Kellogg is into “growth” now – not “thinking”

We were thrilled when we saw Kellogg’s essay questions this year, where they had dropped their “Think Bravely” concept from the prompts and weren’t forcing applicants to shoehorn their stories into some uncomfortable mold in an attempt to match the school’s branding. Last year we had seen many very good stories get perverted in the essay-drafting process. BSers had to jump through hoops to make sure that what they were writing about was appropriately reflecting the Kellogg tagline, per the way that the school had asked their questions.

But the Kellogg tagline was always slippery at best – when it was originally announced, there was all kinds of marketing hoopla about it and they published this video with Dean Blount explaining it . She talked about it in terms of collaboration and markets and innovation and broader wisdom (or is it the “public-private interface”?).

Here’s a Pro Tip for organizations of any type: If your CEO needs to spend almost 2 minutes interpreting your tagline to your audience, then maybe the tagline isn’t that good.

Shoot – even the tagline had a tagline:
Think Bravely

The other problem with “Think Bravely” was that it was completely undifferentiated from all the other schools exhorting everyone to “think”. Kellogg and Think Bravely were just part of a trend of bschool branding babble.

Now Kellogg has ditched “Think Bravely” completely – today they’re “Growth Minded” . And here’s the kicker: Dean Blount has claimed that “Think Bravely”, even with all its hoopla and slick marketing materials and fancy new website at the time, that that was just meant as a placeholder until the “real” brand was defined.


If this was a public corporation, we can only imagine the types of questions that the CEO would be fielding on their next quarterly earnings call if they tried this move. Talk about revisionist history.

It’s kinda like when a Brave Supplicant (no relationship to “Think Bravely”) tries to explain away their poor grades in college by saying that they were actively pursuing opportunities to try new things and test their boundaries, and in the process of all that risk-taking that they were doing, there were some casualties (namely, their GPA). But that low GPA doesn’t accurately reflect their abilities. Nice try at whitewashing but please, do you really expect us to buy this?

Anyone perusing this blahg for any length of time (and gawd we hope we don’t catch anyone use the word “perusing” in their essays) will know that we can never resist an opportunity to call out a school. We wouldn’t much care about this change of heart in Kellogg’s brand identity – especially since it doesn’t affect this year’s applicants.


Here’s the deal: When a school starts broadcasting who it is so loudly, then that’s a pretty strong signal that this who-they-are thing is something they care about in their students – which means, perchance, that this might be something that they are GOING TO BE LOOKING FOR IN THEIR APPLICANTS.

Kellogg has already quite directly used its branding in the screening process, by integrating their tagline in their essay prompts in past years.

Any astute observer of the Kellogg landscape is going to only wonder how much they will be screening this year’s crop of Brave Supplicants for this “growth” mindset.

None of their questions are literally asking about “growth.”

It’s not like anyone would KNOW that they should be talking about “growth” in their essays. Not, at least, from how the essay questions are phrased.

And hopefully (HOPEFULLY!) nobody will be given preferential treatment just because they end up using story focusing on “growth” in one of their two Kellogg essays.

We are certainly not suggesting that any Kellogg applicant should switch out their strategy and try to finnagle a set of essays that are talking about “growth” – definitely do not do this if you’re already set on your stories and feeling confident in what you’re presenting about yourself. Which hopefully you are, given this late date.

It’s the “this late date” part that we’re so miffed about. Kellogg created a massive amount of unnecessary stress for its applicants last year by changing the rules multiple times right at the time when their first-round apps were due – they significantly changed their process last year (they used to have a quite confusing two-step app that was non-standard with a whole decision-tree mess of a set of submission dates and if-this/then-that rules that you had to figure out) but they clearly had not mapped things out for themselves very well and they tossed up some real wringers at Brave Supplicants. Plus, they introduced the video essays and their tech was not fully tested or something so many people struggled with that too.

We had thought that they’d learned the lesson.

But no. Here again we get them launching some major school-specific change right when Round 1 is upon us.

Do you really think that this won’t stress people out, in wondering if their Kellogg strategy is still sound?

For a school that proclaims itself to be so “intensely focused” on the customer… you have to wonder.

Dean Blount has been there for four years now. We sure hope that there are bigger changes coming out of Evanston in the very near future than just another rebranding campaign. From our limited view on things from here in Snarkville, we’re not seeing interest in Kellogg on the rise.

Please tell us: What does that empty chair in a moved-out office in the opening shot have to do with anything? That image looks like failure, not growth.

Words that appear only in essays and resumes

Applicants of all kinds – MBA, job, whatever – all types of BSers often have this annoying habit of trotting out million-dollar words when writing their resumes and cover letters. It’s worst with bschool essays.

EssaySnark has compiled a list of words that nobody uses in everyday language, but which they pepper into their MBA apps all the time. Yeah, annoying – and transparent. Can you say “trying too hard”?

If you wouldn’t use the word in everyday speech, it doesn’t belong in your essay.

In no particular order:

  1. piqued – even worse, when misspelled as “peaked” or “peeked”
  2. liaised - just like with “piqued”: do you actually talk this way?
  3. business acumen – this one is truly a pet peeve
  4. stint – this word minimizes the thing you’re referencing and could even trivialize it – which is rarely what you’re after when you’re describing your work history (or even worse, your goals)
  5. successfully – not a sin, but typically, usage is redundant
  6. passion – also not a sin on its own, but quite overused, and it works better when it’s demonstrated instead of professed

Please avoid these, they stick out so severely.

We’ll be adding to this list as you BSers present more dud words inspiration strikes.

($) “Can I use hyperlinks in my essay?”

Amidst the flurry of Round 2 submissions last season we got this from some random BSer: Quick question -is it OK to include a hyperlink in an essay? Clarifying information: I started and ran a charity campaign that was swept up in a big, national media story and I’m planning on using it for my…

While much of the blahg is available completely for free, the content here is reserved for members with full blahg access only ($5.95/month for 6 months, cancel anytime). Please login to view this content or purchase a membership – or return to the home page.

This week’s Commenting Contest Winner is jeffjose – who tweeted us about an error in one of our strategy guides. Thanks for the heads-up! We’ve granted you a week’s access to the blahg.

Maybe you’re targeting Round 2?

We know there are many busy beavers in Snarkville right now, toiling away on apps and essays.

But what if you’ve recently come to the stark realization that now is not the right time?

As in, you’re just not going to be ready?

What if you only recently decided to go for this whole MBA project at all and you still have the GMAT ahead of you?

Or what if you took the GMAT but it didn’t turn out, uh, like you had hoped? And now you know that another test is in your future?

Or what if you scrambled to get in one or two apps last week and this, but you just have this nagging suspicion that they might not be all that good?

If you’re in any of those categories – or if you’d been fully intending all summer to get your apps in gear and have some essays ready to submit this month, and then on August 1st your boss quit and you were put in charge of the Project From H3ll and the last four weeks have been an utter blur of nothing-but-work-ness and you are finally coming to terms with the fact that Round 1 just isn’t happening…

Don’t despair! We have some help for you!

For a couple years now EssaySnark has been offering the MBA Countdown and we’re launching it again in the coming weeks for Round 2.

The MBA Countdown is a structured support system of weekly emails and inspiration to keep you focused on what’s important, each and every week throughout admissions season.

You’ll start each week off with a Monday email that includes a task list for what you should be working on, in order to build a steady pace and positive momentum as you move through the confusing and complicated process.

We describe the Countdown here and you can sign up for Round 2 at any time in the next few weeks. The Round 2 MBA App Countdown starts TODAY – which by the way is 15 weeks out from the first Round 2 deadlines in early January. If you join today, or any time this week, then you’ll get the kick in the pants ultimate headstart that you need by starting in with EssaySnark on the ground floor of the action. But no worries: You can join The Round 2 Countdown later, too; there’s plenty to be gained by climbing on board anytime in the next month or so. You’ll gain the most from starting with this first week but we admittedly get moving a little slowly, in order to ease you into things nice and gradual-like. Even for those joining in later, there’s still lots of value to be had from the week-by-week tour that you will get through the direct tips and MBA app guidance from EssaySnark.

No matter when you join, you also get full access to the EssaySnark blahg included in your Countdown subscription. Subscribers also get coupons for special discounts on EssaySnark services offered at key moments throughout the process. Sign up for The Countdown and leverage our years of experience in helping Brave Supplicants like you figure out what to focus on when in order to be best prepared for their MBA applications. See more details on the Round 2 Countdown or go straight to sign-up.

For everyone still committed to Round 1 – we’re here for you, too! Plenty of support available for that. And, we’re in it for the long haul – Round 2 will be here before you know it – if you’re just getting started in thinking about that option, then The Countdown will definitely help you along the way.

($) Stanford essay critique: “What matters most to me is sports.”

The blasted “What matters most?” essay. The bane of your existence. Long-time readers of the blahg know that we’re not keen on posting actual drafts of Stanford essays, mostly because we don’t want to influence all you easily impressionable BSers out there. We know how tempting it is to take someone else’s ideas and, uh,…

While much of the blahg is available completely for free, the content here is reserved for members with full blahg access only ($5.95/month for 6 months, cancel anytime). Please login to view this content or purchase a membership – or return to the home page.