Perceiving Value in the Thunderbird Brand

Photo Courtesy: Thunderbird School of Global Management

By Giacomo Paccione

What is the value of the Thunderbird brand? What is the value of our Thunderbird education? These have been questions asked on campus since the institution was established in 1946.  At times, the perception of the value was higher or lower, but now the ongoing changes of the school have generated a perception of low value. This has created disengagement from the students and an increasing perception of a perishable brand. The worst part of this perception of value is the lack of identification we, students, feel towards Thunderbird at the moment. Is this bad? Yes. Can we solve it? Yes.

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Before we talk about change, let’s remember the story of Frederick the Great and his introduction of potatoes to Prussia, now Germany.  Back in the 18th century, Prussia was going through a period of famine and price volatility, and the king, Frederick the Great, wanted to solve these hardships. He was looking for solutions when he was told about the potato; a plant discovered in South America that could replace wheat. Immediately, King Frederick understood that he could solve the dependency on wheat and its price fluctuation by introducing another plant to feed his people. He introduced the potato to the peasants and constructed a field to harvest the plant. For him, this was a nutritious element that would help the Prussians to overcome famine, but for the peasants it was just an ugly, dirty, and disgusting plant. They did not want to grow or eat the potato; they did not understand the value of the potato. King Frederick tried positive and negative incentives but none of these worked. Finally, he concluded that the root of the problem was in the perception of the potato. So, he set out to change the peasants’ perception. He designated the potato a royal plant that only royal families could eat and ordered guards to protect the crops at night. This generated a sense of importance and value to the potato. He also advised the guards that they were allowed to let peasants steal the potatoes at night. These mandates changed the peasants’ perception of the potato.  Hence, the potato was introduced to Prussia.  To this day, people in Germany take potatoes to Frederick the Great’s grave, to thank him for his efforts.

The takeaway of the story is not that we need to get more security guards, or to request the Board of Education make Thunderbird a royal institution. The takeaway of the story is that we, as students, have the power to change how we perceive the value of the Thunderbird brand. We can improve the value of our education by just changing our perception. We can get involved with clubs, we can share our knowledge with classmates, we can participate in events, and we can become more engaged with the school.  There will be only one Thunderbird experience and we decide if we will perceive it as good or bad. So, how much will you value your education? Will you value it as much as a solution to famine or will you value it as a dirty and ugly potato? Change is in your hands. Take action and help improve our value. Remember that your perception is your reality.

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