When the Ship is Sinking, Rebrand!
by Silence Dogood

Unless you live under a rock, you know that MnSCU is experiencing significant financial difficulties. Declining enrollments and poor expenditure decisions have combined to place MnSCU at risk. In fact, the situation is so dire that MnSCU made a desperate request to the Minnesota Legislature for 21 million in supplemental funding to MnSCU’s base budget and two weeks ago appeared before legislative committees to justify their request.

One week after appearing before the Minnesota Legislature, the Associated Press, in an article in the St. Clout Times on April 20, 2016, reported that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (i.e., MnSCU) is changing its name and will be known henceforward as Minnesota State. Additionally, the logo for the system is changing. The new logo appears below:

In 2014, MnSCU paid PadillaCRT, a public relations firm, $272,000 to do some brand research. According an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on April 20, 2016, Chancellor Steven Rosenstone is quoted as saying that “brand research has found the MnSCU name to be confusing.”

“Why do organizations rebrand in the first place? In a study of 165 cases of rebranding, Muzellec and Lambkin (2006) found that, whether a rebranding follows from corporate strategy (e.g., mergers and acquisitions) or constitutes the actual marketing strategy (change the corporate reputation), it aims at enhancing, regaining, transferring, and/or recreating the corporate brand equity.” (Wikipedia)

What is the brand equity of a University or University System? An obvious answer is the power of the brand to attract students and impact enrollment in a positive manner.” The following figure shows the total FYE enrollment in the MnSCU system from FY2003 to FY2016:

Enrollment at MnSCU institutions has grown for most of its’ existence with the decline in enrollment happening after Steve Rosenstone’s appointment as Chancellor of the system. It appears that Chancellor Rosenstone’s solution to declining enrollment is a marketing campaign to make MnSCU look good rather than actually be good.

We’ll likely never know where Chancellor Rosenstone got the idea for rebranding. However, it is possible and even likely that he got the idea from one of his biggest supporters: President Potter at St. Cloud State University. In 2011, SCSU, President Potter decided to spend nearly half a million dollars to rebrand SCSU. SCSU’s enrollment peaked in 2010. To combat the decline, in 2011 he fired the Vice President for Enrollment Management and decided to enhance the university through a new logo and start a rebranding campaign.

The exact amount from the original contracts and extensions with Earthbound Media Group is $459,045.75. The original contract was signed 5/9/11, and there were three amendments.
A portion of the contract with EMG and SCSU is shown below:

For the MnSCU system, the original $272,00 was spent just to say you should spend more. As a result, an additional $345,000 contract was signed to help roll out the change. To date, it appears that at least $617,000 has been spent to ‘rebrand’ MnSCU. However, the costs are not going to end at $617,000. New signage, stationary, documents, websites, etc. will be needed. Clearly, this will not occur without an additional cost.

In early April of this year, the Chancellor announced his decision to retire in 2017 and just barely a few weeks later has decided the rebranding will go forward with the new name and logo. According to an article in the April 19, 2016 St. Paul Pioneer Press, Trustee Bob Hoffman “called the name change and logo change a solution in search of a problem.” So at least one Trustee thinks that the rebranding campaign is a waste of money (especially when nineteen of the MnSCU institutions are experiencing financial difficulties resulting in the development of financial recovery plans).

However, not all of the MnSCU trustees, excuse me, Minnesota State trustees, think this rebranding effort is a waste of money. Enough is enough! Any member of the Board of Trustees (whether MnSCU or MS)who voted to approve the funding for the rebranding should resign. The Chancellor should also resign.

Spending money on new names and logos does not really solve any of the problems facing the state university system. The MnSCU system has financial reserves but without solving the underlying enrollment and expenditure problems, it seems like spending money on rebranding is much like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We all know how well that turned out!

Hold the presses. After several articles were posted on the university email system about the rebranding, SCSU’s University Communication posted the following:

As a result, in an effort to stop the laughter over spending more than half a million dollars on rebranding, they announce that it isn’t really a done deal. I don’t really know which is dumber, spending the money on rebranding and then doing it or spending the money and not doing it. It is hard to believe that these people are actually running a 1.5 billion dollar organization. A portion of the FY2016 budget page is reproduced below:

If someone were to try to explain this all to me I think I would just laugh at them in disbelief. However, these are facts. I just can’t wait and see what the next fourteen months with Chancellor Rosenstone at the helm will bring. With the apparent lack of oversight by the Board of Trustees, I’m expecting the future will generate more examples that demonstrate additional examples of incompetence.

3 Responses to “MnSCU’s incompetence exposed”

  • eric z says:

    A while back, the Anoka County town, Ramsey where I live, had a big splat with its “Ramsey Town Center.”

    The idiot squad said, rebrand. A consultant took the city for over a million in fees for this and that, and the failed project got renamed: “The COR.”

    Dumb shifted to dumber. The batch that had that consultant thing going got voted out of office. With MnSCU you fire folks, they never got voted into any office.

    The value of a SCSU degree, as coin of the realm must be low, while the tuition must be out of line in any student’s cost/benefit mindset.

    That would be an effect. Rebranding is not looking for a cause, it is looking for zeroing out bad will, with only some vague hope it will, after rebranding, turn into good will.

    Like the Easter Bunny or Santa might intervene, and make everything Disney-like nice and enjoyable.

    Dunces are as dunces do.

  • eric z says:

    As to the costs involved, one Dylan song line comes to mind, “A lot of people got knives and forks on the table. Gotta eat something.”

    Dylan might have been implying a different drift, but the consultancies will take free money when it’s offered them.

    Can you really blame the offerees over the free money? In their place, wouldn’t you? I’m not politically connected. Parallel to that, nobody’s offered me any of the free money. It seems there are rocks that might be lifted. See what’s under ’em.

    Isn’t it a shame MnSCU absented itself from the new Vikings stadium naming rights bidding process? It clearly would have been a boost to the brand. What was the brain trust thinking?

  • Crimson Trace says:

    “It costs $272,000 for someone to come up with a name they got from a “Coach” rerun?”


    Maybe it’s time for a no confidence vote of the “Minnesota State” trustees so Rosenstone won’t feel alone. UW-Madison faculty to take ‘no-confidence’ vote on Board of Regents, Ray Cross?.


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