New 'State' of Ads: Business students create integrated marketing campaign

By: Austin Arceo, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
May 21, 2012

As college students conversed and played games while enjoying free food and giveaways during a recent event, they might have missed the ultimate objective - for them to buy more products.

A group of Indiana State University business students organized "Sycamores Gone Wild," which attracted more than 175 students as part of an outreach event for several local businesses to get their name out to ISU. The students created the initiative as part of Sycamore Business Advisors, an organization featuring business students who provide consulting services to local businesses and nonprofits. The students working with Sycamore Business Advisors, also known as SyBA, this semester partnered with the Indiana Statesman, ISU's student newspaper, to develop an integrated marketing plan for the publication.

"It was a pilot program, pioneered stuff, and our objective was to see if we could do it," said Frederick Majors, a senior marketing major from Evansville and one of the SyBA students. "The objective was reached very easily. I think we can even do more" in the future.

The newspaper sales staff has primarily sold traditional print advertisements for the newspaper without branching out into new territory, said Rachel Wedding McClelland, director of student publications at ISU.

"When I came in, the online presence was dismal, and so we've really worked in the last two years to bring ourselves up to speed so that we can connect with students who are our audience, and students connect via electronic means," she said. "And if our online presence is compelling, it will give them a reason to pick up a paper."

The business students created a plan that included traditional advertising with additional elements as well. The group organized the social event, which included giving ISU students coupons to the businesses advertising with the student publication.

One restaurant had previously advertised with the student publication, but stopped before agreeing to the SyBA endeavor. More than 70 students used the coupons they received through advertising efforts this semester to eat at the restaurant, Majors said.

"So they got their return and then some, and we were able to show them that because they had the actual coupons," Majors said. "The biggest thing is we wanted to make sure everything was measureable."

Traditional advertisers in the Statesman also got into the act. Students from the business group approached Jay Knott, owner of The Ballyhoo near campus. An existing advertiser with the student publication, he worked with the business advisers group on additional initiatives which involved social media.

"I understood why they were doing it," said Knott, who graduated from ISU in 1996 with a degree in marketing. "I thought it was a good idea to add more value to the Statesman advertising."

The Ballyhoo also was a featured sponsor of "Sycamores Gone Wild" event, providing a disc jockey and prizes to give away during the event. While he would continue to advertise in the Statesman even without the new initiatives, he said the new initiatives "make it more appealing to do it more frequently."

"They did a good job," Knott said. "I think they brought some things to the table that can certainly be used by the Statesman in the future as more and more students get away from print ... newspapers."

ISU Student Publications hasn't always seen the potential in campus partnerships. In the past, few students from outside of journalism or English writing classes took advantage of opportunities available with the publication, Wedding McClelland said.

"I was surprised to see how little involvement we had in our business operations from business students because we are a hands-on experiential learning lab," she added. "We offer students a whole lot of opportunities that they just won't get on ISU's campus to supplement the curriculum."

Although this is the first semester that the Sycamore Business Advisors students have worked directly with the publication's business operations, they worked in past semesters providing consulting services for the student publication.

"Here we've got this existing business on campus, and it's a pretty big business actually, and it's real," said Art Sherwood, co-creator of the business initiative and professor of the class working with the newspaper. "We're able to put students into the situations where they're making real decisions in real-time, and we're able to coach that."

The "Sycamores Gone Wild" event was one of the new initiatives that SyBA created. Through having the social outing, the group was able to inform students about the benefits that sponsors are offering, along with increasing awareness of the Statesman itself, said Ryan McCoy, associate director of SyBA.

"As we went along and progressed and made this business, we realized we could go way out there with all the different things we could do from a marketing standpoint and advertising for these clients," McCoy said.

The SyBA students also enhanced advertising via social media. They worked with the Statesman staff who posted advertising specials for sponsors on the newspaper's homepage and Facebook and Twitter pages. They even found that coupons scanned and uploaded as photos were well-received, Majors said.

Though Sherwood was the professor for the class, he didn't get involved with much of the hands-on work involved in the projects, letting students succeed or falter on their own.

"It's like your dad throwing you into the pool," Majors said. "You're going to learn how to swim."

Wedding McClelland looks forward to developing additional campus partnerships that will lead to improved student learning.

"If students can get involved with the Statesman and learn by doing, they'll be amazed at how much this experience can prepare them for life after college," she said. "We have an experiential learning gold mine right here on campus."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-g77XbVC/0/L/i-g77XbVC-L.jpg (Submitted photo)Indiana State University students line up at a table during the "Sycamores Gone Wild" event that featured sponsors of the Statesman, ISU's student newspaper, sponsoring the event and giving out items to become more well-known among students.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-rtBcZ4B/0/L/i-rtBcZ4B-L.jpg (Submitted Photo)Indiana State University students during the "Sycamores Gone Wild" event this spring.

Contact: Rachel Wedding McClelland, director of student publications and instructor of journalism, Indiana State University, 812-237-3028 or rachel.mcclelland@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu