Opinion: Ralphie, the brand and consumerism at CU

The Ralphie logo for CU Boulder athletics. (University of Colorado, Boulder)

Opinions do not necessarily represent CUIndependent.com or any of its sponsors.

The 21st century is an era overwhelmed by consumerism. It’s an advertised life, making the ordinary desirable. A desire that we see on CU’s campus. Welcome to CU Boulder: Ralphie’s domain.

“You are what you buy,” the saying that has infected the better of us. The feeling of connectedness and the outward appearance of happiness is portrayed through a thick mesh of consumerism.

There are, nonetheless, greater consequences to our consumerist behavior. 

In an article published by the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, Simon Malpas is quoted saying, “The circulation, purchase, sale, appropriation of differentiated goods and signs/objects today constitute our language, our code, the code by which the entire society communicates and converses. Such is the structure of consumption, its language, by comparison with which individual needs and pleasures are merely speech effects.”

Consumerism influences the interactions between societies and those within — a prime example being CU Boulder and its branding. This brings us to the beloved Ralphie.

Ralphie is a symbolic figure, grabbing at the loose strings of those accustomed to CU Boulder and those who wish to be accustomed. The idea of CU Boulder and its connective culture brings curiosity to the greater crowd.

If one were to purchase this brand — this idea and identity of CU Boulder — then the customer is part of the ever-growing branding culture. This benefits the university in one way: money.

The aforementioned article states, “Consumerism is not only an economic system; it is the way our society functions. Products are symbolic and say much more than we may realize.” Such an analysis of consumerism is relevant to CU Boulder and its “culture,” as it claims that, “Consumerism helps us figure out where we fit within society and provides the means by which to change social circumstances.”

This point of view should make you question how CU Boulder implements this consumerism practice into your education.

It’s actually the same: students are the consumer. This is a problem.

Brought with the idea that higher education can be pursued at CU Boulder, you’re met with the question as to why people come to this campus. Do they come for the higher education opportunities or for The Hill?

Which is CU Boulder advertising, you might ask?

We’re brought with two ideas: the student culture proposed by the university and those who wish to involve themselves in it. This idea consumes the identity of its consumers and distracts students from pursuing higher education.

CU Boulder states, “Our brand is a promise we make about all things related to the University of Colorado (CU): our campuses, our foundation, and our system. Our brand is more than a name or a logo. Every point of contact we have with our audiences — students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and others — builds perception about who we are as a university, the things we do to fulfill our mission, and why we are important to our stakeholders.”

Pretty catchy, right? You might even overlook it as a simple advertisement because the foundation seeks students and involvement. But it works!

Look around the next time you’re outside on a game day. The football crowd is predominately parents and alumni. Why is that?

It’s because of the idea that this brand, CU Boulder, is different and it’s a community that’s brought together. It’s like no other, it’s one of a kind.

Is it really though? Why did you come to this school? Did you ever come across an advertisement or was it your decision alone? Was part of that decision to become involved in the CU Boulder community?

If you find yourself answering yes to the last question, you probably fell victim to what we overlook in everyday life. Why do we like the community involvement at CU Boulder? Because it provides what makes us fundamentally happy: friends, freedom and thought.

Friends are found in an involved community, freedom is present in a widespread campus and we have positive thoughts about being involved. That’s advertising.

If you are a CU Boulder student, you are officially part of the CU Boulder community. You’re one with the faculty, the students, the athletic department and all the diverse communities at hand. So ask yourself, do you feel any different being a part of this university? Could you feel the same going to CSU?

Unthinkable! How could you go to CSU? You’re a Buff! But that’s the point exactly; you are what you consume.

Think twice about it, are you a part of the university, and the potential for academic success that this campus brings? Or are you part of the brand?

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer David Jarvis at david.jarvis@colorado.edu.

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