Emory Report
November 7, 2005
Volume 58, Number 10



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November 7 , 2005

Defining the Emory brand experience

Ellen Dracos Lemming is vice president for marketing.

Emory has embarked on an important journey toward enhanced focus and greatness. Last week I became the first-ever vice president for marketing at Emory, and that signifies a forward-looking and energizing moment in time for the University.

Emory is a unique and remarkable institution. It is also a well-known and well-regarded brand. Taking stewardship of Emory’s valuable brand assets is a weighty and thrilling task, because the opportunities abound. Yet, to be successful, each of us will need to become engaged in the process of evaluating, defining, communicating and living the Emory brand promise.

Over time, branding and marketing have become inextricably linked. The classic definition of marketing is the “Four P’s”: product, placement, promotion and price. This definition has stood the test of time, is widely recognized and is still taught today.

With the growth of consumerism and media outlets worldwide, marketing has become much more than literal attributes such as product or price. Today, marketing is considered the discipline that helps inform strategic decisions, speaks to constituencies in a relevant and motivating manner, and measures an organization’s success in having its attributes well understood beyond its walls. Marketing permeates and is connected to every area of an organization, either directly or indirectly.

But I believe the classic definition of marketing leaves out the most important P of all: people. No institution achieves greatness without outstanding people. In this regard, Emory is truly blessed, as the University is recognized as a leader in all its fields. Thankfully, this gives the marketing team tremendous assets with which to work.

When asked to define the word “brand,” a myriad of perceptions emerge: logo, company name, tagline or trademark. The textbook definition of a “brand” is a name, term, sign, symbol or design intended to identify and differentiate an organization’s goods and services from those provided by competitors. But in today’s sophisticated world, a brand has become much, much more.

According to Business Week’s 2004 brand report, among America’s top worldwide brands are Coca-Cola, Microsoft, IBM, GE, Toyota and Disney. When we consider these global powerhouses, we immediately envision their logos, a product we’ve used, perhaps a TV commercial or a recent news report.

But what makes these brands dominant are the personal experiences and the end benefits consumers have had with their products: A deep swig of Coke on a hot Atlanta afternoon is refreshing; a visit to a Disney theme park or Broadway show is magical; and the smoothness of accelerating onto the highway in a Toyota vehicle is exhilarating. And so, it is not a logo, brochure or ad that truly defines a brand—it’s the positive feeling one gets when interacting with an institution’s people, products and services. A brand is an experience.

According to a University study conducted in 2002, public perceptions of the Emory brand were vague, yet generally positive. Attributes cited included the quality of the education Emory provides, our location and our healthy endowment—but no one thing emerged as “defining” Emory. Unlike “refreshing” for Coke or “safety” for Volvo, there was no one experiential concept associated with us.

What does this mean? It means we have a truly unique opportunity at hand.

What do you feel when you experience Emory? And, just as importantly, how do current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and the community feel when they interact with Emory? How does each of us impact that experience?

In my new position, I will be the official steward of the Emory brand. But all of us
will be brand ambassadors and brand managers. Every interaction, either professionally or personally, reflects on the University’s brand. Every telephone call, every lecture, every letter, every discovery, every sports event, every press release—it all helps shape and define Emory’s mission.

How our constituents define us cannot be dependent solely on a brochure or TV ad but on how we—the Emory family—live our strategic mission and represent the University. Those interactions must create a positive experience every time for everyone who interacts with us. Over the coming years, we will work together to understand and to optimize every touch-point one has with the Emory brand.

So, as Emory embarks on this exciting journey, I sincerely welcome you to the marketing team and the branding process. I look forward to working together to define a unique and motivating Emory brand experience. And I hope each interaction with our communities advances our goal to be the destination University for decades to come.

I welcome your thoughts via e-mail at ellen@emory.edu.