Home Award Winning Articles "UAA Ugh?" Students Hijack University's Branding Campaign

"UAA Ugh?" Students Hijack University's Branding Campaign


Back in the summer of 2011, the University of Alaska Anchorage decided it needed a brand. They signed on with Nerland Agency (the same folks who thought up the “Big Wild Life” campaign, because we don’t learn things) and collected information about how the community viewed UAA. Committees were formed. Surveys were printed. I-don’t-want-to-think-about-how-much-money was spent. And by February of this year, they had their oil company ad results:
Amazing Stories Being Written Every Day.

I’m sure they meant well. There are definitely interesting elements. The website has several compelling stories about the rich diversity of faculty and students. You can learn about Jazon Burnell, who founded Catapult Computing while finishing off a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and Michelle Goolio, who left her family of Mongolian herders in the Gobi Desert to score a bachelor’s degree in social work as a Seawolf. And there’s a picture of a baby seal.
But the brand campaign also bears one fatal flaw: it came with a hashtag, #uaamazing. Get it?
Yeah. Disgruntled university students didn’t find it that funny either. So, they did what college aged folks with an internet connection (even the reeeeeaaaally slow one on campus) are wont to do. They trolled it.
Here are a few of the more entertaining selections:
uaamazing01 uaamazing02 uaamazing03 uaamazing04 uaamazing05 uaamazing06 uaamazing07
And, in the latest development, a Tumblr blog called “UGH UAA!” has emerged. And, with it, an ironic and unintentional student-led rebranding of UAA’s campaign. The site does what focus groups and surveys couldn’t do: actually present an honest visual representation of what the UAA student community looks like. The good, the bad, and the downright concerning.
There’s a healthy smattering of artistic, intelligent, and thought provoking comments, coupled with more than one decent point. There’s a strong dosage of entitled, “first world problems” whining too. In other words, it sounds very much like what the casual observer would overhear, on any given day, walking around campus.
Sleek, expensive marketing campaigns show us the school that university staff wish to project. That’s important for enrollment.
The internet, on the other hand, often shows us the view from the ground floor. That’s important too, and faculty should cozy up to what’s being said on the tubes:
uaa01 uaa05 uaa06 uaa07 uaa08 uaa09 uaa10 uaa11
uaa02 uaa04uaa03


  1. Great post John! I was part of a search committee to find the new dean of students in 2008. 4 of the other 5 members of the committee vouched for and wrote reference letters for the in-house candidate who ultimately got the job. I was the only student on the committee and the only student who voted not to hire the in-house candidate. I’m not saying that the university yada yadas important hires to keep the status quo but wait, that is exactly what I am saying #uaamazing