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Branding Universities Essay

The end of the 1990s witnessed the corporatization of public universities in Malaysia resulting in the publication of corporate literature in these universities and the type of writing Fairclough (1993) refers to as the marketization of academic discourse. Marketization is necessary in public universities due to stiff competition in attracting students among the public universities as well as from the increasing number of private universities. This article reports how Malaysian universities re-brand themselves using the results of an investigation on corporate brochures from these universities.

The investigation employs a structural analysis and a textual analysis. Although informative in nature, these corporate brochures exhibit the use of promotional elements in the texts as seen in the contents and the language use. The communicative functions of university brochures are viewed to be more promotional than informative. ABSTRACT KEY WORDS: brochures, corporate culture, genre analysis, re-branding, universities Introduction Academic institutions, particularly public universities, used to be regarded as the pinnacle of learning.

Most of these universities were reputed for providing the best tertiary education and the mere mention of their names lit up the faces of those who had the privilege of learning from these fountains of knowledge and those who aspired to be associated with them. There was a time when admission was ‘by invitation only’, otherwise young men and women were seen struggling to gain admission into these prestigious institutions. These public universities acquired a promotional value (Wernick, 1991) without having to promote or market themselves.

In advertising terms, these universities did not go through the process of branding. Branding is a fundamental strategic process of effectively marketing a product or service which includes creating a brand name and identity, designing Downloaded from http://dcm. sagepub. com by Heemal Kasseean on October 9, 2009 58 Discourse & Communication 2(1) the packaging and promoting the product or service (Randall, 1997). Although Randall (1997) argues that ‘brands (and therefore branding) are so fundamentally important to the survival and success of many firms’ (p.2), this was not the case in public universities in the past.

This is significantly due to the fact that these academic institutions were claimed to be free from other influences as evidenced by Cardinal Newman’s view of universities cited by Wernick (1991) as: . . . the high protecting power of all knowledge and science, of fact and principle, of inquiry and discovery, of experiment and speculation; it maps out the territory of the intellect, and sees that . . . there is neither encroachment nor surrender from any side . . .

(Cardinal Newman, 1847, cited in Wernick, 1991:151) That was the traditional image of public universities, independent of political or societal influence and this image was not built by advertising or branding. As centres of academe, public universities were known for their quality education based on the results of their graduates and their performance in the careers they embarked on upon graduation. As years passed, more aspiring young people would apply for admission in certain universities due to their reputation.

This reputation in turn became the image of the universities which automatically created the promotional value (Wernick, 1991) of these universities, mentioned earlier as the pinnacle of learning. Each university was identified by its name or logo and no further promotional strategies were required. By providing quality education, these universities successfully built ‘a distinct brand personality’ (Randall, 1997: 67) for themselves as the success of branding is justified when people are reminded of a particular brand just by looking at the logo or hearing its brand name.

The traditional role of public universities was to manage society (Jarvis, 2001) by producing scholars in the various fields of study so that they can go out to make the world a better place to live or join the academia to continue producing scholars. However, towards the end of the 20th century, the role of universities started changing from serving the state in managing society to serving the industry and commerce in ensuring that people are employable (Jarvis, 2001).

This is partly due to the demands of the contemporary knowledge-based society (Veitch, 1999) where consumers have become more knowledgeable and have started demanding for better education and improved quality of life. Changes started taking place in public universities in the West as early as the 1980s where the governments were forced to abolish academic tenure and decrease funding for these universities.

This was when many traditional universities started transforming into corporate universities (Jarvis, 2001) where they have to assume a more corporate form and function more like a corporation. From being the centre of academe, universities have become business-like entities (Connell and Galasinski, 1998). In Malaysia, a number of public universities have recently been corporatized, a move taken by the Malaysian government in its effort to inculcate better and more efficient management of these institutions.

As corporate culture (Treadwell and Treadwell, 2000) is a new culture in all these universities, most of them Downloaded from http://dcm. sagepub. com by Heemal Kasseean on October 9, 2009 Osman: Re-branding academic institutions with corporate advertising have set up corporate communications departments (Hajibah Osman, 2005) to handle corporate matters. Among the functions of these departments are managing corporate information and publication and projecting a positive image of the universities which are part of corporate advertising.

Corporate advertising Business corporations use corporate advertising to enhance the image of the whole organization, or of the general brand in order to influence social values or to establish a connection between the corporation/brand and an already established positive value and in this era of identity, a lot of emphasis has been put on the importance of brand and corporate identities (Richards et al. , 2000). Unlike business organizations, universities are non-profit institutions.

Public universities are viewed to use corporate advertising to enhance the strong foundation and to highlight the quality of these institutions of higher education. While it is common for business corporations to publish informative or promotional literature from time to time to inform the public about new developments in the organization (monthly or yearly reports) or to introduce new products or services (product launch leaflets), the use of promotional literature in academic institutions is a recent development.

Malaysian public universities have started producing informative literature in the form of university brochures and special booklets in conjunction with certain celebrations in the universities as well as promotional literature in the form of leaflets providing brief information on academic programmes offered by the universities or introducing new programmes (Hajibah Osman, 2005). By employing new strategies to market their traditional image, from the advertising perspective, these universities are re-branding their products and services.

Re-branding is the process of marketing an existing product or service of one brand with a different identity involving radical changes to the brand name, logo, image, marketing strategy and advertising themes (Wikipedia, 2006). In the advertising industry, re-branding is often referred to as re-positioning, that is, re-positioning a product or service in order to improve sales. Although there was no actual initial branding taking place in universities, being non-profit making institutions, the term ‘re-branding’ is used in this article to illustrate the change in the image of these universities particularly since the late 20th century.

Significantly, this change has been effected without compromising the traditional characteristics and values of these institutions as the pinnacle of higher learning. The process of re-branding is aimed at improving the image of the universities by focusing on the facilities and highlighting the quality of the academic programmes. This article attempts to investigate the process of re-branding in public universities in Malaysia by conducting a genre analysis on university brochures, one type of print materials published by the institutions that represent corporate advertising.

Analysing genres can lead to a ‘thick description’ (Bhatia, 1993) Downloaded from http://dcm. sagepub. com by Heemal Kasseean on October 9, 2009 59 60 Discourse & Communication 2(1) of the texts contained in these genres, explaining why certain texts have been constructed the way they are. The specific objective of this article is to identify and discuss the strategies used in the re-branding process based on the structural organization of university brochures and the communicative functions of this type of brochure.

Previous investigations of advertising genres mostly focused on straightsell advertisements of products or services. Bruthiaux (2000), for instance, investigated how advertisers make use of a limited space available to them to create successful advertising copies by examining the syntactic features in an undisclosed number of display and classified advertisements. His results show that the degree of syntactic elaboration ‘varies substantially even when content of equal simplicity/complexity or familiarity to readers is being presented.

This variation appears to correlate with perceptions of status on the parts of both writers and readers’ (p. 298) and the persuasive elements lie in the vacuous displays of linguistic sophistication designed to create a largely artificial sense of exclusiveness among status-conscious readers (p. 369). Investigations have also been conducted on the language of advertising in Asia, for instance, Tej Bhatia’s (2000) investigation of language of advertising in Rural India and Henry and Roseberry’s (1998) investigation of the linguistic features in tourist information brochures from Brunei.

Thus far, there have been very few linguistic analyses conducted on the genre of corporate advertising. Therefore, the genre selected for analysis in this article is brochure, specifically corporate brochure from academic institutions. A brochure is a printed document of six or more pages, used to introduce an organization, published only once and distributed to special publics for a single purpose (Newsom and Carrell, 2001).

The discourse community of Public Relations (PR) specifies five characteristics of brochures, three of which are related to the present article: always having a singular message statement; having a purpose – to persuade or to inform and educate; and attracting and holding the attention of the audience. Brochure genre makes an interesting study because, first, this genre is viewed as a ‘blurred genre’ (a term borrowed from Scollon et al. , 1999) in that the term ‘brochure’ has been used to refer to other forms of publications including booklet, flyer, leaflet and pamphlet (Newsom and Carrell, 2001).

Second, a brochure is a genre of persuasive discourse shaping the thoughts, feelings and lives of the public (Dyer, 1993) placing it under the field of advertising. However, according to Newsom and Carrell (2001), brochures are produced by PR practitioners rather than advertising practitioners. This is probably due to the fact that PR, among other things, incorporates looking after the reputation of an organization ‘with the aim of earning understanding and support, and influencing opinion and behaviour’ (Beard, 2001: 7).

The question of ownership arises placing brochures in an even more ‘blurred’ state as the communicative functions of brochures have been set by the discourse community to which the genre belongs. In the context of this article, brochures are categorized as a corporate genre (basically PR) involving the principles of corporate writing (Treadwell Downloaded from http://dcm. sagepub. com by Heemal Kasseean on October 9, 2009 Osman: Re-branding academic institutions with corporate advertising and Treadwell, 2000). Brochures are readily available, particularly in print version, and are easily accessible electronically.

Finally, brochure genre needs to be investigated because brochure format is one of the most frequently used information formats in advertising and PR but is ironically the least written-about (Bivins and Ryan, 1991). Corporate genre in academic institutions This article establishes that any publications from universities, particularly those produced by the Corporate or Public Relations Office, are referred to as corporate genre. Corporate brochures are usually categorized as informative brochures (Richards et al. , 2000) providing all the necessary information about the organizations they represent.

There are certain corporate elements present to qualify them as corporate brochures, but mostly these brochures are informative. However, an analysis of corporate brochures from multinational corporations by Askehave and Swales (2001) prove that these brochures also function to promote the organization. This is evident in the presence of promotional elements selected as syntactic choices in these brochures. Corporate brochures also function to establish long-lasting trading relationships which are in fact paramount in today’s industrial market.

Hajibah Osman (2005) also notes that corporate brochures from academic institutions are promotional in nature with the use of promotional strategies apart from corporate and informative strategies. Another corporate genre in academic institutions, the university prospectus, started changing in form in the 1990s (Fairclough, 1993) where apart from providing information on the core business of the university, that is, the academic programmes, the prospectus has also included information on other aspects of the universities.

Based on a critical discourse analysis of prospectuses from a number of British universities, Fairclough notes that these universities started promoting their programmes because they have come increasingly under (mostly government’s) pressure to operate like other types of businesses competing to sell their products to consumers. The university prospectus has become a ‘genre of consumer advertising colonising professional and public service orders of discourse on a massive scale, generating many new hybrid partly promotional genres’ (Fairclough, 1993: 139).

Academic institutions in Malaysia have also published promotional leaflets (Hajibah Osman, 2005) to advertise their academic programmes and these are circulated to potential students particularly before a new academic year begins. These leaflets are no longer the plain, boring information sheets but colourful and interesting ones. This article concurs with Askehave and Swales (2001) that corporate brochures function as promotional brochures more than projecting the corporate image and providing information.

Thus, the investigation in this article attempts to identify and discuss the strategies that realize the promotional functions in this type of brochure as part of the re-branding process in public universities. Downloaded from http://dcm. sagepub. com by Heemal Kasseean on October 9, 2009 61 62 Discourse & Communication 2(1) Methodology In 2005, there were 11 public universities in Malaysia (currently, there are 20). Brochures were obtained from the 11 universities and were initially analysed to identify the possible structural organization.

Based on the organization, the communicative functions of these brochures were determined. The 11 public universities included in this investigation are: International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM/UIA); Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM); Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM); Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS); Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS); Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM); Universiti Perguruan Sultan Idris (UPSI); Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM); Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM); Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM); University of Malaya (UM).

A textual analysis was conducted to examine the strategies used in the rebranding process. The strategies in the context of this article are tactical choices (Bhatia, 1993) which are cognitive processes ‘exploited by the writer to make writing more effective keeping in mind any special reader requirements, considerations arising from the use of medium or constraints imposed by organizational and other factors’ (p. 20).

The strategies used by universities in re-branding the institutions are discussed within the framework of the sociolinguistic theory which considers writing as ‘part of the overall activities of a group and organization’ (Gunnarsson, 1997: 140) and in relation to the corporate culture (Hagberg and Heifetz, 2000) practised by the universities. As a genre is a typical form of utterances, it should be studied in its social contexts of use (Berkenkotter and Huckin, 1993).

Sociolinguistics does not only describe linguistic variation and the social context in which such a variation occurs, but also shows how linguistic differentiation reflects social structure (Coupland, 2001). The sociolinguistic perspective in this article considers the existence of factors underpinning the construction of university brochures and the concept of promotional culture (Wernick, 1991). Re-branding academic institutions It has been established that university brochures form part of the corporate advertising strategies in Malaysian universities which in turn are part of the rebranding process in these traditional institutions.

The structural organization in these brochures consists of 10 sections identified as moves (Table 1). Some of the moves are exemplified with extracts from the university brochures in Figure 1 (see Appendix). In identifying the moves, the term ‘service’ is used to refer to the educational services and the support services offered by the universities. All the brochures from the 11 universities include Moves I, C, L, D, J and S, indicating that these six moves are obligatory. Ninety-one percent of the brochures include Moves A, T and E, while 81 percent include Move V, making them optional moves.

The 10 moves have been used to realize three communicative functions of the university brochures which are: • To inform the public about the academic programmes offered in the university and the facilities and other services available to support the academic programmes; Downloaded from http://dcm. sagepub. com by Heemal Kasseean on October 9, 2009 Osman: Re-branding academic institutions with corporate advertising • • To portray a corporate image of the university; and To promote the university as an academic institution based on the quality and the variety of academic programmes offered as well as the facilities available.

These communicative functions of university brochures correspond with the general functions of brochures (Newsom and Carrell, 2001) set by the discourse community of PR. Re-branding strategies The 10 sections in university brochures have been identified as moves and these moves are realized with the use of strategies, and for the purpose of discussion in this article, re-branding strategies. The article discusses how the strategies contribute to the re-branding process and what their communicative functions are.

NAME AND LOGO The first move in university brochures is called identifying the service which presents the name and the logo of the university. Although the brochures are in English language, the names of the universities are in Malay, the national language of Malaysia except two universities, International Islamic University Malaysia and University of Malaya. The names of the public universities were officially changed to Malay when the national language was made the medium of instruction in the mid-1970s.

In the case of IIUM, however, the acronym by which it is commonly referred to by Malaysians is the Malay version, UIA. Similarly, University of Malaya is now popularly known as Universiti Malaya (UM). Interestingly, alumni up to the early 1980s still refer to this oldest university in the country as MU (Malaya University). TA B L E 1. Structural organization of university brochures Section Move identification Name of the university University slogan or motto Vision/Mission statement Profile or background of the university Location and size of the university

Academic programmes offered at the university Facilities available to support the academic programmes Entry requirements, fees charged and duration of the programmes Career opportunities and recognition received by the university Contact addresses and telephone numbers Identifying the service (I) Attracting reader attention (A) Targeting the market (T) Establishing credentials (C) Locating the service (L) Describing the service (D) Justifying the service (J) Indicating the value of service (V) Endorsing the value of service (E) Soliciting response (S)

Downloaded from http://dcm. sagepub. com by Heemal Kasseean on October 9, 2009 63 64 Discourse & Communication 2(1) In the past, universities were identified by their crests but now these crests have been generally referred to as logos. Although it cannot be ascertained when the change exactly took place, this is the first re-branding strategy. However, this is not an obvious re-branding element because some of the established traditional universities in the world still use the term crest, for example, Oxford University (http://www. ox. ac. uk/web/crest.shtml).

As far as Malaysian universities are concerned, both terms are similar and a recent survey of the university websites shows that most of the public universities in Malaysia refer to the crest as the logo while two universities (UKM and USM) refer to them as emblems. Most of the websites also provide the rationale for the design of the logo (e. g. UiTM, UPM). Whether used as crest, logo or emblem, interestingly, there are two common shapes observed: the shape of a shield (six universities) and a round shape (five universities) (Figure 2, see Appendix).

The shape of USM’s emblem differs significantly from other logos in that it resembles a state emblem. This qualifies for the use of the term ‘emblem’ (a heraldic device or symbolic object as a distinctive badge of a nation, organization or family – Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus, 2001) by the university. Although the current shape of UPSI’s logo is round, it once had the shape of a shield (Figure 3, see Appendix). Compared with the logos of established universities which include traditional designs representing the academe, the current logos of Malaysian public universities include elements of modern designs.

In fact, some of these logos have gone through some kind of ‘evolution’ as in the case of UiTM, UPM and UPSI. UPM ‘evolved’ from a training school to a college to a university focusing on agriculture. Later, the university started including more disciplines and the name was changed from Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (Malaysia University of Agriculture) to Universiti Putra Malaysia (Putra University of Malaysia) in 1997, taking after the name of the first prime minister at the same time keeping the same acronym. UPSI and UiTM underwent almost similar ‘evolution’; from a centre to a college to an institute and finally to a university.

Throughout the ‘evolution’, the logos have also gone through many changes where the concept incorporated in the logos mainly represents the focus of the university. While UPSI’s logo changed in shape but not in concept, UiTM’s and UPM’s logos underwent a total facelift (Figure 3, see Appendix). This is probably due to the fact that UPSI’s focus of training teachers remains throughout. MOTTO AND SLOGAN A motto is a short sentence or phrase that expresses a rule for sensible behaviour, especially a way of behaving in a particular situation (Collins Cobuild Dictionary, 2001).

Most of the university logos have the motto inscribed on them as the motto represents the culture or the way of life in the university. Once again, all the mottos of the public universities are in Malay. The more established universities still retain this culture inscribed in the logo as seen in UM’s motto (translated as) ‘Knowledge, the Source of Development’, UPSI’s ‘Knowledge, the Beacon of Pure Character’, UTM’s ‘By the Name of God for Mankind’ and UUM’s ‘Scholarship, Downloaded from http://dcm. sagepub. com by Heemal Kasseean on October 9, 2009

Osman: Re-branding academic institutions with corporate advertising Virtue, Service’. UPSI keeps the same motto inscribed on the logo throughout its ‘evolution’ but UiTM left out its motto of 39 years from its new logo. The newly established universities (UMS and UNIMAS) do not have a motto inscribed in their logos.

While a motto is a traditional feature of a public university, having a slogan is a new phenomenon. A slogan is a distinctive catchphrase that serves as a motto for a promotion campaign (Wells et al., 2003) used to sum up a theme for the benefit of the product or the service in order to deliver a message in a few words which are easily remembered.

There are two types of slogans (Russell and Lane, 1990): hard-sell slogans are strongly competitive, epitomizing the special significant features of the product or service being advertised. Institutional slogans establish a prestigious image for companies which they need in order to enhance their products or services. Slogans in university brochures fall under the category of institutional slogans.

Again, it cannot be ascertained when universities started creating slogans but there is a strong probability that they started at the same time when Malaysian public universities were undergoing corporatization in the late 20th century. Slogans started appearing on brochures and prospectuses of these public universities. The use of slogans has been viewed as a significant re-branding strategy as slogans represent the most promotional element in advertising. The purpose of having a slogan is to attract the reader’s attention and to let it linger on the reader’s mind.

According to Russell and Lane (1990), the memorability of slogans can be enhanced by making use of literary techniques. These techniques consist of certain types of words including: • • • • Boldness – use of strong powerful words, and startling or unexpected phrases; Parallelism – use of a repeated structure of a sentence or phrase; Rhyme, rhythm, alliteration – use of repeated sounds; Aptness – use of appropriate, direct words (Russell and Lane, 1990). Slogans in university brochures have been created based on good advertising principles as they have been observed to make use of the literary techniques, for example:

• • • • • • boldness: Garden of Knowledge and Virtue (IIUM) parallelism: The National University with an International Reach (UKM) aptness: Your Inspiration parallelism: Contemporary and Forward Looking (UNIMAS) boldness: Towards a World-Class University (UPM) boldness: Towards Excellence and Supremacy (UPSI) Boldness is exemplified with words such as ‘virtue’, ‘world-class’ and ‘supremacy’ where the universities are bold enough to associate themselves with such high stature. Traditionally, public universities are centres of academe which do not portray an image of flaunting.

Slogans using parallelism aim for jingle-like sounds so that readers can remember them easily while aptness acts like punchlines, strong and effective to be easily remembered. The bottom line is that a slogan is an Downloaded from http://dcm. sagepub. com by Heemal Kasseean on October 9, 2009 65 66 Discourse & Communication 2(1) advertising concept and a marketing tool. The fact that public universities as nonprofit making academic institutions use slogans place them in a different light. They are currently functioning more like business entities.

MISSION STATEMENT This move is identified as targeting the market based on the communicative functions of the mission statements. A mission statement provides information about what type of organization it is and what it does (Falsey, 1989) at the same time highlighting the positive factors in the organization. Stating the mission of the university is viewed as one of the two crucial strategies (the other being using slogans) in re-branding academic institutions as this move never appeared in academic genres before.

This move has placed public universities in the same league as other successful corporations. Mission statements of public universities in Malaysia are observed to provide information as to what and how they can contribute to the public in terms of tertiary education as highlighted (underlined) in the following examples: (10) To become a distinguished university, aspiring to promote academic excellence in higher education and professional training necessary for the country’s socio-economic development (UiTM).

(11) To be a premier university seeking excellence in the advancement of knowledge to meet the aspirations of the nation (UM) (12) To become an exemplary university of internationally acknowledged stature and as a scholarly institution of preference and choice for students and academics through the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research and scholarship (UNIMAS) (13) To lead in the development of creative human resource and technology in line with the aspirations of the nation (UTM).

The words ‘distinguished’, ‘premier’, and ‘exemplary’ are used to emphasize the quality of the universities. Other words like ‘excellence’, ‘advancement’ and ‘stature’ as well as ‘to lead’ are all bold words of promise by the universities. PROFILE OF THE UNIVERSITY This section is identified as the move to establish the credentials of the university as it provides information on the background and/or the current status of the university.

The background information includes the date of establishment and the reason for the establishment while information on the current status of the university usually includes the achievements of the university in terms of academic programmes and physical development as well as the quality of the programmes offered. This move is supposed to be informational but there are a number of instances where the brochures provide the information on the current status of the university using ‘promotional’ words and phrases. For example: (14) UNIMAS is an ISO-certified university . . .

Its undergraduate programmes have been designed to suit the needs of society and industry. Downloaded from http://dcm. sagepub. com by Heemal Kasseean on October 9, 2009 Osman: Re-branding academic institutions with corporate advertising An ISO certification for an organization confirms the quality of that organization and it is now a common practice among public universities to obtain such certification to convince the public about the quality of the university, particularly the academic programmes on offer. Universities with ISO certification usually highlight it in their brochures as a strategy to promote the institutions.

Other instances of promotional words can be observed in the following examples: (15) The university is the catalyst for regional growth in the northern region of Peninsula Malaysia (UUM) (16) From these humble beginnings, UM grew hand-in-hand with the young nation to become the nucleus for producing graduates of the highest quality and calibre. The word ‘catalyst’ denotes the importance of the university in the regional growth of the northern region of the country, without which there would not have been much growth in that region, thus promoting the significance of the university.

Similarly, the word ‘nucleus’ conveys the significance of UM to the developing nation. Another instance is when a university states the commitment of the university to the public or the nation. UPM boldly states its commitment to become a worldclass university to convince the public to come and enrol in this university. (17) Named Universiti Putra Malaysia in honour of the pioneering Prime Minister of Malaysia, . . . has adopted this pioneering spirit and is committed to become the world class Univers.


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