Organizations use their rankings primarily as public relations and marketing tools. As such, institutional efforts to improve rankings are often, but not always, made for their marketing impact. This opinion is based, in part, on my interpretation of countless billboards, newspaper advertisements, and TV and radio commercials across the country.
While rankings can function as organizational performance metrics, rankings are indirect measurements better suited to creating an immediate impression. They rarely provide the critical details necessary for iterative revision of tactics and strategies. While this is a disadvantage in their operational use as metrics, it is an advantage in marketing, where a ranking is often used to make the simple statement “We’re better than others.” Creating this impression through the aura of “ranking” adds an additional quasi-scientific credential to what is otherwise an advertisement.