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Business students take marketing skills ‘coast to coast’

IU Northwest students get real-world marketing experience by forming agency, executing plan for global client

Tuesday Dec 18, 2012


Indiana University Northwest students enrolled in a Consumer Behavior marketing class with Professor of Marketing Subir Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D. received a unique opportunity this fall to put their skills to work by creating an actual marketing campaign, for an actual client, and even with an actual budget.

Chevrolet wanted to reach 18- to 24-year-olds. Bandyopadhyay wanted to teach students concepts in marketing. What better way to accomplish both than to pair eager marketing-pros-in-training with the needs of a global company?

Thanks to a collaboration made possible by EdVenture Partners, an organization dedicated to developing innovative industry-education partnership programs, the 15 upperclassmen came together with Mike Anderson Chevrolet of Merrillville. The students were provided with $3,000 to pull off a promotional event aimed at measuring and increasing awareness of Chevrolet among the millennial target market.

The students accomplished this by forming an actual marketing agency and delegating responsibilities just like a real agency would. They called themselves RedHawk Marketing Company and divided themselves into teams charged with research, strategy, positioning, public relations, advertising and finance.  

The students’ project was highlighted on a mid-November day with an on-campus promotional event, “Coast to Coast with Chevy,” in which they used free pizza, loud music and Chevy’s dazzling new models to entice an estimated 500 members of the campus community to stop by, sit in the cars and fill out surveys to aid the students’ research.

At semester’s end, the group pulled together another event, this time a professional presentation in which they summarized their campaign and presented their findings in front of their professor, their client - Mike Anderson Chevrolet - and even local newspaper reporters who were intrigued by this unique opportunity for hands-on learning.

The students announced in their final report that, based on their pre- and post-event surveys, “we were able to increase the percentage of individuals in our target audience who think of Chevy as an excellent car to 29 percent, an increase of 19 percent compared to the original sample of 10 percent.

“The amount of people who would add Chevy to their consideration set with their next car purchase increased dramatically,” the students reported. “Since, for most of these people, this would be their first car purchase, we believe this might be our biggest achievement we performed for Chevrolet.”

Accounting major Caressa Rospierski worked in RedHawk Marketing Company’s finance department and also served as the group’s advertising coordinator. She said the most valuable thing she learned from the experience was how to work as a team. Going into the project, she said, the classmates didn’t know each other at all, but they soon became colleagues and even friends.

“I definitely think I will carry that with me,” said Rospierski. “You start with a task and you don’t know how you are going to work with other people . . . . But it can be done. We’ve proved that.”

Eden Strange, a senior majoring in business administration, agreed. He called the assignment “the ultimate in teamwork.”

“We are at the threshold of stepping out into the real world. We got a taste of what we are going to be looking at once we leave here,” he said. “I learned how to navigate different attitudes, different opinions, how to mediate.

“It also helped with presentation skills, with presenting material to strangers, to important people,” he added. “It helped with interviewing skills, talking with media and representing, not only myself, but also the university and the company that we formed.”

Al Kuchar, general manager of Mike Anderson Chevrolet in Merrillville, said he was impressed not only with the students’ ability to increase awareness and appreciation of the Chevrolet brand, but also with the way they leveraged their professional resources to benefit the agency, and the campaign.

“I think you guys did a wonderful job as far as creating interest and creating a crowd,” Kuchar told the students.

Thanks to the event, the students collected market research and generated leads that will benefit the sales and marketing folks at Mike Anderson Chevrolet. Kuchar said their work “certainly enlightened us” about the market, which was their aim.

Though he instructs the class, Bandyopadhyay took something of a back seat as the students worked on their project, serving only as their advisor. It was ultimately RedHawk Marketing Company, he said, that effectively took the reins and made crucial decisions for the campaign.  

This type of experiential classroom activity is somewhat new for Bandyopadhyay as well. He said that, although working with local businesses is common for his classes, collaboration with a national brand like Chevrolet, and with a client that actually pays to have a promotion developed, is an uncommon opportunity. This made the experience about as real as it gets, he said.

RedHawk Marketing Company consisted of: Brittany Burrell, Mark Burress, Jr., Karla Cardenas, Tiffany Casey, Tom Chakos, Joshua Donelson, Marsail Haddad, Adam Martinez, Jennifer Otano, Adrian Pavlovic, Molly Robbins, Caressa Rospierski, Eden Strange, Dustin Woosley, and Bridgette Ziolkowski.

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