Friday, November 7, 2008

Chicago Booth

One of my almae matres is the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. But wait, that's no longer the name. Due to a $300 million donation from investment fund owner David Booth, the school will henceforth be known as The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I guess I can get used to "U of C BSB," though it hardly rolls off the tongue as smoothly as "U of C GSB."

It appears that the university has decided that the shortened name should be "Chicago Booth," which doesn't seem quite as attractive, but does allow the university to open satellite locations in the cities of Toll, Phone, and Voting with no problem.

We alumni received an e-mail about this yesterday from our dean, Ted Snyder. It is a reasonably straightforward presentation of the gift, how it's the largest in the history of business schools. There's some background on how Mr. Booth has used the efficient market hypothesis to make extraordinary returns in the market (and if you understand the incongruity of that statement, you will wish, as I did, that Dean Ted gave us some more details as to how Mr. Booth made all that money - alas, that will remain secret).

The next-to-last paragraph, however, is remarkable (I couldn't find a link):
We look forward to the opportunity to use the naming of the school to address the uneven nature of our brand name capital. Some in our community will miss referring to “the GSB”, but the fact is that we could never establish such a generic term “Graduate School of Business” as our identity. We will of course maintain Chicago as a component of our identity given our place within the university. But we will now go forward with a new name in which we can build an identity that has no limitations. In sum, the Booth gift provides Chicago Booth with a perfectly-timed opportunity to move aggressively forward, capitalize on our current momentum, and compete more effectively against schools with greater resources, both in terms of financial and brand name capital.
This may explain why the GSB (I'm sorry, BSB) has never been considered close to as strong in marketing as it is in finance (and, even though I was there quite a few years ago, that reputation is well-earned). What a load of gobbledygook!

Do Dean Ted and his folks really sit around and lament the "uneven nature of our brand name capital"? Can it really be true that a school that has been top-flight pretty much since its founding in 1898, the first school to establish a PhD in business, the first school to offer an executive MBA, it really can't have a generic term as its identity? Do Wharton and Amos Tuck (quick, name the universities they're a part of) really gain some kind of huge advantage over, say, Harvard Business School? And what the heck does "we can build an identity that has no limitations" mean?

Oh that's right, nothing, this paragraph is completely content-free, and quite unnecessary in the face of what this donation might mean. I certainly hope that the person who actually wrote that has nothing to do with distributing the money, unless it's for an effective writing class.

4 comments:

Citizen Carrie said...

"The next-to-last paragraph is remarkable."

That paragraph should be entered into some sort of corporate communications BS competition, if one exists.

Sandeep Bhalerao (XP-77) said...

I never felt the school had a branding problem esp to be recognized by
the sound of its name, such as many other one words peers. Off course some more popular than the other. Have you ever found yourself to explain about Chicago GSB or being asked if this is Northwestern or Kellogg? Sometime people hear the first word Chicago and miss the GSB and ask a few questons before we get to the business discussion.

Naming happiness often comes with mix feelings and emotions, be it
Mumbai for Bombay or for the rock star 'formerly known as Prince'.
Chicago Booth at an outset does not sound very strong to assist the
branding. In fact , Chicagobooth. com sells furniture for restaurants.

GSB is more popular with the alums. Clearly, this constituency may
need more time for their acceptance to be the effective brand ambassadors of Chicago Booth.

Androcass said...

Sandeep:

If any part of the school has a brand problem, it's the university itself. I find that people confuse it with University of Illinois at Chicago quite often. Clearly, I don't think "Chicago Booth" will solve that problem. Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

I am a GSB '92 grad and a marketer. I also found Snyder's supposed statements on branding unfathomable, inscrutable, contradictory, illogical, offsensive (to my sensibilities, that is) and just plain ridiculous. I saw the subject line of the announcement email and thought, "What the hell am I getting an email about a booth in Chicago for?" We all know that naming rights are packaged with donations of just about any size these days, especially at academic institutions. Snyder said, "Show me the money," and Booth said, "Show me what my name will be on." Can't rename Gleacher. No more mega-construction insight? Aha! Let's offer up the name of the school itself! I thought that strategy went the way of the 80s when everyone was opening a new or naming an existing business school. So much for that Chicago maverick streak. So much for originality. So much for the GSB (which I am not changing on my resume). It's just all about filthy luchre.

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