Rumors of new slogan triggers online petition

Michael Williams

A suggestion for a new slogan was released this week, causing a stir on campus as administrators and an outside consulting agency offered ‘Fearless Minds’ as a replacement for the current NMU mantra ‘Northern. Naturally.’ Since earlier this year, NMU has been partnering with Genesis, a consulting agency out of Denver, Colo., to work on the university’s brand image.

An online petition was created on Monday, Oct. 21 to allow students to show their distaste of the new NMU slogan suggestion, ‘Fearless Minds.’
An online petition was created on Monday, Oct. 21 to allow students to show their distaste of the new NMU slogan suggestion, ‘Fearless Minds.’

Cindy Paavola, the director of communications and marketing, said Genesis suggested ‘Fearless Minds,’ but official deliberation has yet to be made. The re-branding effort is part of the larger ‘Road Map to 2015’ campaign implemented in 2008.

“We are not done with the process,” Paavola said. “[Genesis] originally came last summer with about five or seven ideas and there were a series of focus groups with different people, some faculty and some staff administrations.”

NMU has been looking to rebrand its image for at least two years in response to relatively low student retention rates. While third semester retention rates have mostly plateaued in recent years, fifth semester retention rates have dropped enough to cause concern. As of 2009, third-year students are retained at a rate of 54.8%, a drop of about five percent from 2008 according to NMU Institutional Research.

“The university, again, has more focus groups and there are a lot more concepts with Genesis,” Paavola said. “We are far from being done. We’re in the middle of the process at this point. Students should know they are going to see more than just a tagline in a tagline.”

Paavola said student representatives have been involved in the process up to this point, but regardless, students have presented mixed feelings about the rebranding efforts.

“Not all students will fall in love with the tagline and accept the campaign,” Paavola said. “Student voices are important but it’s also important for students to know that there have been student representatives with us throughout the process, not just faculty or administrations.”

A petition titled “President Haynes: Reject the brand change to ‘Fearless Minds,’” was created earlier this week on Change.org, which meant to highlight student voices while forthcoming decisions are being made. Over 500 signatures have been collected so far.

A Weebly account was also created by NMU student Chandler Countryman, who said he has concerns about the potential change.

“‘Fearless Minds’ has a business-sounding aspect to it, which doesn’t seem Northern at all,” Countryman said. “It seems very impersonal and the natural surroundings are one of the reasons I came to Northern. I’m afraid a brand like that doesn’t have any personality to it.” Countryman’s official opinions regarding the brand change can be found at longlivenaturalnorthern.weebly.com.

Assistant Professor of Marketing Glenna Pendleton notes that ‘Fearless Minds’ could connote many meanings, including one tied to the natural beauty and power of the Marquette area, as in the case of ‘Northern. Naturally.’

“As soon as you come to the area, you see the lake,” Dr. Pendleton said “And when the storm comes I know that I can’t control the world.

“In marketing, the slogan has to fit the entire theme. The slogan has to be honest.”

For students who have never been to the Marquette area, ‘Northern. Naturally.’ may appear mysterious and unexplained and ‘Fearless Minds’ may be more accessible for students coming from afar, she said.

Paavola said the decision to change the slogan to a different one was based on a different demographic of students.

“In the past, 80 percent of our recruitment was undergraduate students,” Paavola said. “‘Northern. Naturally.’ worked really well for them, but if you look at the graduate student population, they are really focused on the program. We were concerned, also, to how it translates to our international student recruitment. It doesn’t have as much punch and power with them because they might not know exactly what that means.”

While final deliberations await, students are welcomed to raise their opinions as to how NMU’s image should be constructed.

“We love to hear student opinion,” Paavola said. “We want them to know the full scope of the project, bottom line, before any decision is made.”