ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico has collected lots of nicknames over the years from prospective students, some of them negative.
Consider “University Near Mom,” a phrase often said by local high school students who deem the university too close to home to be cool. Or a “backup” for when a students’ Ivy League aspirations fall flat.
But UNM officials hope a nearly $2 million, four-year contract with a marketing agency that’s worked with Nike and Ferrari can turn its image around – and attract more students.
The university’s student population has declined from 21,000 undergrads in 2011 to 19,800 undergrads in 2015.
“One of the objectives is positioning UNM as a university of choice,” said Cinnamon Blair, a spokeswoman for the university.
School officials and members of the media firm 160over90 presented their preliminary results of the $1.98 million makeover that will be key in recruiting students, soliciting money from donors and generally presenting a picture of the university.
About 400 students, professors, staff and administrators packed into a ballroom Thursday morning to see what the company had come up with so far.
The two-hour presentation didn’t call for new logos or colors. Rather, the agency presented a series of pithy slogans and colorful design templates highlighting different parts of UNM and New Mexico culture.
“Re-imagining rural medicine while fine-tuning flamenco,” one statement reads. Another targeted at donors says giving to UNM is giving to New Mexico. The company presented mock-ups for fliers to send to prospective students and for letters to potential donors.
The company channeled the visual aesthetics of New Mexico – think hot air balloons and block adobe buildings – in creating the templates. Cherry and silver, the school’s colors, play prominent roles in the mock-ups.
The presentation is the result of months of work, including on-campus interviews, more than 350 in total, tours of the city and research of UNM programs. A steering committee of 18 professors and administrators contributed to the creation of the campaign.
“This doesn’t come out of Skype,” said 160over90 President David Levy.
The university will also try to battle other misconceptions. For example, 160over90 found some people who thought students at UNM had to speak Spanish.
Other goals call for unifying the disparate departments on campus. To that end, the Philadelphia- and California-based company suggested a monthly celebration, or gathering, that would bring the departments together.
In the theme of the school’s Lobo mascot, the celebration would be held on the full moon and could be called “Howlabaloo,” complete with T-shirts.
Notably, 160over90 didn’t speak about athletics or the Health Sciences Center. One employee of the center wanted to know how they would fit into the marketing campaign. Blair responded that that’s a detail to be worked out in the future.
The community response has been positive so far. Graduate student Melissa Leonard said she was curious how the campaign would be used to recruit and appeal to graduate students, but she said it seems inclusive.
The president of the faculty senate, Stefan Posse, also said he thinks students will like the new design and that is crucial.
“They will carry our message forward,” Posse said.
Blair stressed that the designs are not final and the university will continue to work with the company in developing future material to appeal to prospective students, donors or other parties.
Former Regent Jamie Koch has said that even a 1.5 percent increase in enrollment can equate to $3.5 million in revenue, which more than covers the expense of the branding effort.
The branding campaign also marks the most the university has spent on its image. Under then-President David Schmidly, the university spent $250,000 in 2008 on a branding campaign, and allocated an additional $900,000 to the university’s communication and marketing department.