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“D” is for…

September 3, 2010 - 6:07 pm

Drake University is recruiting for new undergrads. To that end, the have recently launched a new campaign that is supposedly intended to be edgy and ironic. However, the launch has become a bit of a brouhaha as evidenced by the numerous blog posts flying around the web, including the Des Moines Register, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and even the vaunted YLMMB blog.


Drake is a pretty well-respected private university. Suffice to say that the words “edgy” and “ironic” are not immediately associated with this school. Yet, the folks at Drake point out that they are targeting high school kids and that their focus testing was not off-putting to their audience of prospective students; and they are trying to stand out in the crowd of hundreds of other viewbooks that future undergrads receive. So their contention is that ‘edgy and ironic’ will help them reach more of their audience.

Sounds good on paper. Unfortunately, this execution isn’t at all edgy or ironic. It looks like a goof. If you’re going for edgy you gotta go all in. “No, the ‘D’ stands for Drake… and the plus is YOU. Get it?” Right. Gotcha.

And prospective students aren’t the only audience that Drake needs to take into account. One can imagine some students or parents seeing this and thinking “Hmmm, D+ School. Yeah. OK, next.” Anyone who’s worked in direct mail knows the ‘no-holds-barred’ approach to drive open rates. Yuck. Yes, they may get them to open this letter, but at what cost. Do you really want to make your school the butt of a joke, probably for a long time?

The concept is an unfortunate choice for Drake to have made. It is inconsistent with their fine reputation and is not aligned with their well established brand. Cognitive dissonance, yes. That’s what any institution of higher learning would wish to convey. Its a sour note. Its off-key. Frankly, its a D-flat.

UPDATE: Drake University has pulled the plug on the ill-fated D+ campaign. Probably for the best.


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