Branding versus Science

There’s an interesting piece here by the famous Professor Moriarty bemoaning the way universities try to impose corporate branding on materials used by academics, e.g. by forcing us to use `approved’ powerpoint templates.

My main objection to these is that they tend to be very cluttered with logos and other messaging that detract from the presentation of scientific material. My usual approach therefore is to use just the university’s template for the front page, and then revert to a plainer style for the rest of the talk, usually without headers or footers or logos or background. That is of course unless I’m doing talks specifically on University business such as on Open Day talks when I need to explain things like course structure, e.g…

A more fundamental issue, however, is that scientists tend to identify as scientists rather than as marketing representatives for a given university or other institution. Physicists, for example, often work collaboratively in teams across many institutions and consequently see themselves as members of such a team first and employees of a given institution second. When they give talks to schoolkids they are much more likely to be doing so to communicate an enthusiasm for the discipline than their institution (although of course these are not mutually exclusive). It’s unlikely that the quality of the logos will be the factor that determines whether such a talk is successful…

Anyway, I’m interested however to know what the general feeling is about these, so here’s a poll that is neither particularly scientific nor specifically branded:

12 Responses to “Branding versus Science”

  1. Thanks for blogging about the post, Peter.

    My answer to your poll is option #2. One of the more irritating aspects of my “Virtually Nottingham” slides being stuffed into Marketing’s template was that I already used the UoN logo in a couple of places. That wasn’t enough. They had to have the logo on every slide and, worse, every single presentation was meant to use exactly the same PowerPoint template.

    As we move towards a much greater level of online teaching, universities are going to be very keen to secure as much IP as possible. Consistent, intrusive branding certainly helps with that.

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Two important questions, perhaps with different answers at different institutions: Who actually to a researcher says “you must use this template”, and do they actually have the authority to?

    What next – university logos at top or bottom of every page of every document placed on a researcher’s university homepage?

    • telescoper Says:

      Phil’s comment about IP is relevant here. Many HE institutions in the UK have a policy that suggests all property created by their employees is owned by the institution. So they basically own your lecture notes, recordings, etc, but I’m not sure that gives them the right to force you to put corporate branding on things.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I see many grey areas in that. If you move institution, do you need their permission to keep giving the same talk? If you happen also to be a member of the local historical society and give them a talk on history, do they lay claim to own that (1) if you mention your university affiliation; (2) if you don’t?

        What a load of crap, honestly. Just how much money pa does the “marketing” department cost, and what does it do for that money that a good reputation can’t?

      • telescoper Says:

        Many grey areas indeed. If I give a talk to a local astronomy society one evening, is that as a university employee or as a private citizen?

        Universities of course only really care when there is big money to be made from IP.

      • telescoper Says:

        For the record I should say that I am employed by the National University of Ireland, which is funded by the taxpayer. I therefore regard anything I do in teaching or research as belonging in the public domain. If I do video lectures next Semester I plan to put them on Youtube for free.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I’d be interested in what percentage universities ‘tax’ profits on eg software spun off from academic work. There is a Laffer curve here: at rates of 0% and 100% the university will obviously gain no revenue, so the answer will presumably vary.

        And what if a researcher retires and then markets such software (1) a week after retiring; (2) a year after retiring? Or if the researcher takes early retirement ie resigns and does this?

  3. I don’t use my Institution branding for slides. I will use the branding of my project when talking about that project.

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    How about Institution facemasks?

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