Red no longer means “Go”… unless you mean backwards…

Apparently the new Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Communications Officer, Joe Hice, is not impressed with the “Red Means Go” campaign as he claims it offends. Instead of starting an entirely new campaign, Hice is reportedly looking to rejuvenate the “We all go to NC State…” campaign from the 90’s… certainly not the glory days of NCSU… with in-house production teams to “save the University money.” Who doesn’t cringe at the thought of this?

The Red Means Go commercials apparently cost us $200,000. I’m not sure what the entire budget is for the University since 2008 when these commercials first started airing, but I would rest easy gambling on the fact that $200,000 is a fraction of a fraction of a percent.

Other schools spend between $500,000 and $5,000,000 on advertising which this includes the cost of television spots mind you. Hice wants to take his (our?) new campaign to more metro markets such as D.C., NYC and San Francisco. San Francisco? He is unsure at this time what the total cost will be, but that will depend in part on how much state funding the University receives for the project.

All of this according to our good friends over at the TBJ: NCSU to drop Red Means Go

I read this article and it certainly turned me for a loop. Surely… surely… we are not going back to that God-forsaken campaign that was repeatedly, tirelessly, and appropriately mocked by my friends who went to other Universities. Please. No.

In somewhat of a panic I jumped on the web to learn who Joe Hice is and what he stands for. I learned quite a bit. There’s more to this story…

He’s clearly someone with an impressive resume after holding a similar position at University of Florida. Given UF’s national image (mostly garnered from highly successful athletics mind you), I immediately began to calm a bit. There are several Universities that I think have a phenomenal all-around national image, and UF is certainly one of those. Here we have a guy who was hired at NC State to do something he’s apparently pretty good at doing. That’s somewhat of a welcomed change at our University, and it appears we can now expect nothing less with a sharp guy like Woodson at the helm.

But what is this gibberish about cutting what I and many other alumni believe to be an edgy, effective branding campaign in “Red Means Go” only to return to something long ago thrown in the trash can that causes us to be the butt of jeers and jokes to this day? Hopefully, the simple answer here is that Hice was not around when this silly campaign aired. It is therefore reasonable to believe that he simply cannot appreciate the reverse effect that such a pitiful portrayal of our University had.

In researching Hice, I found that he is obviously on the Social Media train given he has a very active personal Facebook page and has created a Chief Communications Officer – NCSU Facebook page. From there I saw a link from the Alumni Association’s Facebook page that linked an entry from, Hice’s personal, professional blog.

There Hice shared this with his readers… thankfully:

Ad Campaign in creative phase only

A story in the media today implies that NC State has made the decision to go back to the “We all go to NC State” ad campaign of the mid-1990s. That is not the case.

While I like the message at the end of the ad and have blogged about it here and talked about it around campus, we’re not ready to go there. This is one of several directions we’re considering. We haven’t even gotten the Chancellor involved in the discussion, and I can tell you, nothing will happen without his involvement.

So for now, keep the ideas coming. The creative process doesn’t happen overnight. Red does mean go at NC State. NC State is North Carolina’s University (and North Carolina is a pretty cool state). And when we have big challenges to address and problems to solve, we look to NC State.

Have a great holiday.

Passion Rules!

1 of Many

And so we have been charged with the task… or rather the opportunity… to give our input on what will become the brand that is NCSU. If you are of the creative sort, please take Mr. Hice up on his offer and submit your ideas. It sounds as though he and his staff are truly and honestly open to our opinion. Again, that’s a refreshing change…

Further, please check out Mr. Hice’s blog linked above. He’s added a great entry about the controversy brewing in Flint, Michigan over a simple little drawing of a Spartan. University branding is clearly an important issue despite the stance of some of our past administrators.

Maybe since he’s getting in touch with the happenings in Flint, MI, he’ll see that we can and should go back to the traditional Block S and “STATE” logos.


31 Responses to Red no longer means “Go”… unless you mean backwards…

  1. Pack78 06/03/2010 at 5:45 PM #

    I thought the ad campaign last year with the guy talking in the brick-arched walkway with students walking past dressed to highlight various NCSU research efforts (including improved hospital gowns!) was well done. Tag line was something like “N C State: the University of get things done.” Anybody have a better recollection?

  2. john of sparta 06/03/2010 at 7:08 PM #

    who is the target demographic? is it international?
    in some cultures red is good and in others, bad.
    wolves are especially tricky to emphasize.
    there’s a reason UNX uses the Old Well instead
    of a ram, and the light blue doesn’t dominate.
    essentially, most branding is made with a
    “what can WE do for You?” approach.
    using the above example: UNX’s pitch is
    “we are the best for the money in the USA”.
    UNX is pitching paying parents.

  3. Cosmo96 06/03/2010 at 7:20 PM #

    “Apparently the new Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Communications Officer, Joe Hice, is not impressed with the “Red Means Go” campaign as he claims it offends.

    I’m curious as to what this means. I’m not a paid subscriber, so maybe he explained it later in the article, but I wonder what he found offensive about “Red Means Go”?

  4. GAWolf 06/03/2010 at 7:49 PM #

    Pack78: That’s the Red Means Go campaign.

  5. jhmd2000 06/03/2010 at 7:55 PM #

    As a Carolina grad, I actually liked the “Red Means Go” deal. I thought it put State’s best foot forward, and paid homage to my observed unwritten rule that every tech school features the space program in their main spot. Seriously, watch football next fall. State, Ga Tech, Auburn, Clemson, literally, it was everyone.

    That said and the spirit of the rivalry, I would relish the chance to remind my brother, the State grad, that “We all got in to NC State”. Notice PR/dude—unbelievably—hasn’t taken that off the table; he just denies anything is final. The Wolpfack natives can’t let that happen.).

    Out of curiosity, can someone articulate for me how NC State is North Carolina’s university? Is the working premise that UNC is full of veggie eating, pinko out of state faculty, or is it a size of enrollment thing?

  6. Pack78 06/03/2010 at 8:08 PM #

    GA-Thanks for the wake-up call-I’m with Cosmo; what is offensive about the campaign?

  7. Pano Fasoulas 06/03/2010 at 8:22 PM #

    Personally, I liked the “We all go to N.C. State” campaign. I also find the dude with the beard a little annoying. Kind of like he’s trying to be Dennis Miller. I really think that a mixture of a few different commercials is best. I’m sure it’s a generational thing. Alumni and people who have entered their 40’s are more likely to associate with the kid wearing the NCSU hat than a high school kid who’s thinking about going someplace “cool.” So, like the unx campaign above, are you marketing to the kid going to school or the parent who’s going to pay for it? I think we could actually emphasize both the family atmosphere as well as how cool it is to go to State with the right campaign.

  8. GAWolf 06/03/2010 at 9:27 PM #

    I liked proegressive and edgy style of the Red Means Go campaign, but I’mm not attatched to it. However, if we ditch it and therefore piss away the relatively paultry yet nonetheless substantial sum of $200,000 we spent on it, then we could at least make an attempt to create something new and perhaps even more potent. I just have a horrible time accepting that our only move here is to go back in time and reuse something that’s long been tired and worn out. I’m hoping Hice’s blog is sincere and that no final decision to go backwards has been made.

  9. James C. 06/03/2010 at 9:27 PM #

    “Out of curiosity, can someone articulate for me how NC State is North Carolina’s university? Is the working premise that UNC is full of veggie eating, pinko out of state faculty, or is it a size of enrollment thing?”

    That UNC is full of veggie eating pinkos has nothing to do with it. As North Carolina’s Land Grant Institution, its prime directive is to better the condition of North Carolina and its residents. Also, State has a mandate to admit a higher percentage of North Carolinians in its incoming freshman classes than other schools in the UNC system. In those senses, NC State is North Carolina’s university.

    And as I wrote here, I like “We All Go To NC State.” It echoes State’s Land Grant mission and the fact that State’s impact on N.C. touches the lives of all North Carolinians.

  10. James C. 06/03/2010 at 9:31 PM #

    And GAWolf, I think you overstate the negative perception folks have of the “We All Go To NC State” slogan. You make it seem as if it were a black eye on the university and a source of embarrassment.

  11. 61Packer 06/03/2010 at 11:00 PM #

    The slogan Red Means Go was used by Duke football back in the late 1970s when Red Wilson was coach. If we’re going to use a slogan to promote State (why can’t we simply be “State” instead of NC State?), let’s at least make it original.

  12. JEOH2 06/04/2010 at 12:45 AM #

    “Red Means GO” is an innovative ad campaign that the younger generation really responded to…especially the ads. The guy waxing poeticly about State just grabbed your attention for its originality. I’ve seen young students literally cheer out in exclamation after witnessing one of those ads for the first time. Heck, people were waiting on the next one to come out…

    IF State does go back to the tired “in some ways, we all go to NC State…” ads they have to be revamped so they don’t look like every other sorry Raycom ad put on during football season…those do nothing to promote a University trying to hype its innovation…its almost counter-intuitive…

    Of course this is all about much more then just some TV commercials…

    Oh and don’t go back to the old block S relic…the one we have right now is just fine…

  13. Alpha Wolf 06/04/2010 at 7:55 AM #

    “Knowledge is the prey…WE are the hunters” was the best ad I ever saw for NC State.

    But before you guys all go crazy with this — I’ll echo a comment that my wife made to me years ago: “everyone thinks they know how to make a great commercial, and they even have some good ideas, but really, what they don’t know a lot about how you have to balance the client, what focus groups say, a budget and broadcast standards all into 30 or 60 seconds. It’s not as easy as it sounds.”

    Followed by a tale of her work issue of the day. Yeah, it’s just like 30-something or Bewitched in the ad game. Riiiight.

    She ought to know, advertising and marketing is what she does.

  14. SternWolf 06/04/2010 at 8:07 AM #

    This is an absolutely fantastic blog entry. Thank you Statefans for once again bringing something to my attention about the university I love but live far away from.

    Also, how exciting is it that Hice has addressed this story and seems to be an incredibly receptive/creative/experienced/talented person. Seems to be. But that’s far better than we are used to at State.

    Also, how awesome is it that Statefans did sufficient digging to find his response and give him the credit he deserves before running with what would otherwise have been a highly critical and negative story. Major props there as well.

    I’m not sure if I’m creative enough to add to Hice’s blog about NCSU, especially since I think it means something very different to me than it would/should to others. But I have that option now, and I thank Statefans.

    Aw shucks, i might even click on an ad or two in appreciation 😉

  15. coach13 06/04/2010 at 8:30 AM #

    Our new campaign…

    “NC State, the school of tomorrow”

    You know, since we always say “wait til next year”. JK

  16. jwrenn29 06/04/2010 at 9:26 AM #

    I thought the ad campaign “Red means go” did actually SUCK. That guy was a little creepy and seemed slimy, so I’m glad to see it gone.

    However, that doesn’t mean that I want to recycle an old campaign either.

  17. Clarksa 06/04/2010 at 9:39 AM #

    “Red means go” seems to national type ad campaign to me…”We all go to NC State” seems to be a more local to regional type campaign.

  18. peeaay 06/04/2010 at 9:47 AM #

    61Packer, in a national ad campaign it wouldn’t make sense to only use “State” instead of “NC State.” The NC must be included.

  19. GAWolf 06/04/2010 at 9:53 AM #

    Alpha: Great, great point. I’ve made one still-frame ad for our firm and it was very, very hard. However, that’s what you pay professionals for and the thought of us revamping a worn-out ad with in-house folks is scary to me.

    Anyone know what the overall budget is at NC State? If you’re looking at an ad campaign that will run, assuming it’s successful, for several years at a minimum, then you’ll need to multiply that yearly budget by 2 or 3. The cost of a professionally generated campaign becomes ridiculously minuscule in light of the “businesses” yearly expenses and certainly in light of the economic impact it could have generating public and private funding as well as tuition-paying students.

  20. WV Wolf 06/04/2010 at 9:54 AM #

    I really liked the idea behind the Red Means Go ads, I think it’s a great idea to emphasize the very cool technological things going on at the university. And it was unique, wasn’t your typical school promo.

    Two areas where I think they messed up, you have commercials talking about all these amazing technological things that NC State is doing but the ad wasn’t filmed in HD. If you’re going to brag about how technical you are you should probably be using the latest technology. The other is the latest commercial, I like that it talks about the robot bats and space technology, all cool stuff. But then at the end I think the stupid hospital gown joke just ruins the whole thing.

  21. GAWolf 06/04/2010 at 9:56 AM #

    Also, if you don’t get TBJ and cannot read the rest of the article you should consider getting it… especially if you live in or have professional contacts in the Triangle.

    The last little blurb of the article is a quote from, I think it was, a UNC professor who questioned why a major state University needs to advertise anyway? I guess it’s worth debating, but I’m stuck on the simple reply of “why not?”

  22. Pack78 06/04/2010 at 11:20 AM #

    Re the unx prof’s comment: back in my young(er), dumb(er) days I worked for an instrument company, very engineering-driven that treated marketing as :’we make the best intruments (true), who needs to worry about brand awareness and positioning?’ Our less-technically accomplished competitors remained competitive due to dramatically superior marketing efforts, hence the old saw -It pays to advertize.

  23. WolftownVA81 06/04/2010 at 1:43 PM #

    Good entry. However, I thought the title was a little misleading. After reading the entire story I think I would have just put a question mark after the current campaign title and letf of the backwards part since the issue is not resolved. I kinda like the Red Means Go commercials but am open to new ideas how to get our brand out there.

  24. GAWolf 06/04/2010 at 1:59 PM #

    I didn’t discover Mr. Hice’s blog until after I started writing… Wolftown you are probably right. What you see there is literally my thought process as I went from befuddled to relieved.

    Also, I sent this link to Mr. Hice since many of your comments are commending of his blog and efforts to better the image of the University. He personally responded, unlike many folks in positions of authority at NC State in the past.

    It’s amazing how quickly positive change has swept through the University with the changing of the guard.

    Pack78: The phenomenon you speak of certainly applies to my world as well.

    If you have ideas for the direction of the new campaign, feel free to share them here. Mr. Hice will likely see them, and I sincerely believe he genuinely appreciates your opinions! Things are certainly improving at NC State.

  25. GAWolf 06/04/2010 at 2:48 PM #

    Mr. Hice gave me permission to share his comments if they added to the conversation, and they not only add to the conversation but clear up some of the confusion at least from my perspective. Not only that, I think his comments are extremely educational on the process at issue here. For lack of a better word, this is very cool.

    Here is the email response he so graciously took the time to send:

    Thanks for you note. I am a regular reader of the site and love the comments. We need input from across the board and I think those who follow are a very important part of the mix.

    I would like to say that I really am not offended by the Red Means Go campaign. I’m just not a big fan. I think it tries too hard to impress. NC State is an amazing university and we need to focus on that fact. That one fact. In last season’s Red Means Go spot you can count 11 different bragging points. Nice, but in a :30 second commercial spot you’re lucky to remember three or four. Our goal is to create something memorable that says NC State in as few words as possible. Something like The Gator Nation at UF, or Everybody’s Doin’ it at Sea-Doo.

    For example, Go start a Fortune 500 Company, Go write the great American novel, Go cure cancer, Go to Mars. Go Gators!

    In four simple phrases we covered the gamut at UF and gave people something they could relate to and something they could own. The tone of the spot helped ignite the passion people felt for the university. In many ways, the old We all go to NC State commercial did some of the same. I thought the execution needed improvement, but the idea that people look to NC State for answers and solutions for big challenges is a very strong message.

    At the same time I think messages built around the uncommon focus of NC State could be strong. Or a message built around the university’s mission to be an international leader in science, technology and engineering, could do the same.

    So, we really are still in the creative phase of the process. With luck and hard work, we’ll hit on a theme that makes sense and execute it well. I’m not saying everyone will love it, but it will reflect the pride and passion people feel for NC State and it will tell the world that things are happening here. Things that could change the world.

    All for now and keep up the good work.


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