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Brand Marketing Critics and Why My High School Football Coach Was Wrong

We recently had the honor of launching a creative digital marketing campaign on behalf of a partnership between the University of Illinois and the cities of Champaign and Urbana (CU) in central Illinois.

It was an interesting challenge. The university has long had one of the top computer science programs, producing people and ideas like Marc Andreessen’s Netscape (the first Internet browser), the MRI machine, the founders of Yelp, PayPal and YouTube, and more. That’s not to even mention innovations like whipped cream in a can and central air conditioning, which both came out of CU. And the university has produced artistic talents like director Ang Lee, actor Nick Offerman and Hugh Hefner (yes, art).

That legacy of innovation brought ironic challenges for the region, with software engineering hubs being opened in CU by Yahoo, Intel, Anheuser-Busch, John Deere, Caterpillar, Dow Chemical, Raytheon, Wolfram Alpha and more. But this created a need for even more talent than the university could supply.

Thus we developed our collective effort to bring visibility to the region amongst competing tech ecosystems across the country and to help recruit talent to CU. It’s a narrative built on a double entendre of the phrase “You’re welcome” (as in, you’re welcome for our innovations, and you’re welcome to join us, too). The content and information hubs live at YoureWelcomeCU.com, and the video below is one of the centerpieces of the content.

I’ve found the overall response to #YoureWelcomeCU to be rather heartwarming, perhaps because I’ve never visited a community that has as much palpable pride as Champaign-Urbana. Most people seem appreciative and thrilled to see CU’s accomplishments being trumpeted and they’re thankful that someone is boasting about the region.

“LOVE the video. I love it! Loved her {the actress}; the right amount of edge and smarts and cute but not obnoxiously so, on any of those fronts. She had me at ‘shut the front door,’ which is always a winner. I laugh out loud. Every time.”

But as my high school football coach once said to me, “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one, and they all stink.” And to that point, there have been naysayers as well, like this plumb nugget of kindness.

“Ok, I just watched the video,” one person commented on Facebook. “I can see the production planning meeting in the background of my mind. ‘It needs to be hip!’ ‘No, edgy.’ ‘It needs attitude.’ ‘And it needs to be Urban….you know, cultural.’ ‘Can we make fun of overweight white people?’ ‘If not them, then who?’ ‘Right, dumb question.’ ‘We’ll use a woman.’ ‘Yes, a BLACK woman!’ ‘We don’t have any black women.’ ‘How about Asian? Do we have an Asian woman?’ ‘I’ll look into it……'”

I preferred the more constructive criticism like, “You’re welcome rubbed me the wrong way, and I’m an alum,” or “Not sure smart ass is the right tone here.”

The thing is, no one likes to see the product of their creative thinking dragged through the mud with angry Internet trolls trampling all over it. But every opinion and each piece of feedback — the good, bad and ugly — is valuable. You can learn from it.

And therefore I’ve come to believe my football coach was wrong. None of those opinions stink. Because as we look to develop creative narratives and deliver them to audiences on behalf of the brands and organizations we partner with, there will always be naysayers, and there is value in those critiques.

Got something to say about our work? That’s cool. Bring it.

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