Letter to the editor: Don’t change Cabrillo College name

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To the editor:

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when the crack cocaine epidemic became known to the general population, we all came to realize what the scourge of coke was about. At the same time, Coca Cola’s primary product was rather inconveniently also called “Coke.” Even with all the bad publicity and all the horror stories about drug addition that the word “coke” had acquired, the company didn’t change the name on the can that we still call Coke.

Why? Because the company had a brand so strong that it could easily carry it through all the negativity we all felt when we listened to the news.

Those professional marketers knew exactly what they had and made the right decision. Companies work for years to acquire a known brand and to hold onto the power of their brand once they have solidified it. Coca Cola knows we would not associate the beverage with the drug.

Cabrillo College has a similar brand name that has been acquired through the past 64 years of the great work done by the institution. The brand name, Cabrillo College, is significant and known for its excellent reputation locally and throughout California. To think of dropping that brand name because of a terrible historical fact from the mid-1500s that is also associated with the name defies all marketing sense.

Don’t be mistaken — colleges definitely are in the marketing business; that is part of how you survive. They didn’t change Coke to “anybody’s cola” for a reason.

Further complicating this proposed college name change is the fact that Cabrillo is in a difficult position because of a dramatic post-COVID fall in enrollment. Does it seem like changing the brand name at a time when the college is struggling is sound fiscal policy? Could it mean a further cut in classroom teachers, staff and building maintenance? Shouldn’t the college board be working overtime to bring attractive programs and enrollment back rather than making it easier to forget the community college that we have come to appreciate and support?

I’m pretty sure these good people are not branding experts, but they have taken on this task as if they are. How could this possibly go wrong? Let’s not become the “pick a name out of the hat that doesn’t step on anyone’s toes” community college.

Wayne Palmer