Cèilidh’s high potential deserves cohesive branding

Credit: Juan Fernandez/ Credit: Juan Fernandez/

Cèilidh Weekend made its debut this past Thursday through Sunday, cheerfully advertised as a new Carnegie Mellon tradition. Although we’re not totally convinced the organizers behind the event managed to reach their audience as well as they intended to, they should be congratulated for bringing together three very different existing traditions: Homecoming, International Festival, and Family Weekend.

In the past, these three events were held at a similar time of year but on different weekends. Now that they’ve been united under one banner, hopefully we’ll see an increase in overall attendance, as well as the formation of a new and interesting tradition for the school. In addition, Cèilidh seems to be marketing itself as a bridge between traditionally alumni-focused events and those aimed at students — an important connection to form for the future.

That said, the advertising and organization of Cèilidh Weekend could have used a serious face-lift. In theory, the Cèilidh organizers — principally the offices of Alumni Relations, International Education, and Orientation and First-Year Programs — attempted to reach their audience via social networking. However, with a grand total at the time of publishing of 55 “likes” on Facebook and 41 followers on Twitter (many of which appear to be student organization Twitter accounts), the event’s publicity was sub-par at best.

Had the organizers created individual Facebook events for each university-sponsored event, the attendance might have been stronger and word of mouth might have been more effective. Additionally, although there were many student-created events clearly designated as more or less Cèilidh connected, none but Scotch’n’Soda’s production of Urinetown had the name “Cèilidh” visible in its event description.

With the exception of a few fliers and a banner on the Alumni House, little was done offline to promote Cèilidh to current students. Instead of seeming like a cohesive tradition, Cèilidh seemed more a scattered offering of interesting diversions that happened to fall on the same weekend.

We support Carnegie Mellon’s initiative in creating Cèilidh Weekend and would like to see it flourish. For that reason, we suggest branding it as a fall version of Carnival. By pushing student-run events to the forefront of Cèilidh Weekend, Alumni Relations and the Student Cèilidh Weekend Committee are already halfway there; the promotion, on the other hand, needs to play catch-up.

To easily accomplish this goal, the organizers would do well to learn from Carnival’s success. Aligning the festival with Mid-Semester Break, for instance, would give students a day off to enjoy Cèilidh’s events, much like the two days off for Carnival in the spring. This celebration is a large and valuable thing; by playing it up as more than just an average weekend, the university community has a lot of power to foster something excellent.

What Cèilidh ultimately needs is a metaphorical megaphone, an easier way to reach the student body. By moving more toward a weekend-long party intended to catch students’ eyes and away from a “parents’ night” or alumni weekend feel, we’ll see Cèilidh established as something that will persist for decades to come. Because ultimately, given Carnegie Mellon’s hard-working atmosphere, that’s what differentiates between traditions that survive and ones that wither: relevancy, interest, and visibility.