Advertising, Consumption and Education

*This is an essay written in VCC201, and is relevant to topics addressed in the course.


Advertising is a persuasive social strategy which is intended to influence how people perceive the buying and consumption of goods” (Danesi, 252 ). It also maintains its position to power itself in a competitive market, luring customers through beguiling promotional strategies. “Today, the increasing sophistication with statistical information–gathering techniques makes it possible for advertisers to target audiences… in order to determine the susceptibility to, or inclination towards certain products” (Danesi, 257). In her book No Logo, Naomi Klein suggests that today is the ‘age of the brand’. She expresses how we formulate our identity on predetermined tastes, and standards provided to us by big brand companies. Students have established a new identity within the walls of educational institutions. Klein believes that “the youth market is an untapped wellspring of new revenue” (Klein, 43) and further suggests that “as educational institutions surrender to the manic march of branding, a new language is emerging” (Klein, 46). Through advertising, companies successfully assigned the role of a consumer to students. This paper will examine the relationship shared amongst, branding, youth and education. More specifically, it will attempt to determine the impact that branding has on the students at the University of Toronto through analysis of advertising campaigns on the campus.

Branding is an attempt to create an identity and personality for products or services. Companies establish brands so consumers may recognize, and decipher them in a competitive industry. Mazda, one of the worlds leading car manufactures for over three decades, has built its identity by sending a unique brand message to the market. Most notably, Mazda’s catchy tagline “Zoom-Zoom” makes it distinctive from its competitors. The company has also built itself around a sound reputation for it’s, “styling, performance, reliability, and value” (Mazda). “Creating an image for a product, adheres in fashioning a “personality” for it so that a particular type of product can be positioned for specific market populations (Danesi, 259). Mazda vehicles have always maintained a wide appeal. However, the majority of their market was segmented to older, middle class, working individuals. In their attempt revamp their image “a new marketing strategy was developed which called for Mazda to refocus its efforts and target a younger generation of drivers who appreciate cars with sporty features and want to make a statement about themselves with their cars” (Mazda Canada).

In the analysis of a Mazda advertisement (Appendix A) situated on campus, the company’s pursuit to reach out to a youthful market segment is exemplified. Naomi Klein writes, “The youth market spends the majority of each day inside the schoolhouse” (Klein, 43) thus, it seems fitting that companies would lobby to campaign in educational settings where they can utilize the marketing network within the institution.

“Advertisers invest a lot of time and money in studying the impact of their advertisements on audiences precisely because they understand that they cannot have full control over the meanings their images will produce” (Sturken and Cartwright, 47). Contrary to this statement, Mazda maintains a firm control in the message it projects to consumers. They have the ability to lure students into their marketing web by juxtaposing an enticing incentive. Mazda promotes their vehicles in educational institution with knowledge that it generates high volumes of traffic. Thus, the company utilizes students, and petitions them to be consumers of their market.
The campaigns tone becomes both desirable, and appealing to students. Mazda chooses to endorse their flagship RX-8 sports coupe, and in doing so, succeeds in targeting the right product for the right market. The ads heading ‘Reserved parking”… “For you high life forms” captivates attention, and works to speak to the intended audience directly. Students are acknowledged as ‘high life forms’, making them feel important, and distinctive in society.

The integration of ad campaigns in the university has become so ubiquitous that students forget how persuasive they have become. Mazda’s ad succeeds in luring students, by inviting them to actively participate in their campaign.

“At almost every university in North America, advertising billboards appear on campus bicycle racks, on benches, in hallways linking lecture halls, in libraries and even in bathroom stalls (Klein, 46). Companies thrive on sending their messages to consumers through promotional advertisements and campaigning. “In early 2000 some car makers…started looking at newer naming trends that were to designed to new generation of customers (Danesi).

Mazda’s attempt to connect to a new market segment has driven the launch of its “Mazda Graduate Program” campaign. Mazda endeavors to establish a link between the student and the consumer. The program acknowledges and awards graduate students from post secondary institutions with a monetary incentive toward the purchase or lease of a new Mazda vehicle. The company succeeds in manipulating our perception of defining the role of a student, and further affirms Naomi Klein’s idea that, “brands slowly transform the experience of campus life for undergraduates”(Klein, 49). The ad has transformed the campus into a market pool, of buyers, sellers, competitors and has driven away from its position as an educational institution. The Mazda Graduate Program attempt to take a positive stance to drive students to pursue a higher education however, it is overpowered by its desire to turn students into customers. The program suggests that once a student has graduated, one should begin to consider purchasing a vehicle. The Mazda RX-8 has a rather expensive price tag with a base model running for approximately $37,095. Mazda effectively uses incentives in their ad to attract the student customer. The cash incentive serves to entice students, and put Mazda at the forefront of its competitors market. Through their effective marketing strategy, Mazda invents a new appeal for students, and suggest that this desirable sports car is affordable.

Another attempt Mazda makes to entice its new target segment is to sell itself on an “automatic credit approval” (Mazda). Considering that most students have student loans or debt, this motivation marketing tool places consumers in a position to be eligible to buy a Mazda vehicle. Although Mazda is effective in promoting students as consumers, it fails to acknowledge all the graduates in the educational institution. University of Toronto is home to a large body of international students, and because the campaign is only applicable to Canadian residents, this creates resistance to an international market, and deters a portion student market.

Many car companies have also taken pro-active action to attract the youth market segments in various educational institutions across the province. In this example Hyundai positions itself as direct competitor in the marketing mesh. “Your parents warned you about the “real-world”. Now you’re in it. Hyundai knows what it’s like. New job. New apartment. New student loan payments. New life. New wheels. New wheels? Yes – that’s right! A brand new Hyundai! (Hyundai Canada). Such ads serve as mentors for students and to guide them in a desired direction by their marketers. Janice Newson, a professor at York University has noted, "on the surface, it is easier to account for the increasing realization of the corporate-linked university than it is to account for the lack of resistance to it" (Klein, 51). This lack of resistance from the university can be in part a result of the benefits reaped by allowing companies to endorse on campus. In an attempt understand how advertising is selected and brought into our institution an email was written to Darryl Chow, Manager, of Corporate Partnerships for the University of Toronto. In his reply he comments that “these are really big questions and would likely take quite some time to answer. There are deep layers of complexity surrounding university donations, procurement of administrative hardware, property rights, and corporate partnerships... the list goes on”(Chow). Although a clear answer was not given, Naomi Klien suggestion that “university campuses… play a crucial, if now largely symbolic, role…And however imperfectly we may have protected these institutions in the past, at this point in our history the argument against transforming education into a brand-extension exercise is much the same as the one for national parks and nature reserves: these quasi-sacred spaces remind us that unbranded space is still possible (Klein, 51-52).

Companies have successfully assigned the role of a consumer to students. More specifically, the Mazda campaign on the University of Toronto campus, examines the relationship shared amongst, branding, youth and education. Naomi Klein implies that students are bombarded with advertisements within educational settings and as a result a new language of consumerism has emerged. Advertising may be considered and art form which involves precise skills of effectively promoting a product within media. Society’s continual needs for consumable products are the essence of this attention of advertising. Advertisings purpose involves persuading audiences, through the various signs, textual and symbolic references within advertising. This direct display of advertising also serves to captivate emotions in connotative and denotative ways transforming the typical student in a new consumer.

Works Cited

Danesi, Marcel. Signs, Referents and Meanings: A Basic Textbook in Semiotics and
Communication Theory.Third Edition. Canada:Canadian Scholar’s Press Inc, 2004.

Hyundai Canada. Hyundai. 2005-2006. Hyundai Auto Canada. April 4, 2006.

Klein, Naomi. No Logo:Taking Aim At the Brand Bullies. Canada: Random House of
Canada, 2000.

Mazda Canada. Mazda. 2006. Mazda Canada Inc. April 4,2006.

Mazda Canada. Mazda 2006.Mazda—Positioning a Product Line. Mazda Canada Inc.
April 4, 2006.

Sturken,Marita, and Cartwright ,Lisa. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual
Culture. United States: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Vieira, Ashley. "Re: Hello." E-mail to Darryl Chow. 4 April. 2006.