University of Wisconsin: #1 In Internet Brand Equity

By Bob Marshall Comment

If you’re an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin, yesterday your social networks blew up with every old friend from college linking to this article on Time‘s website. As the article states, the Global Language Monitor took it upon themselves to rank American universities by brand equity, or by what others’ perceived value of the university is as represented on the Internet. As Time puts it, the formula used is a measurement of the universities’ “buzz” factor. Here are the top 10:

1. University of Wisconsin—Madison
2. University of Chicago
3. Harvard University
4. Massachusettes Institute of Technology
5. Columbia University
6. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
7. Cornell University
8. University of California—Berkley
9. Yale University
10. University of Texas—Austin

Instead of yelling about “buzz” as my fellow alumni chose to do, I tried to figure out why the UW topped this list. Yeah, it’s a great university, but compared to the other schools on the list, the UW has a tiny endowment and not as much academic prestige, not to mention the school is located in Madison, Wisconsin aka nowhere. (As the joke goes, Madison is a 77-square mile bubble surrounded by absolutely nothing of interest). The GLM claims its TrendTopper MediaBuzz formula is unbiased as it utilizes a “mathematical model that ‘normalizes’ the data collected from the Internet, social media, and blogosphere as well as the top 75,000 print and electronic media.” A mathematical model that calculates the value of online marketing both coincidental and purposeful? As we’ll probably never know how this thing works (if it actually does), I suppose we’ll just make some guesses as the how the University of Wisconsin came out on top. Read how to advertise your school without a campaign after the jump.

The two things the top 10 schools have in common are a focus on research and a solid national reputation. UT-Austin and UW-Madison are both infamous party schools, and the rest of the top eight are places for the very rich or the very nerdy. Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt continually refer to Madison as the “Best College Sports Town in America.” Another weird factor, Wisconsin is behind only Harvard, UPenn and Columbia in producing the most Fortune 500 CEOs. The school as enough appeal to bring Coasties in from the east and west and keep Sconnies situated in the Midwest. Finally, this grabbed over 1 million views on YouTube this year: