Spend money to improve UB, not its image

Branding initiative appears as expensive as it is unnecessary

The initial phase of a four-part, $314,000 branding initiative at UB just came to a close – but somehow, even though branding is entirely focused on image and publicity, not many students are aware of the process.

The initiative was aimed at improving UB’s “inclusiveness,” but it hasn’tdone much to include students, other than then encouraging the student body to take a survey about the changes.

Students should be aware of the project so they can develop opinions about the process – and its worth.

As UB advances through its planned 2020 expansion, which includes the creation of its downtown Medical Campus, it’s important that the university maintains a focus on its academic improvements, rather than its advertisements and public image.

UB 2020 is a promising project that affords the university the opportunity to expand its presence in downtown Buffalo and take part in the city’s burgeoning recovery.

But this doesn’t mean UB needs to rebrand itself.

Rather than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a branding project to improve inclusiveness – the details of which are still vague even though the initiative is 25 percent complete – UB should instead dedicate time and money to including its students in the experiences of downtown Buffalo.

A major increase in the presence of UB students throughout Buffalo – rather than in the UB-Amherst bubble – would do far more to communicate and promote UB’s influence in the city than a new website, a different message and whatever other yet-to-be-named changes this initiative may bring.

And that sort of promotion would also directly involve – and benefit – UB students, while also helping the city of Buffalo.

The city, the school and its students would profit from an initiative that focuses on rebranding UB’s relationship with Buffalo and increasing student awareness and inclusion with the city’s growth.

Instead of spending money to change the university’s image, that money should go toward projects that change the university’s influence – promotion of events downtown, funding for Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) Metro access – because that would ultimately affect and improve this school’s reputation anyway.

When UB Athletics rebranded its program to focus on New York State rather than Buffalo – an odd move, considering how many SUNY universities exist throughout the state – the change not only insulted other public New York universities but also acted as a blow to Buffalo.

UB 2020’s new branding should avoid this – and do precisely the opposite, by emphasizing the school’s dedication to an improved relationship with the city and appreciation for all Buffalo has to offer.

Increased community outreach will accomplish a lot more than a changed brand, especially because students are largely unaware of what this new UB image will look like or even what’s going to be different.

If UB can’t even promote its branding initiative among its students, then the effectiveness of the project overall seems doubtful at best.

The editorial board can be reached at editorial@ubspectrum.com