Celebrating the Colonel; building image campaign

Alyssa Stencavage, L&A&E Editor

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Do you know how old the Colonel is?
Sept. 4 marked five years to the date that the new, life-size mascot was introduced at Wilkes, and you better believe he had a birthday celebration of his own.
The mascot was unveiled on club day of 2008. Considering Wilkes never had an official, life-size mascot, this first official debut had quite an impact on the population at Wilkes.
So on Sept. 4 the cut out Colonel, wearing a Colonel birthday hat, enjoyed blue and yellow cupcakes and Colonel games with those who came to celebrate his big day.  Students had the opportunity join in a trivia about the Colonel, where they could enter to win a Student Government T-shirt, provided they answer the questions correctly. Other activities at the celebration included pin the hat on the Colonel as well as a photo booth.
The festivities in honor of the Colonel seemed to be enjoyed by everyone. Student Development Coordinator Melissa Howells said the cupcakes went fast and lots of people took part in the trivia, which resulted in five lucky winners. However, the photo booth wasn’t as big of a hit.
The Colonel Mascot was created by a Branding Agency called 160over90, initially as a way to get people talking about Wilkes. Howells said the intention was to bring in a new sense of school pride. When the mascot was first created, the idea was to welcome new students onto campus. Interestingly enough, the Colonel would be the one to make personal appearances at either the high schools or work places of students. When they walked out of class, he would be there to actually present them with their acceptance letters, and of course a bottle head. Howells said this showed the small community that Wilkes is and the sense of personal connection the university gives its students.
“The Colonel Mascot symbolizes Wilkes’ spirit and what it means to be Colonel,” Howells said.
The mascot started as a marketing idea and was an aspect of sporting events; then it became part of the Student Affairs umbrella. Not surprisingly, the Colonel embraces everything outside the classroom as well, and students and clubs use him for different things. The campus utilizes his appearance all around. He even makes appearances off campus.
“He represents Wilkes and the community as well,” Howells said.
Associate Vice President of Marketing Communications Jack Chielli said the idea was to foster school spirit.
“We are a university in the process of creating more school spirit and the Colonel helped to foster that desire to have more school spirit, and that’s a really good thing.”
Chielli adds that what it means to be Colonel is something that is very much valued at Wilkes.
“The whole idea of “be Colonel” has become part of the language,” Chielli said. “It means standing up for what’s right, being a good citizen and working in the community. It is ingrained in the university’s culture.”
Chielli also believes that the campus community and the external community have embraced that idea, and one can see the significance of the Colonel in the way that students have come up with phrases like “Blue Army Brigade.” Chielli said the Colonel idea has done all that it was intended to do.
“We have gotten so much value out of the idea, that it is beyond my expectations,” Chielli said. “The Colonel campaign exceeded all of my expectations.”
Students also express their ideas of what it takes to be Colonel.
One Colonel, whose identity is to remain anonymous, agrees that his presence and attitude matter.
“I think that the Colonel definitely provides a sense of unity for the students,” the Colonel said. “Everyone here at Wilkes is a Colonel, but I think it helps to have that embodied in mascot form at sporting events. As the Colonel I also get to attend many non-athletic events, my favorite of which is freshmen orientation. This is the first time many of these students are meeting me, and I have the opportunity to show them what it means to be Colonel before the semester even starts.”
The Colonel’s presence in so many activities around campus isn’t the only thing that means something. His color is something people are curious about. Howells said people do ask why the Colonel is blue. The answer she always gives them: He has school spirit written all over his face.
This Colonel also offers more of a personal perspective on what the role actually means.
“Being Colonel takes on a whole new meaning when you literally are the Colonel,” the Colonel said.” “So I think it’s my job to push the students and fans to be more Colonel by encouraging enthusiasm and school spirit. My role as the Colonel is to highlight the accomplishments of our student athletes. They put in a lot of hard work before and during their events, and it’s my job to make sure they get the recognition they deserve while they compete.”
And just as he helps others, the Colonel helps himself.
“Conveniently, my role also serves as my motivation,” the Colonel said. “There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing you’ve helped to boost school pride and provide some well deserved encouragement for our athletes.”
Another student who has played the role of Colonel said this role takes on a more personal meaning as well.
“For me being the Colonel is personifying the spirit and camaraderie of the school as a whole. The Colonel is a figure that exhibits all attributes that students show support for their sports teams, academics and campus life. Being the Colonel is great not only because people see me as a friend and ally, but I also know that they too are also proud to be Colonels themselves.”
Yet another student talks about how the Colonel is more than just a word.
“I feel that being Colonel means going above and beyond to help others in the world around you,” third-year pharmacy student Kristofer Rivers said.  “A Colonel is a leader who is not afraid to get a little dirty to help out others.  Community involvement and service is a part of their daily vocabulary and they are always trying to bring others along.  There is a sense of pride for organization they are a part of and the work that is accomplished.  Being Colonel is not just an idea, but a way of life.”
His popularity doesn’t stop there. Like most of us, Howells said the Colonel has a full array of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, and she said he may even have to be created an Instagram.
The Colonel’s anniversary celebration isn’t the only news at Wilkes. The university is in the process of changing the advertising campaign for the Army of Colonels.
Chielli said the new campaign will be more centered around Wilkes University as the unique university that it is as well as the value of a Wilkes education.
“More and more parents and students are looking for value in the university they are choosing,” Chielli said.
While the new advertising campaign is still in the works and is waiting to be adopted, there will be a transition of image into a new strategic plan, and the phrasing and some other minor details will change. Chielli these new image changes will bring more of a focus on the value and virtual uniqueness that are part of the education space at Wilkes University.
Chielli sees this as a healthy and sort of different approach.
“It’s hard to run on the same ad campaign for a long time,” Chielli said. “This gives you a fresh perspective. It’s good to change things up.”
However, while a slight change is taking place on the advertising side of things, Chielli stressed that the university is only building on the campaign and adding to the message of the university, not doing away with the Army of Colonels or the blue army nor will the “be colonel” idea that is so widely recognized across campus be lost.
“The Army of Colonels will always remain an integral to the internal workings of the campus,” Chielli said. “It will always be a part of Wilkes, a part of who we are. I really believe students and the community have embraced “be colonel” and all that language, and I don’t want to discourage that. Army of Colonels has been adopted into the lexicon of the university in a way that I never would have imagined, and I could not be more thrilled with the way it’s been adopted.”