volume 40, number 5
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

Temple as a Global Brand

By Jay I. Sinha, Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Fox School of Business

The other day in my capstone Marketing Strategy class, I asked my students this question: “What is the first word that comes to your mind when you think of Temple University?”  The discussion was in the context of an article by the celebrated Maurice Saatchi, founder of the famed Saatchi and Saatchi advertisement agency.  Saatchi’s dictum is that for any brand to be memorable and powerful in our attention-starved, perpetually distracted society it needs to have what he calls “one-word equity.” That is to say the brand should become synonymous with and metaphorically own a (hopefully positive) word in the English language.  Thus, Apple owns “innovation,” Google owns “search,” Wal-Mart owns “cheap” and the brand USA may be said to have the one-word equity of “democracy” or “freedom.”  Saatchi contends that brands that need a sentence to describe them are weak and ineffectual as successful monikers – and for those that need a paragraph, one should quickly sell off their shares!  His logic is that in these harried times the principal task of brands is to simplify things to busy people.  He even backs his arguments with metaphysical logic, alluding to John 1.1: “In the beginning was the Word…”

So, my students came up with various one-word responses for Temple.  “Value” was mentioned by many; so was “Diversity.”  A few students said “Urban” and one said “Owl.” Finally, one soft-spoken international student from the back of the class said: “Global.”

This last answer stayed in my mind when I was thinking about the discussion after a few days. Lately, friends and relatives oftentimes remark: “Oh, I saw your university mentioned in the papers.  It was something about what’s happening in Japan.”  Indeed, many of us may know that Temple faculty are the “go-to guys” when the global news media need someone to comment about Japanese business and politics. Temple was the first-mover in Japan among all foreign universities and we still have the largest operations of English-medium universities there.  One thing that always struck me whenever I taught at TUJ is how Temple is actually venerated by the local Japanese students and the broader alumni community.  In fact, TUJ gets some of the very best students in their programs, and Temple faculty are routinely sought by the Japanese press to comment even on domestic matters.

Japan is but one instance. Lately our footprints may be seen in several other countries.  There are many foreign institutions with which our schools and colleges have individually established partnerships and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Considering that globalization is now the zeitgeist, this is an altogether beneficent trend.  The rest of the world places a tremendous premium on the quality of the American university system, the rigor and productivity of our research, and the well-roundedness of academics, sports, and the arts.  Globalization is no longer a philosophical construct but has become a practical necessity for American firms and universities in the present economy.  As budgets tighten at home, we must perforce look elsewhere for growth, and that does not just mean opening campuses in other countries but also enrolling a greater number of paying students from abroad.  We have to look at markets where talent and money are.  China, India, and the Far East have rising middle-class prosperity and their populations are incredibly young and hungry for an American education – particularly, in areas like science, engineering, business, and medicine.  Temple is better placed in the global student market than we may suppose.  When we think of international markets, we tend to assume that universities like Harvard, Yale, Duke, and Oxford would be more attractive to them than our own offerings.  But the reality is quite different.  Just as in the auto market Mercedes, BMW or Lexus have their dedicated clienteles worldwide, but the majority of buyers are happy to settle for a Volkswagen or Hyundai, which are seen as better values.  Temple has a good product to sell abroad based the quality of our education, our globally diverse faculty, and our northeastern urban location.  In fact, we may have undersold ourselves and let some opportunities slip in the past.   

In recent months, our leaders--President Hart and Provost Lisa have spoken for Global Temple as one of the pillars of their new strategy for the university.  We need to embrace that idea and make it the central part of our ethos.  We have seen the once-nondescript University of Phoenix come from nowhere, make a strategic commitment to online learning, and even attain a measure of respectability.  Its one-word equity, for good or bad, is definitely “online-education.”  So, I hope that Temple may begin to own the word “Global,” which is up for grabs.  Lastly, from a purely semantic sense, I may observe that in cultures around the world (such as China and India) where the harmony of a name is adjudged to be auspicious or inauspicious, Temple – as a seat of learning – is a rather appealing brand-name for a global university.