The AMA Symposium 2010 – San Diego, CA

November 9, 2010 –

The video is pretty famous by now, with over 60,000 hits on YouTube.  It features Macalester College President Brian Rosenburg in an occasionally hilarious “day in a life”, but what a life!”  In this President’s Day video, he arises from bed at 5:00 a.m. fully clothed and ready, well, to do just about everything on campus.  He conducts a student choral group, plays table tennis, serves as the school’s mascot, plows snow, works out, leads a campus tour, delivers helium to a science lab and takes a squeaky-voiced hit on it, and so much more.

Rosenburg spoke to a Day Two audience here at the AMA Symposium on Higher Education about the risks and rewards of undertaking something so devilish.  He acknowledged the risks of having one person – even a president – too closely associated with an institution’s brand.  “It cannot become a cult of personality,” he said, adding that this “has to be about the place first.”  He worried about whether people would “get” the video or find the humor off-putting.  He nonetheless advised, and we agree, that “without risk you’re not going to do something interesting.  Without risk, you limit both the downside and upside.”

Most important, Rosenburg said a video or any form of communication needs to reflect the true nature of the institution; call it authenticity.  “We have a reputation for not taking ourselves too seriously and being a little edgy,” he said.  In his words, the “video is true to our nature.”  He underscored the importance of humor in breaking through today’s cluttered communications environment, and here we really agree.  In his words, “Being ‘effectively funny’ works amid so much negativity these days.”  Sure, as long as the humor doesn’t cross the line and become, as we have cautioned in the past, tragically hip.  That didn’t happen in the Macalester case.

The results?  Pretty amazing.  The video cost just $3,500 for students and the campus community to produce.  Just do the math when considering the cost-per-hit on YouTube as well as the continued aftermarket publicity in e-mail blasts, media coverage, and the kind of praise Rosenburg and Macalester are generating for daring to be human.  Also consider the very large spike in alumni giving after the video debuted.  Lesson learned all around, we’d say.

We wonder whether there’ll be a sequel.  “Sequels are tough,” Rosenburg cautioned.  “Just think of Grease II.”

Check out the intriguing, occasionally silly and yet thoroughly successful video at


The Maguire Crew at the booth!  From left to right we have Tara Scholder, Linda Heineman, Jessica McWade, and Jonathan Copp.

Day 1: November 8, 2010 – Afternoon Session 2 – San Diego, CA

Google on College Websites

Spencer Frasher is Google’s Vertical Lead, though we’re not sure what that means.  He delivered a useful presentation today at the AMA Symposium entitled, “Marketing 2.0 and Its Implications for Higher Education.”  Frasher told the large audience gathered in a tent by the gorgeous Harbor Island Marina that:

  • 48% of high school juniors and seniors report visiting three or more college websites a week. 
  • One in four prospective college students say they will not consider a college based on their experience with that institution’s website.
  • And a whopping 92% of these respondents said they’d either remove a college from consideration or merely be “disappointed” with that institution based on website quality. 

If there had been any doubt about the central importance of websites, let there be none after digesting those numbers.

Frasher also discussed mobile applications with one particular paradox.  That is, while most college and university websites are Flash-based, in part or in whole, most smart phones can’t even read Flash.  His thesis was pretty clear.  With the astonishing growth of smart phones in recent years, college and university websites may be failing to keep up with the usage needs and expectations of their most important audience – students. 

An audience member concluded the event with the observation that while most college and university homepages are filled with too much information and design – some of it junk – the Google homepage remains simple, efficient, and elegant. 

Spencer Frasher of Google speaking on Monday in San Diego


Day 1: November 8, 2010 – Afternoon Session – San Diego, CA

David Brond, Vice President for Communications & Marketing at the University of Delaware, co-presented “Dude, I Can’t, I’m Tweeting!” at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education on Monday, 11/8.  During the session, he shared some of the successes that the University has enjoyed in incorporating social media as a part of its branding strategy.  Some best practices that David shared include being consistent and strong on topic, varying your wording, and addressing negative comments.  This is just one of many social media-focused sessions at the Symposium, which continues to be a topic that attracts large audiences of educational leaders as we all seek to figure out how to best harness social media for our strategic purposes.


Day 1: November 8, 2010 – Morning Session  – San Diego, CA

We are in sunny San Diego, California, at this year’s American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. After an evening exploring some fine regional dining (In n’ Out Burger), we prepared for a technologically focused morning.

Institutions are beginning to explore the possibilities for mobile technology on campus settings.  It seems that every time we turn around, there are new applications, social networking sites, and programs to enrich the student’s college experience.  But, in a sea of technology, how can an institution – or parent or student – distinguish the good from the bad?  As we approach a time where e-mail, traditional phone calls, and connecting wirelessly from a laptop computer are no longer considered fast enough, these institutions are hoping to speak a language that their students truly understand: mobile.      

In this early morning session, we learned about how universities such as Duke and Stanford are using mobile applications.  The focuses of their apps seem to be immediate service delivery and all access.  A few of the features include a student directory, athletic schedules, campus maps, tours (using “Go Tourit,” a popular vendor app), and bus routes, dining and food account balances, events, videos, radio, news, and images from their classmates studying abroad.  While it may all seem like fun and games, they are also instituting services that are more academically based such as the ability to search for and enroll in courses, use Blackboard, access iTunes University, search the library for materials and their specific locations within the library, and use the campus “Emergency Safe Rides” System.

Mobile technology certainly does seem like the next big campus trend.  And as mobile phone companies push for large data plans to match the latest, must-have smart and fun phones, these options will not only become more popular with, but more integral to the daily operations of, students – and perhaps even school officials. 

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