Over the past couple of weeks, I have watched on with my fellow Loughborough Alumni as our University’s name has been dragged through the mud due to the, now infamous, LSU “La La La” Exec video. The problem with this video ultimately comes down to branding.
Whilst YouTube has muted most versions of the video, due to copyright reasons, you can still find an unmuted version on the Daily Mail Site.
Apart from the few unfortunate people who partook in the creation of this video, its viewers fall into four categories: University staff, Alumni, current students, and the rest of the world. Keeping in mind the Union and University are separate entities, these four groups have different stakes in the matter and thus have all been affected in different ways.
First of all, let us just say what is actually so bad about the video: it has bad singing, bad lip syncing, bad lyrics, complete lack of rhythm and clumsy filming. This is what everyone saw, whether it was perceived as humorous, ridiculous or pathetic. It showed unprofessionalism, incompetence, social disconnect, lack of any sense of communication/marketing skill and was an insult to the Exec tradition of these videos.
Whilst the video was meant to show all the great activities offered by the union, this message is drowned out by the bad quality of its delivery. Not one of multiple news stories about the video mention RAG, Action, the AU or any of the other great entities the video was meant to promote. Despite the video’s widespread viewing, no one is listening to the message, they are merely laughing at its execution.
The rest of the world
To “the rest of the world” this is one of the few things they will ever hear about Loughborough, along with stories from someone who goes/went there and our famous dominance of UK University Sports. From a branding point of view, seeing this video will make an outsider associate Loughborough with complete lack of social awareness, sense of humour, media ability and general buffoonery/unprofessionalism.
Some may argue that all publicity is good publicity and that this is building awareness of the Loughborough Brand. To this, I say that getting us known for, what is being referred to as, “the most cringeworthy video ever made” is not good publicity. No one will watch this video and consequently have a better opinion of Loughborough University.
Now, for current students, especially the newer/younger ones, this video will not cause too much of a negative reaction. They may laugh about it, get a few comments from friends, but when the infamous “La La La” song played in the Student’s Union they all proudly sang in unison the dreaded “L-S-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-S-U” to the chorus. They are currently in Loughborough, they are in it together and it is not called The Bubble for nothing.
However, ultimate pride for an institution, such as university, comes mostly after you complete it, and are out in the world with that school’s name forever an integral part of your personal brand. Hence, not yet having that pride of completion or left the University, current students have less of a stake in Loughborough’s Brand than the Alumni.
Alumni tend to graduate from Loughborough University with high satisfaction of their experience there, and move on to bigger and better things, occasionally looking back with fondness at our epic days at University. This nostalgia clashes with the image being portrayed of our University by this video. The main problem for us Alumni with this video is that it tarnishes the Loughborough Brand that we have come to cherish, whether through sport, friends, societies, experiences and who knows, maybe even for a few, through education. It puts a downer on our memories, and possibly makes us doubt whether our University was as great as we thought.
In terms of our personal brand to the rest of the world, it merely adds a twist to any credentials we may have drawn from Loughborough. I say a twist because, concretely, this will only have a negative effect in very particular circumstances. Unless you studied media, or were on Exec, the only way this will impact Alumni is a joke here or there, and possibly a very short term association with “university silliness” that will not impact any important decision.
There has been a petition launched by an alumnus to get rid of the video, and whilst it is a shame that this video ever came into existence, to those who angrily ask for its removal I say: seriously?
The comments on the petition include people expressing “shame” about our University and fear for the value of their degrees. If after years at Loughborough, countless memories and a good degree, this stupid video is enough to make you question your association to it and the value of your credentials, then your attachment to our University was only ever skin deep. The video is out there, and as with anything online, even if it is deleted at the source it is widely available elsewhere. All an “official retraction” would do is further tarnish the Loughborough Brand by showing that we have no sense of humour and are completely insecure about our University’s image. So, by all means, hate the video, but accept that it is out there and do not forget why you love Loughborough.
The current union president, Josh Hurrell, has defended the video in the following way: “It is meant to be taken as a joke however I fear people think we are being serious”. Well Josh, when you wear the Loughborough name, sing about it and publish media on the Union’s official YouTube channel then it is serious. The Executives are paid representatives of not only the students that elected them, but also of all students that proudly lived The Loughborough Experience. This video, however it was meant, reflects badly on everyone connected to Loughborough. Those of us who are discontent do not feel this way because we do not get the joke, we feel this way because the joke is really bad and only funny in a completely pitiful way.
One final element regarding Alumni. The tone of Facebook statuses I have come across and the conversations I have had, have convinced me that deep down there is a certain sense that, despite our personal brands having been slightly dented, there is a certain satisfaction in seeing this with Loughborough in our past and thinking “…look what it has become without us!” Of course, we do not want our beloved Loughborough to go down the toilet, but people may take a certain satisfaction in thinking that it was at its best when they were students.
The only University Staff that will be impacted by this, will be those in charge of selling Loughborough University, whether to future staff or future students. They work the hardest on Loughborough University’s image outside of the town and this may have a negative impact in trying to Brand Loughborough as a serious, hard working and professional institution. But like with Alumni’s personal brands, this is a drop in the sea. This video’s buzz will die down soon enough, and whilst it will probably not be forgotten overnight, in the grand scheme of things, this video’s significance for the University’s brand is relatively minimal to anyone whose opinion truly matters. Future students will not actually change their decisions based solely on this, despite what newspapers may want us to believe (it does make a good subtitle) and no interviewer is going to tell you that, despite having a great CV, he is going to have to turn you down because of this video. Anyone considering attendance at Loughborough University, or anyone whose opinion may negatively impact a graduate, will have much more relevant pieces of information to consider such as, Loughborough’s impressive campus, our sports heritage, our great departmental ranking and most importantly, the good things they hear from most past students. So, unless we suddenly lose BUCS for the first time in 33 years, and plummet in school rankings, the University’s reputation will survive.
The LSU Exec video has affected many people in different ways, but no one in a such a way that it may seriously impact their lives. You may have to put up with a few jokes from your friends and family about it, but after years at Loughborough University you should be able to take that.
And the Execs themselves? Well, let me be brief: They are the victims of their own incompetence. Despite this video only garnering what will be merely 15 seconds of fame, they will personally be associated with this video for the rest of the lives, with chances of it being dug up by anyone who sees “LSU Executive 2013-2014” on their CV. They will have to deal with disdain from all Alumni in the long-term, and in the short term, ridicule in the eyes of the students around them. Despite finding it amusing enough, when drunk, to sing along, current students will undoubtedly consider all people from the video, losers.
The brand that has suffered the biggest blow is that of the Executive institution itself. Past, present or future, the people who will be the most judged on this will be members of the Executive “family”. Though all present Execs have made their own bed with this video, past Execs (by the way, it is one of them who began the removal petition) should perhaps wonder how they shaped the Exec Brand over the years, to the point that a relatively large group of people would honestly consider this piece of trash to be fun, cool and generally a good idea.
If someone was planning on running for Exec this year, I am pretty sure they would think again, and I predict record lows in voting turnout for the 2014 Exec elections, due to a complete loss of credibility..
LSU Exec 2013-2014, congratulations! You have made Loughborough University a laughing stock for the world in the short term, but ultimately, the main achievement of this video will be labelling the LSU Executive organisation a joke.
To end on a light note, at least this didn’t happen to our University’s name: