In an effort to increase name recognition and visibility, Harvey Mudd College has embarked recently on a branding process by contracting Mindpower, an Atlanta-based firm that beat out a number of competitors for the position. The campaign is set to emphasize the college’s close-knit community and to correct graduate programs’ impressions that HMC graduates aren’t trained at the same level as schools with better name recognition.
According to HMC President Maria Klawe, the branding exercise is an attempt to increase general knowledge of the college both domestically and internationally.
“We think that HMC is one of the most special places on the face of the earth, and hardly anyone knows about it,” Klawe said. “One of the things I want is for HMC to be considered on the level with our competitors. Our competitors are household names, but very few people know Harvey Mudd. It actually really hurts our graduates. It’s okay if they’re applying to Stanford, who’s already had lots of Mudders do Ph.D.s there, but not so much if it’s the University of Buffalo, who sees the 3.3 average GPA and determines they’re not graduate school material.”
For Klawe, adding a professional gleam to the advertising publications and branded clothing constituted a central focus of the process, specifically for individuals who encounter HMC from outside the community.
“We think that most of the stuff that we have, for instance, the gear, is just not that impressive, which is something we’d heard repeatedly,” Klawe said.
Mindpower presented their initial branding proposal to students Wednesday in the Aviation Room in Hoch-Shanahan Dining Hall, highlighting the central mantra of the campaign: Relationships Matter.
At the onset of the presentation, Vice President for Advancement Dan Macaluso directed students’ attention to the central ambiguity HMC hopes to clarify in its advertising material.
“The question we are trying to answer is, ‘Harvey who?’” Macaluso said.
In their quest to understand the ethos of the school, Mindpower representatives interviewed over 150 members of the community from the faculty, staff, student body, and alumni.
“They were trying to figure out what people thought was special about this place. They put together something called ‘Intel and Insights,’ a 64-page document, and I would say they just totally nailed it. They really seem to get who we are, what we care about, what drives us every single day,” Klawe said.
The interpersonal aspect of the close-knit academic experience HMC offers students, in addition to an interdisciplinary, liberal arts approach to science, technology, engineering, and math played a strong part in the message Mindpower hopes to portray through their branding.
“At the essence, Harvey Mudd is all about relationships. The values are academic vigor, not just rigor. Mindpower said you guys are aggressive when it comes to your educations, entirely involved in all aspects of it, both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Associate Vice President of Communications and Marketing Tim Hussey.
Klawe also mentioned attracting qualified African-American students, who traditionally have been underrepresented at HMC, even in comparison to other minority groups.
“The only way we’re ever going to overcome [the underrepresentation] is being better known,” Klawe said.
One of the administration’s major concerns is student response to the exercise, which Klawe and Macaluso see as integral to the success of the campaign. The goal of Wednesday’s meeting was to gauge student reactions to the new branding materials.
HMC students, while supportive of Mindpower’s initial presentation, also had specific reservations regarding its content.
“The first time I saw the phrase ‘relationships matter,’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, why are we doing this?’ It didn’t seem to make sense, but then you see the context behind it, you see how it could actually be used. I think it could work. I was impressed,” Jessica Streitz HM ’13 said.
Her twin sister, Rebecca Streitz HM ’13, found the presentation’s exclusive focus on HMC’s academic strengths to be problematic but saw other aspects of the presentation as accurate depictions of the character of the college.
“I was actually pretty impressed with the amount of effort they put into understanding the culture. There are definitely some things that need to be reworked: certain emphases, less on academics and more on social life, but I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Rebecca Streitz said.
Klawe hopes students will embrace the new proposals. She plans to gift all graduating seniors with T-shirts bearing the new brand and the statement “We are Harvey Mudd” emblazoned across the front, a representation of the community’s new, focused identity.