UW Campus

When the University of Wyoming decided on a new marketing slogan — one element of a $500,000 campaign to boost enrollment — it hoped to reach potential students across the country and inspire them to ask questions about UW.

On that front, the campaign succeeded beyond its wildest expectations.

During the Board of Trustees’ meeting Thursday, the board voted to roll out the campaign ahead of schedule to capitalize on the national attention it was already gaining.

“The last time I talked with you I said we were going to do a marketing campaign — that we wanted a movement,” UW Communication Director Chad Baldwin told the board. “Well, the movement has begun, even without the campaign.”

The marketing campaign, developed by the Boulder, Colorado, firm Victors & Spoils, involves a variety of promotional materials and videos that claim, “The world needs more cowboys.”

The slogan, featured prominently throughout the campaign, was panned by faculty members for calling forth stereotypical images of white male archetypes and allegedly working against the goal of non-resident student recruitment.

Faculty Senate Chair Donal O’Toole said non-resident students — a population essential to enrollment growth — might harbor a different opinion on the word ‘cowboy,’ one informed largely by John Wayne movies and other romanticized images of the west.

“It means someone who just kind of takes risks and can sometimes be a knucklehead,” he said. “Now, that’s not how cowboys are seen here, but the university really needs to balance the positive image that cowboys have here with the possibly negative image that cowboys may have elsewhere in the country, especially if they’re interested in bringing in a higher proportion of out-of-state students.”

The slogan was also seen by many as exclusionary, referring to a western image many ethnic and female students might not see themselves in.

A letter from the UW Committee on Women and People of Color to Baldwin and UW President Laurie Nichols asked them to “shelve that slogan and find another one that represents the diversity of people and cultures that we have, and want to have, as UW.”

Both of these concerns — out-of-state perception and inclusivity — were explored in focus studies, Baldwin said, adding a central goal of the campaign was to redefine the word ‘cowboy’ to take on a more widespread and inclusive meaning.

“The world needs more cowboys and not just the kind that sweep you off your feet and ride into the sunset,” one promotional video states. “Ours are diverse cowboys, who come in every sex, shape, color and creed. They come from Wyoming, Montana, Delaware and Nigeria.”

In a study conducted by a marketing research firm, prospective students were more likely to say they would apply for or attend UW after viewing the campaign ‘anthem’ video. The pattern held for non-white students as well as white.

“The message works,” Baldwin said.

Since the slogan — and the internal campus disagreement surrounding it — were made public Sunday, UW has been inundated with requests for comment and proposals for merchandising.

“Those who are active on social media have seen: there are logos created, there’s blogs, videos being done,” Baldwin said. “Our trademark and licensing office is hearing from all kinds of people — current licensees and others who are ready to sell the merchandise that says, ‘the world needs more cowboys.’ People are wanting T-shirts.”

Issues with the campaign’s proposed slogan were addressed as the video made its way through the various campus constituencies for feedback, Baldwin said, adding meetings with the Council on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Emily Monago resulted in edits to the campaign’s wording.

The internal campus discussion turned national overnight, first on social media throughout Wyoming and eventually onto radio programs and editorial pages across the country. Reuters, U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Examiner and others carried stories about the issue. The Forth Worth Star-Telegram ran an editorial in support of the slogan and, at press time, the Washington Post was preparing its own editorial on the debate.

“The reason this is so provocative is it plays into the culture wars and it’s seen from that perspective,” O’Toole told the trustees. “I — and several other faculty members, including some local members of faculty — have received hateful mail.”

What was once a disagreement between those on campus grew into an off-campus controversy, transforming into a partisan debate about campus culture as it exists in 2018, political correctness and the history of black, Hispanic and Native American cowboys who populated the west alongside their white contemporaries.

Baldwin said it had gotten ugly.

“I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this, because there are people on campus I really respect who don’t like the campaign,” he said. “There are people who have opposed this publicly who now are being subjected to harassing, hateful messaging from people outside the university. I just want to say, whoever is doing that ought to stop it.”

He added those who opposed the slogan had done so for understandable reasons.

“The University of Wyoming and the state of Wyoming do need to become more diverse and more diversified and it’s in all of our interests for that to happen,” Baldwin said. “The fact that there are people from underrepresented groups on the UW campus who don’t like this and feel it’s harmful — that bothers me. But we do have data that shows this works.”

(25) comments

Brett Glass

The University could have gone with an equally good non-gender-specific slogan, such as "The world needs more cowpokes." But they went with "cowboys" instead. What message is it sending? How will it affect enrollment? Probably not in a positive way.

SgtRock

Well, if you're a millennial whose primary point of view comes from the 'find an axe and grind it' world of 'higher' education, I suspect you wouldn't like ANY slogan. Simply because a life in the academy prepares you not to critically think but simply to be outraged and run your gums about it the way Pavlov's Dogs salivated when the bell rang.

Drive safely. The World Needs More Cowboys.

clipper

According to the Boomerang poll you're 1%. Congrats.

Brett Glass

Remember: The University of Wyoming's financial strategy for the future rests upon seeking more out-of-state students to create economies of scale. And the trend among the target audience - young millennials graduating high school now - is not just toward inclusivity but toward EMPHATIC inclusivity. If the university defies this trend by adopting an intentionally exclusionary slogan, it will drive away the customers it is trying to attract. It is also worth noting that more than 50% of college undergraduates are women. Thus, the slogan will likely be a turnoff to the majority of potential students. It will also turn off similarly minded donors; I wouldn't be surprised if the slogan cost UW contributions. Between this slogan and other actions - such as the removal of the "Carbon Sink" installation - UW will appear to the world as rednecked, backward, ignorant, and intolerant. Not the image that an educational institution seeking higher enrollment, or an institution seeking funding for scientific research, wants to project!

As for the Boomerang's "poll:" It uses a self-selecting sample and therefore does not actually reflect public opinion. Especially when there will likely be a move by fanatical rednecks to stuff the "ballot box." (A move which could, if successful, hurt the reputations of the University and the state as a whole.)

Wyovanian

And yet, in focus groups made up of the core target market of 17-25 year-olds, it was viewed favorably by the majority of that target group...

Brett Glass

Only slightly more than 50% of the "target group" even said that they'd want to apply! That's a pretty poor showing, given that they were all eager to apply somewhere! Also, the "study" was conducted by the same consultants who wanted to sell the slogan to UW - hardly an unbiased source. I can't help but wonder if they're the same ones who came up with "Wyoming Prairie Gold." The name of the consulting firm is, believe it or not, "Victors and Spoils" - and they sure got half a million dollars worth of spoils by foisting this horrible idea upon the University!

mediarel

Brett: The research was done by a firm called Mindsight, which was not involved in the campaign development.

Brett Glass

Incorrect. The consultants hired them.

SgtRock

And there you have it. If they don't like the idea, 50+% becomes not a majority to the Left AND you get the added bonus of impugning the source of the data. These are people of science, after all.

If the clientele of your 'business' are so damaged by this slogan and campaign, you're doing business in the wrong state.

The World Needs More Cowboy.

Brett Glass

And there you have it. When rude, obnoxious rednecks have no valid arguments left, they resort to personal attacks.

clipper

Why are you so easily offended by facts?

kfk

if i may summarize/paraphrase my perception of Brett Glass' evident position:

"your polls are wrong.
your target groups are wrong.
your majority...isn't.
all that matters is subjective perception plus demand that we be politically correct.
i'm nervous and scared that a bad choice has been made."

well...how about no.

even within UW, opposition to the oh-so-PC crowd is widespread, thankfully. as one source of social data, look around twitter, do a few simple searches, come up with any of the easily-found threads like this, hundreds of comments long, ~half by women, all supportive of cowboys, straight up and no nonsense.
https://twitter.com/hrenee80/status/1017212159699357696

as mentioned in a star-telegram.com article: "This is Wyoming folks, get tough or get gone."

the anomaly here is the freak insistence that "oh no we've gone down a bad path, it's going to hurt us for sure." the actual pattern is the all-too-familiar "SJW broadcasting at high volume" while the greater mass of humanity goes about its business, completely at ease in this case with cowboys as cowboys.

stow the paranoia, cowboy up, and appreciate the appreciation.

Brett Glass

Again, trolling, hostility, and ignorant redneck bluster.

The fact is, this will hurt us. Don't take my word for it; watch what happens over the next year as high schoolers graduating in 2019 make their college choices. UW enrollment will be down, and that this will harm not only my local businesses but the local economy as a whole - including all Laramie businesses and residents.

kfk

Spare us the crude, baseless personal attacks. If I was able to be described as a redneck -- I'm a mathematician who writes software for a living, so "redneck" pretty much fails facially to fit my narrative -- it still wouldn't be what you term bluster.

You made several baseless assertions, which I summarized. Hostility, to be sure, because I'm always hostile against those who advance agenda over facts, and you've offered none of the latter, rather only suppositions about expectations. Trolling -- not remotely, not when my path is argumentation based on facts. I've had a long career, half academic/research and half business, requiring me to demonstrate and document fact patterns.

That you can use insulting terms does not mean you've proven your insult. I note that I've had to use the word "baseless" twice above already, and that's because it fits.

As to facts, I offered anecdotal support (due to space constraints for a newspaper's comments section) along with a suggestion that you go find your own. Obviously you have not done so or you would have facts on the subject to report, which (on my cursory review, having sought out quite a pile over the last few days, in the process of personal evaluation of whether this dust-up is having any publicly visible negative effect) are easily 90% to the side of, at worst, "why is this a big deal?" The plural of "anecdote" is not "data," but dozens of anecdotal points is more than supposition, which is all you've offered ("enrollment will be down" etc, nothing more than personal opinion elevated to prognostication).

We'll watch what happens over the next academic year or two. This fall's enrollment is surely already fixed; whatever minor changes occur will not be attributable to a media campaign that has begun ~6 weeks before classes start. 2019's will be where the rubber meets the road.

Brett Glass

The media campaign was started at this time so that there was not a large body of students on campus to protest it... and also so that incoming students had no ability to reconsider their choices. Next year, however, we'll see the impact. As the owner of multiple small businesses, who has had years of marketing experience, I predict that it will be substantial. No matter what blustering trolls like yourself say.

mac19

It is a shame that one person has to stir the pot to get reactions. Sir go complain to someone who cares what you like and/or dislike. Make sure the whole world hears your petty complaint. Grow up and become a contributing member of society without trying to tear down something you don't understand. I was born in Laramie, thus without even riding a horse, consider my self a cowboy, not a cupcake! Fair is fair!

Brett Glass

To all: The fact that so many rednecked trolls have jumped in here to support the University's ill-advised new slogan demonstrates, beyond question, that it's a sexist and racist dog whistle. And the University's potential customers - millennials now entering their senior year of high school, undergraduates looking at graduate programs, and organizations that fund research - are attuned very well to its frequency. They have no doubt as to its meaning, and their reactions will impact not only the University but the surrounding community and our state as a whole. It's time to change course now. They have no doubt as to its meaning, and their reactions will impact not only the University but the surrounding community and our state as a whole. It's time to change course now. Changing a single syllable - from cowBOYS to cowPOKES - would not only avoid appropriating the slogan of the University of Oklahoma but save us the embarrasment of appearing unabashedly rednecked, backward, partisan, racist, sexist, and discriminatory. As a songwriter (as well as an engineer, inventor, and small business owner here in Laramie), I'd be glad to write an anthem to go with the amended slogan - and, if it was adopted, give the copyright to UW.

Wyobobcat

'Redneck' is offensive, 'cowboy' is know the world over, 'cowpoke' isn't. There are cowboys everywhere: in Australia, South and Central America, Europe, Canada, on the Native American Nations. I was just reading some rodeo news of the Navajo Nation. Cowboys have been all skin colors and both sexes. As a woman, and a non-cowgirl, I like the word, it has a rich history and culture, distinctive dress, a unique viewpoint. What is there to hate, to resent, to be so divisive about?

Brett Glass

No; cowBOYS are not, and have never been, "of both sexes." Even UW itself calls its female athletes "cowGIRLS." The use of the word "cowboy," to most of the world and especially to the students UW claims to want to recruit, is hateful and divisive.

And so, I actually agree with you. With so many possible slogans, why choose one that's hateful, resentful, and divisive?

What the world needs, IMHO, is more cow-ADULTS. And if the UW Trustees do not consider their ill advised decision, they will be proving that they are not among them.

SgtRock

There is no condescension like effete condescension. The majority found the new slogan appealing, but it’s not a ‘real’ majority. If people were as enlightened as the effete illuminati, they’d see it the way their betters do. Oh, and when you’ve run completely out of anything rational to say, you can always beclown yourself by calling the Great Unwashed peasants ‘rednecks, racists and sexists.’ Because nothing proves your point like the ‘fact’ that the people who don’t agree with you must somehow be ignorant and stupid. It will inevitably come back to this sooner or later.

The world does need more adults. Maybe you can circle back after your temper tantrum and join us. Have a nice day.

waitasec

This is just pathetic. Oklahoma state doesn't have this problem of petty whining. They have the OSU Cowboys, Cowgirls, Pistol Pete....but then again, they're Big 12 and Wyoming is.....uh....

kfk

Good gracious, we have someone trying to impress with "we're Big12 and you're not, nyah nyah." How insufferably childish.

The central point here is that the whining you hear about UW's new campaign tagline is grossly outsized per the SJWs' actual presence or population. SJWs don't know how to do anything without cranking it up to 11, which is at least part of the reason why they're so often ignored: Nobody wants a screaming banshee in their ears.

One aspect that the whiners may have yet to bring into their worldview is... Maybe, just maybe, cowboys like the idea that the folks who are offended by the tagline will be turned away by it. That is, offending the unwelcome is a feature, not a bug. :-D

"This is Wyoming folks, get tough or get gone." @dalle_rutledge
"The people that get offended ... are exactly the people we don’t want to come here" @ItsTayy_Tay
"Pro tip. If cowboys offend you in ANY way, don’t work at or attend a school where the cowboy is LITERALLY the school mascot. Other pro tip. Don’t feign outrage at a marketing campaign the utilizes, LITERALLY, the school mascot." @mward1983

Brett Glass

Oklahoma State used the same slogan, then dropped it. Because it turned off prospective students.

clipper

We're waiting patiently for you evidence.

Brett Glass

Can't use a search engine? That's your problem, not mine.

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