Wharton Crowdsources Its Branding Message

The committee narrowed the possibilities down to eight taglines it favored and then ran an “evaluation tournament” among the stakeholders to get the list down to a final two or three. “That’s when ‘Knowledge for Action’ bubbled up to the top,” says Day. “That seemed to capture the most votes on all three of our criteria. As soon as they got their minds around it, everybody said that’s it.” Some 2,000 students, faculty and alumni voted, while more than 200 proposed new taglines.

The idea to use the tagline as a platform with several variations came from management professor Katherine Klein who thought there was no reason to restrict to one simple message.

‘A GALVANIZING INSIGHT’

“It was the one galvanizing insight,” added Day. “’Gosh, we said, ‘this is really good. We’re excited about it.’ We took this basic idea to each of these stakeholder groups and asked how would you use it? What kinds of knowledge for what kinds of consequences? Then, one of the policy decisions we made as a committee is that you can only have five or six applications. It can’t be knowledge for supermarket retailing. You can see how that would lead us down a rat hole.”

To emphasize the school’s data-driven approach to business, Wharton also is developing a series of info-graphics that it intends to use with the new branding messaging. The school’s video and the info-graphics are being crafted by a Philadelphia-based advertising agency, Karma.

After three years, Day seems satisfied with the result. “It was rigorous and time-consuming but it was a journey of adventure and discovery,” he says. “We have come up with the perfect positioning. It just fits who we are. It fits our culture and communicates in a flexible way. And we can really deliver on that.”

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About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.