July 2012 | 

Anatomy of a Brand Campaign: Wharton Follows Its Own Advice

Anatomy of Brand Campaign

Executives who have taken Wharton’s Competitive Marketing Strategy program know the approaches. They learned from the School’s renowned marketing faculty how to anticipate, preempt, and react to potential competitive responses; manage the threat of private labels and other low-price competition; compete with brand equity; attain first-mover advantage; and tap new sources of competitive advantage. When Wharton recently developed a new branding message, it turned to the same faculty, and followed its own advice.

The campaign began with a faculty committee charged with assessing Wharton’s current positioning. Chaired by George Day, the Geoffrey T. Boisi Professor of Marketing and co-director of the Mack Center for Technological Innovation, the committee undertook a competitive analysis; reviewed Wharton’s existing messaging; conducted in-depth interviews with faculty, students, administrators, alumni and recruiters; and created an online survey sent to more than 4,000 stakeholders.

Day notes, “Every technique and tactic we used we teach in Competitive Marketing Strategy.” Those techniques included a deep market analysis and an innovation tournament. Led by Karl Ulrich (CIBC Professor of Entrepreneurship and Ecommerce, vice dean for innovation, and co-author of Innovation Tournaments) in both the rebranding effort and the marketing program, the tournament offers a systematic way to create and select ideas. It also provided a crowd-sourcing opportunity for the Wharton community, opening the creative process to the widest possible group of stakeholders.

After a thorough analysis, the committee determined that what sets Wharton apart is twofold. First, depth of knowledge: Wharton has the most published business school faculty in the world, a global network of 88,000 alumni in 150 countries, and six language editions of Knowledge@Wharton with more than 1.8 million subscribers. Second: an emphasis on action. Day continues, “Wharton is about providing rigorous, evidence-based, applicable knowledge. It’s not grounded in speculation or gut feel, but on careful examination of what works. Our faculty know how companies compete, offer superior customer value, and respond to competitors' moves. And it is this knowledge that improves practice. When your judgments are deeply informed, the quality of your decisions is elevated.”

But the new branding campaign isn’t confined to one message. It is flexible, adapting to meet the needs of all stakeholders. A set of themes encompass the impact created by Wharton knowledge, one with far-reaching, lifelong consequences. Those themes include Knowledge for Action, Knowledge for Global Impact, Knowledge for Innovation, and Knowledge for Life.

For Wharton Executive Education, Knowledge for Action means teaching what is highly relevant to today’s business leaders. Program participants who leave their day-to-day job responsibilities for anywhere from three days to five weeks expect to return to work with tools they can put to use on Monday morning. Says Day, “The executives who attend Competitive Marketing Strategy come away with the same skills and approaches that Wharton applied to its own situation. They can implement them immediately. Like the participants in every program, they don’t come to Wharton just to think differently — they want to act differently. They want to lead better, compete better, market better, and innovate better.”