On Martin Luther King Jr. Day the JMU College of Business (CoB) and the CoB Diversity Council introduced their first MLK Day of Service, inclusive of many CoB students, organizations, and faculty members. All of the students in my MKTG 477 class braved the cold and came together to make a difference for a local non-profit, the Explore More Discovery Museum (EMDM). Their task was to generate creative and effective marketing ideas for birthday parties held at the museum. EMDM’s birthday events are designed to be relaxing and stress-free for parents. They offer full assistance with event planning, a set-up and clean-up crew, and pre-made party themes including decorations. I asked five of my students, the “Brand Managers”, to write a guest blog post about their experience. Here is what Rachel Broudy, Taylor Glazebrook, Molly McDevitt, Christine Provino, and Cari Ross had to say…
The moment Dr. Clarke presented our Digital Marketing Practicum class with the opportunity to participate in a day of community service by developing a cohesive marketing strategy for EMDM, our minds buzzed with anticipation. Our goal was aimed at increasing sales of our client’s birthday party events by utilizing and combining our marketing expertise. We spent a total of five hours each, yielding 100 hours of combined service, working towards an objective that will ultimately benefit the local Harrisonburg community.
At the start of the day, Dr. Clarke divided us into cross-functional teams based on our team roles in the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC): Brand Managers, Strategists, Analysts, Team Leaders, and Account Managers. The specialized roles allowed us to work with other students in the class, outside of our GOMC project, to manage individual tasks that contributed to our overall goal. Our teams were positioned in an open environment, which allowed for greater collaboration between all cross-functional groups. As the day went on, teams were able to develop multiple marketing strategies to present to the Explore More Discovery Museum. This is the first time we, the Google Online Marketing Challenge students, have participated in a service event all together. Needless to say, we were eager to spend our time serving the community and sharing our marketing skills.
The Account Manager team consisted of Amy Goffe, Laura Hart, Claudia Schnorbus, Patrick Shamburger, and John Thompson. This group consulted with the EMDM Director, Lisa Schull mid-way through the day to ask questions and obtain information. In preparation for the client call, the account managers brainstormed a list of questions that were geared toward finding how we can better help EMDM’s event sales, specifically for birthday parties. The team was also in charge of taking the presentation template, designed by Brand Managers, and incorporating the class content to present to EMDM. Account Managers were an important component of our process, as their main objective was to understand everything about the EMDM’s current situation and then bring everything together in the end for the final the presentation to the client.
“It’s great to give back to the Harrisonburg community, especially kids, using the skills that we learn everyday in the classroom.” – John Thompson (Member of the Account Manager team)
The Analyst team was made up of Alex Adley, Jacob Brown, Anne Delafield, Caitlin Fikac, and Alex Murphy. Tasked with the job of creating an extensive competitive analysis for EMDM, this team went into great detail with regards to over 25 of EMDM’s competitors and their offerings. After developing and analyzing a spreadsheet full of competitive data, the team looked at trends among competitors, compared them to EMDM, and conveyed their findings to members of the Account Manager team through a perceptual map.
“It’s amazing to see a big group of people working together on one common goal and getting it done efficiently.” – Annie Delafield (Member of the Analyst team)
Contrary to their usual leadership role within the GOMC, the Team Leaders were assigned as ‘followers’ for the day of service so they could experience a supporting role. Their job for the day was to assist the other groups as needed. They began by helping the Analysts collect data for the competitive analysis, they provided edits to this blog post, and then assisted the Strategists with details for a recommendation plan. Team Leaders included Matthew Deters, Alexandra Ender, Morgan Foran, Emily Maynard, and Lynn Radocha. When asked what their biggest takeaway from this day was, the Team Leaders collectively responded, “the experience was a glimpse of what a real-world working environment is like, with cross-functional groups and departments coming together to accomplish a goal.”
The Strategist team included Drew Dyer, Elka Feinstein, Natalie Krewin, Maianh Phan, and Jacob Shibley. This team brought a lot of creativity to the plan as the task was to generate media strategy ideas, message elements, and theme ideas for EMDM’s birthday parties. The team commented that “narrowing down our ideas and expanding on them” was crucial to their part of the marketing plan. The Strategists initiated new ways of communicating the client’s unique selling proposition by emphasizing ideas such as “more fun less work,” to
promote the stress free events to parents. They brainstormed ideas to target the parties towards a variety of events beyond traditional birthdays, such as celebrations for local sports teams and other child-focused organizations. In addition, Strategists were tasked with developing potential revenue-generating “add-ons” for the party such as t-shirts, goody bags, or “green screen” pictures that could be added to their party package experience. The team came up with a few website-enhancing ideas in order to make the online experience more enjoyable for consumers, such as providing customers the ability to search for and book dates for a potential party. When Strategists were asked what the most challenging part of their day was, all agreed that “having to put ourselves back into kids’ shoes was definitely a challenge, but a fun one to face.”
The final team, Brand Managers, had a primary objective of publicizing the experience for the members of our class. This consisted of live tweeting and creating a guest post for Dr. Clarke’s blog to track and discuss the activities of all 25 students throughout the day of service. Brand Managers were in charge of taking pictures, inquiring and keeping up with the progress of the other teams, and collaborating with cross-functional groups. In addition, Brand Managers were assigned to design an aesthetically pleasing template for the final presentation to EMDM.
“It’s important for students to brand themselves using the work they’ve accomplished at JMU. The College of Business Day of Service was a great representation of what students are capable of doing to build their business skills while providing a great service to a local non-profit.” – Rachel Broudy (Member of the Brand Manager team)
By the end of the day, our class of 25 students alone devoted a total of 100 service hours to further benefit the Harrisonburg community. Our class was successfully able to develop a cohesive marketing plan for our client. The plan consisted of ways to enhance their current website, promote and advertise their birthday party experience, and create “add ons” to increase revenue. We had a great time working with EMDM and were happy to help them work towards their sales goal. Overall the first College of Business MLK Day of Service was a great success, filled with pizza, cakes, laughs, and camraderie among everyone involved!