Columbia Debuts New Branding Campaign

Columbia Business School has launched a new branding campaign

Columbia Business School has launched a new branding campaign

When Columbia Business School began reaching out to stakeholders for a new branding campaign, one phrase seemed to catch fire.

“At the Very Center of Business” not only seemed to resonate with hundreds of students, alumni, faculty and recruiters. They believed the tagline perfectly captured the very essence of the school and its location in New York City. “It came directly from the research,” says Iris Henries, associate dean of marketing and communications. “As we talked to all the stakeholders, that was a consistent theme that came up.”

So today (Oct. 31), Columbia made the phrase an integral part of a new and ambitious branding initiative, replacing its unofficial tagline “Theory to Practice.” Adds Henries, who led the effort, “This positioning helps to amplify that story and sets us apart from our peers. You can come up with something that rolls off the tongue and is pleasing to the ear but if it is not authentic and credible than all you come up with is a catchy phrase. What we have here we can say is really authentic. Out stakeholders feel this expresses who we are.”


To support the initiative, Columbia unveiled a new two-minute video that will serve as the cornerstone of its narrative moving forward. The video, titled “The Center,” brings viewers into Columbia’s classrooms and into the heart of New York City as well, with images of the subway, New York taxis, and the gleaming city skyline. The video takes viewers through the school’s key characteristics and attributes that distinguish Columbia as a global leader  in management education.

Columbia thus becomes the latest prestige business school to launch a full-fledged branding effort. Little more than two weeks ago, the University of Rochester’s Simon School came out with a new campaign with the tagline “Toughen Up.” In the past two years, both the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management also have weighed in with major brand campaigns in an increasingly competitive business school marketplace (see below). Wharton crowdsourced it’s new tagline last year, “Knowledge for Action,” while Kellogg embraced “Think Bravely” two years ago.

Columbia’s effort comes at a time when the school is gathering significant momentum. In the past year, MBA applications have climbed 6.6% and its acceptance rate has fallen to just 18.1% from 20.8% a year earlier (See The B-School Class of 2015 — By The Numbers). The school has also raised massive amounts of money in recent years, including $500 million toward the $600 million cost for the school’s new Manhattanville campus which is not expected to open until early 2018. Since becoming dean of the business school in July of 2004, Glenn Hubbard has raised an extraordinary $770 million, making him one of the most successful academic fundraisers in history.


Columbia said there are four “pillars” to its branding campaign. They are:

  • KNOWLEDGE: An Unrivaled Culture of Academic Excellence. Columbia Business School’s approach to thought leadership is constantly informed in real time by the global business environment. Groundbreaking research from the School’s faculty influences business practices in every sector while the transformative, 21st-century curriculum develops leaders who can create opportunity in any environment.
  • ACCESS: Unmatched Exposure to the Pulse of Business, Both Inside and Outside the Classroom. As the top Ivy League business school immersed in New York City, Columbia Business School provides its students with direct access to countless businesses and business leaders, both inside and outside the classroom, allowing them to take lessons learned in class and see them applied directly in the real world.
  • COMMUNITY: A Diverse, Engaged, and Entrepreneurial Community. High achievers are drawn to the School’s reputation and unique position at the global center of business, where a diverse, entrepreneurial-minded community of students, faculty members, staff, and alumni share an open exchange of ideas and perspectives. Combine this range of voices with an alumni network of more than 40,000 graduates and you have an expansive community that fosters creativity, invites entrepreneurial thinking, and opens doors to opportunity.
  • IMPACT: An Immediate and Lasting Impact on the Business World. The thought leadership of the School’s faculty and staff, combined with the accomplishments of its distinguished alumni and position in the center of global business, means that the School’s efforts have an immediate and measurable impact on the forces shaping business each and every day.

  • Yidio

    Actually quite a few. Here’s a few I’ve heard speak or talked to in the last few weeks. Some of these guys also hold office hours for students to attend on a monthly basis. Also, I’m not on the finance side of things, so you won’t see any of those listed below. But I know from my friends that the speakers CBS brings in from that industry are absolutely phenomenal.

    Vik Maholtra – McKinsey, Chairman
    John Skipper – ESPN, President
    Alex Gorsky – Johnson & Johnson, CEO
    Drew Houston – Dropbox, CEO
    Ulrich Bez – Aston Martin, Chairman
    Mark Thompson – New York Times, CEO
    Ariana Huffington – Huffington Post, CEO
    Shelly Lazarus – Oglivy, Chairman
    Neil Goldman – CapitalIQ, Founder
    Denise Morrison – Campbell Soup, CEO
    Jack Dorsey – Foursquare, CEO
    John Sykes – President, Clear Channel

  • avivalasvegas

    I’ve often wondered the same Orange. And then I witnessed it thanks to a project I am doing for an M7 school. While not secret, only faculty and staff were invited to a presentation on how another higher ranked institution was using technology to make video lectures far more intuitive. Fascinating stuff and definitely real.

  • Orange 1

    Viva, I have always wondered if the M7 is a cooked up urban myth or real people and institutions doing real things. Not a Tuck grad but a lot of respect for the school. Hard to believe with their attributes, history, alumni success, and (groan) Ivy status, they are left out of some “society”.

  • Dan

    1.Obviously its not the same person posting over and over again.

    2.Lets try not responding to racism with further racism “lol”.

  • InternationalStandard

    Excactly 24, like you.

  • avivalasvegas

    Because ‘Shaniqua James” is a protectionist, discriminatory bigot who has very obviously been burned/ damaged by someone from another country or has some kind of a vendetta against foreign born nationals. She/he/it posts frequently on forums against international students, stereotyping liberally.

    Ironic, given recent posts pro affirmative action for a group which has also faced discrimination from the same kind of human being (I’m being generous with that association).

    I’d recommend ignoring these posts. They’re usually written by individuals behind the safety of their terminals who are too cowardly to state openly in the real world.

  • avivalasvegas

    With respect, the reason the M7 schools are called M7 is because the schools consider themselves peers. This means administrative level exchanges that allow for “trade” of select best practices take place frequently. How do I know this? I’ve seen it first hand as recently as last week.

    Tuck and Haas, while excellent top 10 institutions, don’t factor into that group

  • Orange1

    I think the M7 is more like the M9 – I am including Tuck and Haas. Those two schools are outstanding. Agree with your point on schools being affected by the financial industry issues. That is why Dean Henry at NYU Stern is trying to move the school out as only being a finance MBA spot.

  • 24

    Yeah, right. By the way, I never mentioned any typos. Your “English” just shows lack of understanding of basic grammar. I guess it is because you are too busy being successful that you spend your time on a website for wannabe MBA students, and you keep coming back to write “irrelevant” posts about how well-off and successful you are.

  • InternationalStandard

    @24, I’m too busy being successful, to avoid typos in irrelevant posts and even emails. I wish i had time to spent time reviewing forum posts like you.

  • Ricardo

    Well said.

  • Julia S

    Name one CEO you’ve seen walking the halls at CBS. HBS, sure. Yale, not so much. Stern, doubtful. Most of the CEOs I’ve had the privilege of working with a. didn’t get their MBAs from the top schools and b. didn’t spend their time walking the halls of any of their alma maters.

  • JuliaS

    I think it’s hilarious that people have co-opted Ivy League to mean “top-tier.” Ivy/Non-Ivy, irrelevant. Stature, standing has nothing to do with what was previously only an athletic league designation. And I say that as a top-tier grad (which happened to be one of the original 7 schools in said league)

  • avivalasvegas

    Actually, they are welcome. And I say so. If anything, you’re not welcome

  • avivalasvegas

    nice try man. No cigar.. Columbia is at the very bottom of the M7 schools, Wharton has suffered too..largely due to the financial industry implosion. Doesn’t help that many of the fools on Wall St got their MBAs there either

  • avivalasvegas

    That’s an incredibly unimaginative tag line.

  • CBSforRichKids

    SPOT ON Artsy.

  • 2cents

    For need based yes, but usually that gets taken into account when they assign merit fellowships.

  • 24

    Either you are not an Ivy League student, or proper English is no longer a requirement to gain admission to these colleges.

  • no

    Except that this is not actually YOUR country.

  • Ricardo

    Thank you.

  • Artsy

    Columbia should rebrand itself as the ‘1% B-School’, Currently, meagre scholarships and lack of no Co-Signer loans for internationals make CBS top of student debt table. There is a huge gap between words and deeds and if CBS fulfils its branding message, it should broaden access for internationals and restore Co-Signer loans.

  • booth

    BTW, someone on gmatclub claims that Booth covers only 80% of full cost of attendance this year – check the link to the forum someone posted above.

  • CBSBrokenDream

    From CBS itself? Then you are not truthful. The scholarship range is 5k to 12k. Just check with the Financial Aid office.

  • NotInBedwithJB

    Guys, why don’t you all relax. This page is for free, because of the CBS add. If you don’t like, why don’t you stay a way, for good?

  • pendaflex

    Yep, seems that P&Q is totally selling out. Don’t get surprised to see more and more positive articles about CBS………

  • sloanie2015

    FYI, MIT Sloan does provide for full cost, no-cosigner

  • InternationalStandard

    I’m had luck in life, and my family is well-off and I’m an Ivy – League student. Why internationals should be admitted even though they are poor, because they add more value to the table/class-room than you, Renault. Even if it is just a spoon of humility.

  • Audi RS6

    Of course it is. Read the homepage.

  • Shaniqua James

    Stay out of my country. You’re not welcome.

  • Renalut

    But it isn’t the case.

  • Renault

    But nobody wants international students who can’t afford to attend, so why should Columbia change its policy? What do they bring to the table?

  • lol

    I’d be okay with this if I also received a check every month for everything that my White ancestors have contributed to the world (science, technology, mathematics, humanities, philosophy, etc.).

    (In all seriousness though, I think Shaniqua is just another Indian tech applicant. “Please advise.”)

  • 2cents

    Current CBS student, have a scholarship bigger than 12k a year. Not sure what you’re referring to.

  • P

    It should be mentioned that of all these schools that provide no-cosigner loans, not all will give you money that will cover your living expenses, which are in the 20-40K/year range.
    Schools that provide no-cosigner loans, but DO NOT cover the full student budget (usually, they only cover tuition):
    Wharton – covers only 80% of the full cost, i.e. 155K out of a total of around 200K
    Yale – covers tuition only
    Haas – covers only part of tuition (only 45K out of 57K)
    Tuck – covers tuition only
    Darden – covers tuition only
    Cornell – covers tuition only
    UCLA – covers part of tuition only (up to 42K out of 52K per year)
    These schools provide no-cosigner loans, but do not say on their website whether they cover tuition only or full cost of attendance, so you would have to email them and ask:
    Stern (Not sure, but I think they only cover tuition)
    MIT (I think they cover full cost, but I’m not sure)
    So, unless you have at least 40-50K cash (more like 50-60K) to cover your living expenses for two years, your best bet is to apply to HBS, Stanford, or Booth (and perhaps MIT and Kellogg), which cover your full cost of attendance.

  • Ricci’s Friend

    here you go Ricardo:

    List of schools and whether they provide loans to international students without a US Co-Signer:

    Harvard Yes
    Stanford Yes
    Wharton Yes
    Chicago Booth Yes
    Kellogg Yes
    MIT Sloan Yes
    Columbia No
    Yale Yes
    Berkeley Haas Yes
    Tuck Yes
    NYU Stern Yes
    Duke Fuqua Yes
    Ross No
    Cornell JohnsonYes

  • shaniqua

    You’re a moron.

  • snobby

    i mean ceos walking the halls

  • snobby

    guess u dont understand the meaning of center
    focus is not just nyc but a place where ceo’s are walking the calls everyday
    and that happens much more at cbs than at any other school

  • theKomodo

    LOL. I agree.

  • Shaniqua James

    In place of foreign students, we need more affirmative action for the DESCENDANTS OF AMERICAN SLAVES.

  • Ricardo

    I would like to hear your answer to DehliKing’s question

  • Ricardo

    Their IVY league status

  • Ricardo

    Where can I find info on the other top 10 schools non co-signer loans? USD 12k really is a shame.

  • PeopleARED

    Columbia should not emphasize too much on location, because there are also another schools that share the same advantage, NYU Stern, Fordham, Cornell Google Campus, and many lower ranked schools.

  • Renault

    Because poor international students are less fun than rich international students.

  • DehliKing

    you commend the school for not offering no-cosigner intl. student loans? why is that?

  • Shaniqua James

    How much is CBS spending for all those annoying popups on this website?

    Here’s the thing. All of the important b-schools have been around for a long, long time. People know what they are and what they stand for. Harvard is Harvard, GSB is GSB, Wharton is Wharton, Tuck is Tuck, Booth is Chicago, Stern is NYU, etc. (The name either conveys real pedigree or it has no value.) The renamings are meaningless and the rebrandings are meaningless. Columbia could change its name to the Buffett-Kravis-Perelman Ivy League Business School in NYC (but just watch out for Cornell!) and it would still be same old chip-on-the-shoulder Columbia.

    Nevertheless, I commend the school for not offering no-cosigner international student loans.


  • BeReasonable

    I think the biggest issue here is the annoying CBS adds we’re forced to look at on every page on this website. Come on P&Q, if you want to use ads, fine, just make them less intrusive.

  • Nick

    Another ludicrous comment. Can I have whatever you’re smoking?

  • ivyleaguer

    Not true
    CBS is 5 in fianncial times and has raised more money than other b school
    plus new york plus columbia univ is right on top as a univ
    i think CBS is the new wharton

  • Orange1

    John, CBS is a great school, but in the last 20 years or so, only Haas has pushed into a higher ranking. Again, HSW, then about six other schools, then about seven or eight more in the next tier. 20 years from now, will be pretty much the same.

  • Clara

    USD 12 k is the maximum scholarships? That’s a joke if you know that a 2 years program will easily cost you 200k,

  • Michael S

    Unbelievable i’didn’t know this that CBS can’t tie up with financial institutions for a non-cosigner loan. A call to a powerful Alumni working in a leading bank should do the trick, but apparently no use of the network in the banking capital in the worl. It confirms the rich kid image of CBS, where i have met multiple illustrious 3rd world kids that where loaded from home.

  • Ertan Ongun

    NYU Stern at least has a non cosigner loan for international students.

  • Socrates

    I’m cracking up so hard here. Nick: spot on. John: come on man…

  • Princeton

    So what makes CBS better than Stern? Absolutely nothing. They’re both at the ‘center of business’. What a foolish branding campaign.

  • Sanky

    I agree with CBS Broken Dreams. Loan without co-signer is of prime importance in school selection for International students and CBS should take note of the same in rebranding.

  • Nick

    A ludicrous comment.

  • John

    CBS definitely making tremendous strides. The new Wharton? Good chance to break into the top 2-3 when they debut the new campus.

  • CBS Broken Dreams.

    Columbia’s campaign actually makes me smile. Me, as an international admit (without wealthy parents and/or a family member living in the US) had to decline my admissions since the CBS is the only top 10 school and the only IVY league school without a NON co-signer. This a big-deal breaker for internationals, who dream of CBS and get admitted. Also the scholarships are limited to maximum USD 12 k. What makes me smile is that CBS prides itself of being the city where business is happening without really leveraging its access to financial institutions and arranging a non co-signer loan or provide better scholarships through corporations in the city. Just some thoughts to CBS.