It has been just over four years since Sally Blount assumed the deanship of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. During that stretch, the former dean of New York University’s undergraduate business program has led dramatic change at the school on nearly every front.
The latest piece—announced today—is a new brand strategy focused on “inspiring growth.” Close observers of the school may wonder why the school is tinkering again with the repositioning of the Kellogg brand. After all, it was only three years ago that the school launched an ambitious effort to rebrand itself under the tagline: “Think Bravely: We believe that business can be bravely led, passionately collaborative, and world changing.”
But Blount, a cerebral academic who has a reputation as a whirlwind, insists the new campaign is a smart refinement of all the work that has gone on to refresh and update the school in the past 30 or so months.
“It makes more concrete how we deliver on our promise,” says Blount, the first outsider to lead Kellogg in three decades. “We launched Think Bravely as a placeholder for a deeper brand strategy. It tapped into the culture and spirit of Kellogg, but it didn’t prescribe a path. Growth is the most pressing challenge every organization faces. And our brand strategy highlights the important dual-meaning of the English word ‘growth’ – both in terms of increasing value and increasing self-knowledge and insight.”
‘KELLOGG: WHERE BRAVE LEADERS INSPIRE GROWTH IN PEOPLE, ORGANIZATION & MARKETS’
The upshot: After a year-long effort that gathered input from thousands of stakeholders, including faculty, current and prospective students, alumni, employers and administrators, Kellogg is now the school where “brave leaders inspire growth in people, organizations and markets.” An accompanying brand video opens with a female narrator saying that “seeing possibilities where others see obstacles requires the right mindset…it’s called the growth mindset..and it can be learned” as the background music builds to a crescendo.
The repositioning campaign is the handiwork of Tim Simonds, who had been recruited to Kellogg by Blount as the school’s chief marketing and engagement officer. A Kellogg alum, Simonds had been a vice president and general manager at General Electric’s Healthcare IT division. Prior to joining GE, he worked at United Airlines as managing director in marketing and merchandising, and began his career with a 13-year tenure at Procter & Gamble, where he was brand manager for the Olay and Cascade brands.
“What we are really focused on is what brave leaders do: They inspire growth,” says Simonds. ‘From a student perspective the whole idea of personal growth is extremely important. And our corporate partners been through the recession and financial reengineering. They believe the path forward is all around growth. The research shows that 75% of total shareholder return for top S&P companies is driven by growth.”
NEW LOGO AND TAGLINE AND BRAND VIDEO IN A NEW REPOSITIONING STRATEGY
The new brand strategy—evident in everything from the school’s new logo and tagline to its advertising, updated website, publications, and even a brand video—is likely to get the most attention, but the more meaningful news at Kellogg is what has gone on under the hood in the past four years. At a time when graduate business education has become an increasingly commoditized product, Kellogg has aggressively moved to change or significantly update nearly everything it has been doing.
Fact is, it’s hard to find a dean who has a truly distinctive vision for a school. Everyone wants to be more global, to infuse ethics and integrity into the curriculum, to teach students to be more entrepreneurial and innovative, and to put more intellectual rigor into MBA programs that at many schools had become little more than a two-year search for a better job.
At the heart of Blount’s strategy is an effort to redefine the model of a business school from one based on functions, the narrow business disciplines of accounting, finance, marketing, organizational behavior, and operations, to one centered on key business objectives, with the overriding goal being growth.