Major universities aren’t just centers of learning and research. Universities are brands. When we think of the University of Texas – Austin, we don’t just think about a world-class public institution, we think of the Hook ‘em Horns hand gesture popular at athletic events. Similarly, when we think of Ivies such as Harvard and Yale, we can’t help but associate them with preppy fashion, prestige, and sometimes to a fault, social elitism.
The Global Language Monitor, an Austin-based media analytics company, conducts brand equity surveys using a mathematical model called TrendTopper MediaBuzz. The tool scans internet data, social media outlets, and print and electronic publications to discover which brands are getting the most “buzz.” Yesterday the research company unveiled its 2011 university rankings, utilizing the TrendTopper’s algorithm to ‘normalize’ data and eliminate ‘bias’ – essentially, trying to see which universities have the most brand equity among the people at large, rather than just the opinions of academic elites.
I’m proud to say that my alma mater, The University of Wisconsin – Madison, is the most “buzzed” about university on the internet. As reported by Reuters, The UW ranked first in brand equity, followed by the University of Chicago and Harvard University. We lost the Rose Bowl this year, but it’s clear that Wisconsin is among the most reputable “Edu-Brands” in the country.
Some will definitely question a rankings system based on “buzz” rather than on traditional methods, such as surveys, admissions data, and alumni endowments. Regardless, a brand equity service based on “buzz” is certainly important, and reflects a more democratic perspective. It is a good contender against rankings posted by U.S. News and World Report or The Princeton Review.