-box,” aligning itself with a “brand” or marketing-geared emblem and possibly trying to be something it is not. These particular fears were addressed at last week’s Class Trustees Open Forum.
“I think students are less concerned with Oberlin’s image and more concerned that Oberlin will start to attract a different kind of student body,” Sorkin said. “The idea of this marketing campaign, though, is to attract the students who would be perfect for Oberlin but don’t know anything about it.”
Students were also upset that Edwards hadn’t made a presentation to the student body, while the General Faculty, Residential Education and the Board of Trustees all had a chance to meet with him. Dye confirmed in an interview with the Review on Tuesday that Edwards will, in fact, be returning to campus within three weeks to talk to select groups of students about their concerns.
“I think that the students’ concerns were premature, but they didn’t have the full picture,” Sorkin said. “That should be fixed once they see Edwards’ presentation.”
One major concern among members of the Board of Trustees was about cost. Dye, however, assured worriers that the costs are taken care of, for the most part with little expense to the College.
“College Relations money is being used for this project, and four trustees have made gifts to fund each of the project’s three years,” said Dye.
“The overall concern was the cost of the program, but I think
that’s always on our minds,” Sorkin said. “Aside from that, I
think most trustees are excited about this.”