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Why ‘The World Needs More Cowboys’

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By Laurie S. Nichols

As part of an effort to boost the university’s enrollment as well as its national and international profile, our strategic plan, Breaking Through: 2017-2022, calls for a comprehensive branding and marketing campaign for the University of Wyoming.

In today’s competitive world of higher education, marketing is something many universities do. It had been at least a decade since UW undertook such an effort, so late last year we issued a request for proposals from professional marketing and advertising firms to help us craft a new campaign.

After months of development, we launched the campaign this summer, with a primary tagline of “The World Needs More Cowboys.” Response to the campaign concept, detailed in a compelling “anthem video” released in July, has been overwhelmingly positive. “The World Needs More Cowboys” is the theme of this edition of UWyo Magazine and UW’s 2018 Homecoming celebration, and you can find that slogan—along with a variety of accompanying messages—across the campus, around the state and on many digital and other platforms.

Most UWyo readers are aware that some felt the term “Cowboys” was too exclusive. However, earlier, as the campaign was under development, a stronger message of diversity was integrated into the anthem video based upon input received.

The feedback from alumni, students and UW supporters in Wyoming and beyond has been overwhelming. It is clear that people associated with the university are proud to be called by the name of UW’s longtime mascot, and research conducted as part of the campaign development showed the message appeals to the key target audience: prospective students of all backgrounds.

That’s not to say that the critics were out of place in expressing their concerns. Civil debate and discussion are exactly what should take place at a university and often lead to a stronger outcome.

The controversy has ended up bringing even more attention than we expected to “The World Needs More Cowboys,” as evidenced by the fact that the video has been viewed close to 400,000 times on the unpaid web platforms where we placed it—and that’s not counting the people who have watched it on the dozens of media websites around the country that posted it as part of their news coverage. The video and related messages are now going around the state and nation as part of a paid advertising campaign, and we expect very positive results in the form of increased inquiries and enrollment of prospective students—in addition to sales of “The World Needs More Cowboys” merchandise, excitement about the university’s direction and support from private donors and others.

The campaign takes the university’s boldest asset—our iconic bucking-horse-and-rider mark and the Cowboys mascot—and modernizes it to reflect today’s challenges. It redefines what it means to be a Cowboy in this day and age, distilling it down to the inner spirit of curiosity and boldness that all who call themselves Cowboys and Cowgirls can identify with—no matter their race or gender, or whether they’re students, employees, alumni or other supporters. The Cowboy spirit is what UW helps instill in students, giving them the skills and support they need to make the breakthroughs that benefit our state and the world.

The characteristics of today’s UW Cowboys and Cowgirls—which draw from Wyoming’s proud Western heritage—are embodied in the individuals featured in this edition of UWyo Magazine. They range from the late Marian H. Rochelle, a phenomenal woman and one of UW’s greatest supporters; to alumni who have gone on to achieve great things; to the UW students taking part in community outreach and cutting-edge research projects; to the budding young scientists from around Wyoming who take part in the UW-sponsored State Science Fair.

As the anthem video states, it’s not what you are that makes you a Cowboy or Cowgirl, but who you are.

At a time when UW’s role in helping Wyoming achieve greater economic and social diversity is more important than ever, this marketing campaign provides a platform to tell UW’s stories and spread the word of our great university. The campaign shows that it’s possible to embrace the heritage of Wyoming and UW while moving boldly into the future.

If you haven’t already, I invite you to join the movement that this campaign has ignited. The world truly does need more Cowboys, and the University of Wyoming is all about helping make them.

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