Brands - Image and Reality

January 7, 2011
Posted by Jay Livingston

In yesterday’s post, I wondered what “brand equity” meant in higher education. I think I have a vague idea.

A school doesn’t just educate. A school is also a brand, and its graduates carry that brand regardless of the education they may (or may not) have gotten there. Juilliard, for example, was GLM’s top-ranked music school for brand equity (it was also twelfth in the list of colleges, just behind Wellesley, just ahead of Vassar).

I knew a Juilliard graduate, Brad, many years ago, back when I was a playground dad. Not many other men were there on weekdays. Often, it was just me and Brad (plus the moms and nannies), and we got to know each other. He had come from Boston with his saxophone, but at Juilliard he studied conducting. After graduating, he stayed on the West Side and eventually actually managed to land a job as conductor with a regional orchestra somewhere in New Jersey that did five concerts year. It didn’t pay all that much, but it allowed him a lot of free time, which was why he was one of the few other dads regularly at the playground in the afternoon.

One day as we were sitting on the bench, Brad asked me where I’d gotten my Ph.D. I guess we’d never talked much about higher education. Harvard, I told him. “I didn’t know that,” he said, surprised, “and I’ve known you all this time.”

“Don’t be impressed,” I said.

“But I am,” he said. From his voice and the look on his face, I could see that he meant it.I wanted to convince him not to be.

“Oh Brad,” I said, my voice rising in mock awe, “You went to Juilliard?! You must be this really great and talented musician. Juilliard – wow!” Or something like that. He laughed. “See what I mean?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. Then a pause. “But I’m still impressed.”

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