Marketing 101 According to Dean Pelton from NBC’s ‘Community’

NBC’s Community is about a motley study group at Greendale Community College. The school is run by Dean Pelton – a lively, enthusiastic character who loves his job and cross-dressing maybe a little bit too much. Dean Pelton goes to extraordinary lengths to prove that Greendale is just as credible and valuable as any other university (specifically Greendale’s rival, City College). Most of the attempts he makes are spot-on marketing ideas, but they just miss the mark on the follow-through.

The best way to learn anything is by learning from other people’s (and sometimes your own) mistakes. Dean Pelton made plenty of marketing mistakes, had a couple of successes, and all of them hold valuable lessons for you and your brand!

Branding: Finding the Right Mascot — Branding is the most important aspect of marketing. You have to create a brand aesthetic, image, and voice in order to be remembered. One way that the dean attempts to build excitement about Greendale is by creating a new outfit for their mascot, the Human Beings. The dean collaborates with Pierce Hawthorne to create an entirely race and gender neutral mascot to represent all human beings. The result? Completely terrifying, but certainly unique and memorable. You can get a look at Greendale’s mascot in the video below.


Troy Barnes

Troy Barnes is the face of Greendale's football team

“Celebrity” Endorsements — Once you’ve established your brand, your next task is to get the word out. Local and famous celebrities can work wonders for your brand. If people see their favorite trusted celebrity supporting your company, they will be more likely to invest in your brand. The dean planned to attract some positive attention to Greendale by recruiting high school football star, Troy Barnes, to join Greendale’s football team. By getting a local “celebrity” on the team, the dean hopes to get some press coverage, which would in turn create some hype around the community college and encourage more students to enroll. This was one of the few marketing schemes employed by Dean Pelton that didn’t end in disaster.

Promotional Products — Promotional products are proven to create lasting brand impressions. A clever, useful gift is guaranteed to get people talking. Even Dean Pelton uses promotional products! The Dean hosts an STD fair, and in order to promote the school he orders custom condoms that say, “Greendale!” Sounds like a spot-on idea, right? Well, it would be…if he had gotten the imprint on the wrapper, and not on the actual condom. But unfortunately that was not the case, and when the students began using the condoms as water balloons they discovered that the condoms all had holes in the exclamation point of the imprint – Woops! Be smart with your imprints to ensure that you get the most brand impressions for your buck.

Dean Pelton

Dean Pelton has a unique costume for every event

Events — Organized events are a great way to create a sense of community among your customers, employees, or students. Dean Pelton organizes campus events frequently to build excitement around the school. He organizes dances for Valentine’s Day and parties for Halloween, concerts by Greene Day (not to be confused with Green Day, even though the Dean does) and Toni Braxton, and campus-wide paintball tournaments. Unfortunately for the dean, most of his events end up in some sort of debacle, but that just makes them all the more memorable! Hopefully your events will go without a hitch, but it should be comforting to know that there is still hope even if something does go wrong.

Imagine how much more popular Greendale would be if all of the dean’s efforts didn’t end in chaos! Any of Dean Pelton’s strategies would be a surefire way to promote your brand – you just have to be a little more thoughtful than he was in executing them.

Do you watch Community?  Can you think of any other failed or successful marketing tactics employed by Greendale’s Dean? What other marketing campaigns do you think should he try in the future?

Image credit to Dean Pelton Facebook Fan Page, Troy Barnes Facebook Fan Page and Jeff Winger Facebook Fan Page.

Jenna Markowski

Jenna has a much easier time writing about the media and pop culture than she does writing about herself. She enjoys the simple things in life, like puns and typography. She is an avid fan of pop-punk, Halo 3, Spider-Man and origami, with a slight Taco Bell obsession. Her spirit animal is either a bulldog or a panda bear. You can also connect with Jenna on Google+.


  1. Juliette

    Oh! How about “making sure you can deliver what you promise”? I’m thinking about infamous paintball contest/free-for-all in the first season where the dean offered a prize that he technically couldn’t deliver. 🙂

    And for the record, I love this show so much!

    • Jenna Markowski

      Oh! That’s a good one, Juliette! If companies (or Deans) make promises to their customers that they can’t keep, they’ll end up with some very angry people on their hands (and maybe even a paintball or 12 to the face)!

      The QLP blogsquad loves Community, too! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  2. Mandy Kilinskis

    Man, who knew that Greendale was such a great resource for marketing techniques?! If there was a significant lack of typical hyjinx, Greendale might actually be pretty darn illustrious. These are great tips for any brand that spends more time brainstorming marketing strategies than their next costume! 🙂

    The dean also tries to get Jeff to support everything! You’re right about the celebrity endorsements: if the cool kids want to do it, everyone will want to do it.

    Great post, Jenna! The world/internet/our blog could always use more Community!

    • Jenna Markowski

      Right?! Dean Pelton is always trying to push the envelope to prove that Greendale is better than City College, but sometimes he pushes the envelope a little too hard and into a big ball of chaos!

      You’re so right about the dean using Jeff as a celebrity endorsement. He even gets Jeff’s pictures printed on those mailers! (Which he then uses to blackmail Jeff into getting Troy on the football team, but you get the idea.)

      Thanks, Mandy! I agree! 🙂

  3. amy

    Awesome post Jenna! It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ‘Human Being’ episode, I’d forgotten how horribly creepy it is LOL. I’ve watched ‘Community’ since season 1 and I cannot wait for it to premiere next Thursday!! I agree with your statement that Dean Pelton tries his hardest to promote Greendale, it’s just unfortunate for him that it never exactly pans out as it should. Oh well, means more hilarious episodes for us!

    • Jenna Markowski

      Thanks, Amy! It is horribly creepy, but I also can’t help but love it! I’m so glad that I got into ‘Community,’ it has definitely become one of my favorite TV shows! I can’t wait for the new season either! Dean Pelton does his best, but you’re right — if everything didn’t end in a catastrophe the show wouldn’t be as funny! 🙂

  4. Rachel

    I love that you pulled great marketing and branding tips from the dean’s mistakes, haha. Also, Community newbie question: in that video, is Joel McHale supposed to be romantically involved with an 18-year-old? Whatever, I’ll watch to find out. I think if I don’t start watching this show this season I’ll be disowned by the Blog Squad … 😉 Great post, Jenna!

    • Jenna Markowski

      Thanks, Rachel! There’s quite a few mistakes that any marketer can learn from! On to your question: it’s tricky. He’s not romantically involved with her in this scene, or ever really…it’s complicated. You’ll have to watch the show to find out all of the juicy details! Haha Do it! You will love it! 🙂

  5. Jen

    Great Topic Jenna 😉 LOL.

    But in all seriousness, this is a great blog. You mentioned all the best marketing strategies a company could use to promote themselves.

    I sometimes feel bad for Dean Pelton, he comes up with some good ideas, but they always fail miserably. He should probably let Jeff create some of the plans, they would go off without a hitch and everyone would love it, especially the Dean ;).

    • Jenna Markowski

      Haha, thanks, Jen! Some really clever girl put it up for grabs. 😉

      Thanks! I’m still only halfway through season 2, so I’m sure there’s even more strategies that Dean Pelton attempts that I haven’t even gotten to yet! I feel bad for him, too! All he’s ever been guilty of is loving Greendale too much…poor guy. I think you’re onto something — but I doubt Jeff would ever take on that responsibility. He’s got too much “cool” stuff to do!

  6. Joseph Giorgi

    Fantastic post, Jenna! 😀

    I never really thought about how proactive Dean Pelton was when it came to marketing. His activities, events, and promotional techniques didn’t always pan out the way he wanted, but the effort is what counts sometimes. Greendale wouldn’t be Greendale without him.

    Haha. The Greendale “Human Beings.” Classic!

  7. Jenna Markowski

    Thanks, Joe! You’re right — Dean Pelton certainly gets an ‘A’ for effort. You can’t say he didn’t try! Greendale definitely wouldn’t be the same without their cross-dressing, dalmation-loving dean! 🙂

  8. Amanda

    Nice points here Jenna! Just goes to show us all that even the best of intentions can go horribly wrong if presented in a strange way.

    I am super excited to start watching this show, especially since good ol Dan Connor is joining the cast! 😉

  9. Jill Tooley

    Haha! The Greendale Human Beings? Greene Day? I love this guy already! He does seem to be on the right track with all of his ideas, but all he needs is that last push to make them successful. (I love the personalized condoms, too. There’s no sense in imprinting the actual condom with a logo, of course, but if they had been imprinted correctly they could have been outstanding marketing devices!)

    Great post, Jenna! 🙂

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