Posted on: March 26, 2008 7:51 pm
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Posted on: March 26, 2008 7:50 pm

US Rt 1 = 1/5th Avenue

As many may know, the city of Baltimore "coined" the phrase "get in on it" in a 2006 campaign to boost tourist and small business revenue in the city. The actually spent $500000 to come up with the campaign. I know this is old news but the recent failures of the University of Maryland's Men's basketball team, and the upcoming Orioles baseball season, got me to thinking....

....Do they teach marketing at the University of Maryland? Since it is the flagship of the state university system, I have to wonder if it's own marketing failures are tied into the ridiculous product of a $500000 ad campaign. This is, after all, the university that delivered "Fear the Turtle."

Let me preface this by saying I am a proud Maryland alum with a decidedly unmarketable degree in Military History. I love the Terps, and I did enjoy my stint at College Park for the most part. I am not a marketing genius by any stretch. However, I am also a consumer and a taxpayer (not in the city though). I can spot a good ad when I see/hear it, and these slogans are ridiculous failures of the imagination.

To their credit, the UMD higher-ups (led by Clayton Mote Jr.) have done a lot to bring some real national renown to our university. The place was a giant construction yard when I was there (98-02), and thankfully not all of it was sunk into athletics. New dorms and new Computer Science and Business School buildings were being erected (at the expense of an already atrocious parking situation). The school was gaining ground nationally in research and academics in general. We're (still) catching up to the other ACC schools for overall respectability. All around good stuff.

And things aren't so bad in athletics either. We had, or course, out National title (thanks Gary). Fridge instantly turned around a flagging football team that was embarrassing to watch under Vanderlinden. Brenda Frieze (sp?) is doing great things in Women's basketball. The school is a perennial national powerhouse in both soccer and lacrosse (for those who care). They have a tremendous BBall facility and are planning on expanding Byrd Stadium. All around good stuff.

And yet, they have hung their hat on the cheesiest slogan I have ever heard: "Fear the turtle." In fairness, I don't think this is actually something the university thought up. If I remember correctly, it was a grass-roots T-shirt fad that was started by a few students and local entrepreneurs. It can undoubtedly be seen as an "in-your-face" reaction to the snobbery of the Carolina schools. And in that respect, it works. I can dig seeing the Red Army decked out in "Fear the Turtle" and "Garyland" T shirts during a Duke game. Then the powers-that -be embraced it as the official slogan of the University, and it was all she wrote.

It breaks down like this:

"Fear the Turtle"

Tongue-in-cheek joke t-shirt worn by a drunk frat boy at a basketball game = GOOD
Official slogan and advertising mantra that is played as voice-over in portentous ads for university that air on TV = BAD

How many takes do you think it took the guy in those UMD TV ads to say "Fear the Turtle" with a straight face? Ten? Three? Twenty? I think it partially explains the failure of the "Get in on it" campaign. If College Park, the crown jewel of Maryland higher education, can only come up with "Fear the Turtle," then maybe it should be no surprise that the state's largest (and most troubled) city fails at marketing as well.

I planned to bring the Orioles into this as well, but it's late, I'm off work, and I hear the Yeungling calling....
Category: General
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