We just finished the Round 1 gauntlet (for the most part - yes, we're talking to you, NYU Stern applicants!) We noticed in the October flurry that many of our clients were concerned about Kellogg's new marketing slogan. In case you haven't noticed, Kellogg recently launched a new "motto" that reads: "Think Bravely: we believe that business can be bravely led, passionately collaborative, and world changing."
The introduction of this laboratory-cooked slogan caused much hand-wringing among Round 1 applicants, so now that we have a moment, we wanted to address it and help out those of you applying to Kellogg in Round 2.
So, should you focus your applications on "Thinking Bravely"? Let's break it down.
New Kellogg Dean Sally Blount, who spearheaded this year-long attempt to create a slogan, believes that this stated philosophy is truly unique. It has been drummed into several information sessions this fall and has become a touchstone of the Kellogg marketing message. Here is one quote where Dean Blount breaks it down, from a fairly recent interview on the website Poets and Quants:
“There is no other business school I think that can say we believe that business can be bravely led, passionately collaborative and world changing,” insists Blount. “But that is what Kellogg is about. Kellogg got on the map because we were different. We cared deeply about how you build a strong organization and how you get people to work together more effectively. We’re all about hard work and ambition but doing it with low ego. It’s all about pushing the agenda of the organization forward. It’s about reclaiming that and reexamining how do we teach that in the 21st century. There is no other school in the world that can claim that as readily as we can because of our history and our culture.”
Before we give our advice on how to handle this in your Round 2 applications, we should look at the bigger picture for a minute.
There are more than a few business schools that will not doubt take exception to the claim that "no other business school" can say these things. Does any other school have that same exact motto? Of course not. For starters, "passionately collaborative" … that sounds like something a 15-person project team came up with and barely makes sense. Wharton's mantra of "innovation through collaboration" makes sense to us. It means the best innovating takes place when you work hand-in-hand with others. Got it. What is passionate collaboration? We have no idea. Maybe hugging each other really tightly? Toasting a mug of beer with a little more gusto? Smiles for everyone at the coffee shop? You get the idea.
How about being "world changing"? Well, every top business school thinks of themselves that way. Harvard has it in its own slogan ("We educate leaders who make a difference in the world"), as does Stanford ("Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world.").
Leading bravely? I guess that's a new one, but Chicago neighbor Booth has displayed a fond appreciation of risk and courage for years.
To be brutally honest, there's nothing "new" or "revolutionary" about Kellogg's new slogan.
More importantly, there's nothing that is yet new "about Kellogg". Just because a business school dean, in her first major push, has put a task force together to create a branding hook, that does not mean that decades of culture creation, faculty building, and alumni spawning goes right out the window. Kellogg is still a place that puts a premium on soft skills. It is still a place that prizes teamwork (it's just "passionate" now!). It's still a place that features a "play hard" dynamic of people having fun and enjoying the experience outside the classroom (as does Stanford, as that cultural aspect of GSB did not just vanish the minute they got a fancy motto).
So where does this leave us?
For applicants who want to nail the DNA of Kellogg, our advice is simple: do not throw out all the evidence we have of what Kellogg is and has been for years. Do not sacrifice your passion for teamwork, your stories of helping others, and the showcasing of a well-rounded personality (social, fun, kind, engaging), all in favor of "thinking bravely." Can you throw the motto in somewhere? Sure, why not. Specifically, Kellogg has provided an Essay 4 "choice" essay option for this. It can also be a strong aspect of a leadership example in Essay 2. It can also be the theme of Essay 3, in terms of who you are. But try to keep it to one of those uses, and then bring the rest of "you" to the table in the other spaces.
Just remember that Sally Blount will not be reading your essays. Turning in a four-essay soliloquy on how much you love the new marketing slogan is not going to impress a reader in the Kellogg admissions office. Telling a Kellogg alum in an interview that you have "bravely led" teams is going to evoke nothing more than an eye roll (not outwardly, of course, and not even aimed at you - rather aimed at the fancy new marketing slogan).
Consider this blog post a Public Service Announcement.
Don't play to the sound bite, play to the full, rich culture of Kellogg. Most importantly, be yourself and let your natural and appealing qualities come through without trying to package them into a slogan that sounds like the Two Bobs from "Office Space" wrote it.
And, not that they are asking, but we would give Kellogg the same advice.
If you are interested in our help on your Kellogg application, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are currently offering late-stage essay evaluation options for any remaining Round 1 programs and we are now taking free consults for interested Round 2 applicants.