IUN students put their marketing skills to the test
By Matt Mikus firstname.lastname@example.org December 6, 2012 7:24PM
Eden Strange, a business administration student from Gary, answers questions about a presentation by Red Hawk Marketing for Mike Anderson Chevrolet at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Ind. Wednesday December 5, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 8, 2013 6:26AM
GARY — Red Hawk Marketing is a small company of 15 associates who plan marketing events and conduct research for clients. What’s unique about Red Hawk Marketing? All the employees are students at Indiana University Northwest.
By joining with EdVenture Partners, a company that allows students to develop real business practices by forming partnerships with corporations around the country, the students developed a real marketing campaign for a local business — Mike Anderson Chevrolet in Merrillville and with the national brand Chevy. They presented their results Thursday at the Dunes Medical and Professional Building on the IUN campus.
The partnership was the first program like this offered at IUN, and both the students and their professor, Subir Bandyopadhyay, were not sure what to expect.
“I don’t believe we had any project of this size and magnitude at the university,” Bandyopadhyay said. “I told them the first day that we’ve never had anything like this, and I don’t know if we’ll have an opportunity like this again.”
Mike Anderson presented a problem to the students. Chevrolet released a new model and the dealership wanted to market the car to a target buyer.
“The problem they gave us was he wanted to focus on an 18- to 24-year-old age market,” said Dustin Woosley, one of the project managers. “They wanted us to research and raise awareness of the new Chevy Spark, and raise awareness of the Mike Anderson brand.”
The dealership also wanted to promote the college discount provided to students who are about to graduate or who recently graduated.
Students in October divided the company into branches that included research, campaign strategy, public relations, advertising and finance.
First, the company conducted research on how familiar students at IUN are with Chevrolet, the Spark, the Mike Anderson dealership, and the college discount.
The team received a $3,000 budget and used the funds to create an on-campus event Nov. 13 with the theme “Coast to Coast with Chevy.” They offered free pizza and handouts if participants completed a survey and looked at the cars on display, like the Camaro, the Cruze, the Equinox and the Spark.
“The idea of the event was to get seats in the seat,” said Eden Strange, one of the campaign strategists. “We wanted them to get a chance to sit in the cars and play with them. And we wanted them to get to know Mike Anderson.”
They promoted the event largely through Facebook and the IUN website, but also used radio ads, yard signs and banners, and fliers to promote the event.
The event brought in 500 people, far exceeding their goal of 100. They found that after the event, awareness of the Chevy brand and of Mike Anderson Chevrolet increased. Before the event, 40 percent of the target audience was in the market for a new vehicle, their research found. After the event, the interest grew to 80 percent. The team also increased awareness of the college discount program from 10 percent before the event to 29 percent.
Al Kuchar, a representative of Chevrolet, was pleased. He said a professional marketing firm held a similar event at a local mall on a Saturday, and offered free gas cards, but attracted only 47 people.
“That’s a huge success,” Kuchar said, “They did create better results because they did a lot of work, and they knew their target market.”
The students had freedom to decide how to develop their campaign and conduct the research, which they viewed as liberating but also a little scary given the responsibility.
“It was a risk for everyone — for us, for Mike Anderson and for the university” Strange said. “If we bombed, it would look bad for everyone involved. Hopefully this sets a precedence for other students in the future.”