Columbia Debuts New Branding Campaign

by John A. Byrne on

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.

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  • Ricardo

    Well said.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • InternationalStandard

    Excactly 24, like you.

  • Dan

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

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

  • 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”.

  • 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.

  • 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

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