A New Year’s Resolution – Don’t Cheapen the Image

First day back to work in 2011 and, of course, I’m thinking about a new year’s resolution–one that doesn’t involve abstaining from dessert. First, a bit of background:

When I shop, I am a brand loyalist.

For laundry, it’s Tide.  For shampoo, it’s the pretentious-sounding Systeme Biolage.  Skincare is Clinique and Origins. I only buy grass-fed beef or organic poultry from Colony Market and Whole Foods.

What do all these disparate items have in common?  They are connected to brands, and while they are a bit pricey, the cost is not a factor in my decision-making.  In my mind, each of these products has something that I value and trust.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not made of money, but I choose to save my money elsewhere so that I can afford to invest in products that I know work for me and my family.  In some ways, my biggest savings comes from shopping at Farmers Markets, but again, that is a brand experience.  Knowing where my food comes from and who grows it matters to me, and the added bonus is that it is often times cheaper than what I can find in a grocery store.

Get to the point, Hogan.

Okay, so the point in revealing my shopping habits is that promoting “cheap” does not convince me to switch brands or buy a product.  In these tough economic times when people are rightly worried about the cost of everything, promoting something as inexpensive is not necessarily the route to success.  It is often that we are encouraged at UM-Flint to promote the value of our tuition as affordable.

2010 was the year that universities in Michigan decided to play the tuition affordability game. Who could forget the infamous Eastern Michigan University “0-0-0” campaign?  Or, you may recall that Oakland University ran a promotional campaign last year with billboards that boldly stated, “You Can Afford This.”  But what does that message really convey about a brand experience at a university? Everyone estimates value differently.  The choice of a college is too important to use cost as the guiding factor.  Think about where you went to school.  What were the factors that influenced your decision?

Chances are, you picked your school based on your area of interest and the reputation of the school, which is consistent with study after study about how students pick a college. In fact, some websites urge students NOT to pick colleges based on inexpensive tuition.

It makes much more sense to talk about the value of education, as opposed to the bargain of education.  Lets resolve in 2011 to focus on what makes UM-Flint special and unique.  In the long run, that approach will pay dividends.

Jen Hogan