Sunday, December 4, 2016

Should Paint Touches Change Its Name?

With the season in full swing, I thought I'd go with a post that's off the beaten path but still MU-related.

If you even marginally follow Marquette basketball, you should be familiar with Paint Touches, a blog started by MU students about seven years ago.  Today, it's still one of the premiere Marquette blogs (no, Stuck in 1977 is light years from that kind of status).  But I'm not here to promote Paint Touches, I'm discussing whether they should change its name.

"Why would they change it?"  Great question.  It starts with how the Paint Touches name came about.  When Buzz Williams was the head coach at Marquette, one aspect he brought to the program was a fresh look at statistics.  Buzz has always been known for being a stat-heavy coach, and while he was at Marquette, a lot of college basketball fans started to learn and understand statistics beyond field goal percentage and rebounds per game.  At the same time, sites with advanced stats such as Ken Pomeroy's were gaining in popularity, which only added to the importance of stats in college basketball and helping the Selection Committee determine which teams should be dancing in March.

Which brings us back to Paint Touches.  How did the site get its name?  One of the statistics Buzz Williams would stress is, yep you guessed it, paint touches.  Defined just like it sounds, it's the number of times you get the ball into the paint.  The more paint touches you have, the more opportunities to score, either by going directly to the rim, or collapsing the defense and kicking it to the open guy.  The name Paint Touches was a natural fit because it was a basketball-themed name, and it was used often by Marquette's head coach.  Two birds, one stone.

But then came 2014.  Coming off of Marquette's worst season in almost 15 years, Buzz Williams left Marquette to become the head coach at Virginia Tech, a position he still holds today.  At the time, there was a variety of speculation as to why Buzz left Marquette and why Marquette was ok with letting him go.  Some say he didn't get along well with the administration, some say he didn't treat the players well, some say he was a bit of a hypocrite.  Whatever the reasons were, Buzz left on a sour note with many of the fans, and plenty of stakeholders and media pundits felt he was taking a step back by going to Virginia Tech.  It was a rough point in Marquette's history for sure.  To be fair, Buzz's departure was nowhere nearly as sour as when Crean bolted overnight for Indiana.

Which brings us back to Paint Touches.  Here's a blog that named itself based on a term heavily stressed by a coach that left Marquette on bad terms.  What to do?  Should they change the name to get away from the association with Buzz?  Should they keep it based precedence?  To answer that, we first have to look at Paint Touches as a brand.

What is a brand anyways?  Why is it important to have one?  Put simply, a brand is whatever resonates in your mind when you hear a word or phrase.  It's important to have because it's what drives foot traffic and demand for your product or service.  Campbell's?  Hot soup on a cold winter night.  Caterpillar?  Heavy industrial machinery.  Wal-Mart?  Everyday low prices.  Donald Trump?  Yeah, let's not go there.  I think you get the point.

So the question then becomes, what comes to mind when you hear Paint Touches?  It's a phrase used by Buzz Williams, and since you don't like Buzz Williams, the site should change its name, right?  Not so fast.

There are plenty of brands that have more value as-is rather than change because of a one-time event.  What's an example of that?  I'm glad you asked.  Let's take the Washington Redskins.  Here's a NFL team that has been around since the '30s and has had their share of the limelight, having won two championships and three Super Bowls.  According to Forbes, Washington is the third-most valuable franchise in the league (Dallas and New England are one and two, respectively).

In recent years, there has been public outcry over the Redskins name due to its derogatory nature against Native Americans.  In fact, the response was so strong that the Redskins trademark registration was cancelled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2015.  Although the trademark is no longer valid, the Washington Redskins have shown no signs of changing their name.  If there is this much anger over the use of the Redskins name, why wouldn't Washington change it to something more generic, like the Warriors?  Ok, bad joke, let's not go there, but I'll get back to that in a minute.

Now let's go back to the branding issue.  When you hear the name Washington Redskins, what comes to mind?  Do you think of The Trail of Tears and persecution?  Do you think of hatred against Native Americans?  Probably not, and I think most Redskins fans would agree.  What comes to mind for me is the Hogs; Joe Gibbs; Joe Theismann; John Riggins; a team that was dominant in the 80s.  And this is exactly why Washington thinks it doesn't make sense to change their name.  The Redskins name is what the fan base knows and loves, it's part of their history, tradition, and culture.  By no means is the name meant to offend anyone.

There is also plenty of evidence of re-branding that can have a disastrous effect.  Look no further than Marquette and you'll have plenty of evidence.  All I need to do is say the words "Marquette Gold" to give you a bad taste in your mouth.  Not only is the Golden Eagle mascot what fans know and associate with, but after nearly every alum/booster cried foul at the University for the name change, they were wise to go back to the Golden Eagles to save their reputation and their donation base ("I'm not wild about the Golden Eagle, but at least it's better than the Gold!").  Despite staying as the Golden Eagles, the whole scenario served as the butt of jokes for several years thereafter.  Not only then, just look 10 years further back in time to when MU changed from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles.  Just about every alum I've met from the 80s or earlier will only refer to Marquette as the Warriors and refuses to talk about the Golden Eagles.  Alums from those days grew up with the Warriors and associate the Warriors with Al McGuire, the '77 championship team, and a program that was truly dominant in the '70s.  "Golden Eagles?  Give me a break.  They'll always be the Warriors to me." they say.

Which brings us back to Paint Touches.  Should they change the name?  It goes back to what type of recognition the name has for its readers.  Do they hear the name and think of a coach that left on bad terms and put us in a period of transition?  Or do they think of a go-to blog that covers everything they need to know about what's happening with Marquette basketball?  My guess is the latter.  Paint Touches has been around long enough that people know and trust the content, and that just because Buzz likes to stress the statistic that gave the site its namesake, doesn't mean its name will resonate poorly with its readers.  Besides, I have a hard time believing Buzz came up with the "paint touches" stat, which means that it shouldn't be associated that closely with him anyways.  Similar to the Washington Redskins, Paint Touches came around at an important point in Marquette's basketball history, as Buzz not only kept the NCAA Tournament streak alive after Crean's departure, but he helped Marquette advance past the first round of The Dance three years in a row.  While fans may be unhappy with how Buzz left, they have to respect what he did while he was at Marquette.  I associate Paint Touches with the high points of Buzz's tenure at Marquette rather than the low ones.

Crisis averted, Paint Touches, you can keep your name.