Marketers and Designers Team Up

June 20, 2013
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Marketing and graphic design majors at MNU have the unique opportunity each year to collaborate much as they would in a real-life business setting. The promotions management (marketing) and corporate identity (graphic design) students team up and create an advertising campaign for a real client. Graphic design professor Brian Merriman uses his 22 years of experience in the graphic design industry to connect a business owner with the students.

“I’m rooted in the practical, day-to-day aspects of what we’re teaching in graphic design and all of that experience has been local, so I know the Kansas City market well – I have a lot of contacts in this market for internships and networking opportunities for students,” Merriman said.

This year his efforts brought Blue Springs Harley-Davidson dealership owner Lori Worth to MNU to discuss her business goals with students. Armed with Worth’s priorities and a budget, the 11 student teams began to create ad campaigns and planned media buys as if they were spending real dollars.

The promotion management students began the process with research on demographics and trends from Census data, Chamber of Commerce information, the MidAmerica Regional Council and other data sources. Some groups performed surveys and interacted with consumers at the dealership and around Blue Springs, Mo., where the dealership is located, about an hour from MNU.

Marketing professor Lisa Wallentine says the marketing students put together a marketing campaign to address the situation and about a month later, they collaborate with their assigned student designer from the corporate identity class.

“The process is realistic, just like what they’d be doing as part of an ad agency or marketing department,” Wallentine says. “The theme the marketer conceives has to be based on strategic plans from research findings. Then the designer takes that information and comes up with a creative strategy and implements designs. It’s a two-month project.”

Merriman agrees the process is valid.

“This is just like it happens in the real world – our designers get a creative brief and design within the scope of the particular problem to help bring the strategy to life.”

Wallentine and Merriman narrowed the field down to three projects to present to the client. The winning project, called “It’s more than just a fantasy,” was created by designer Mary Ribbing and, marketing students Sarah Newburg and Brittany Matthews. Targeted toward the female buyer, the campaign capitalized on the idea that many women dream about owning a motorcycle.

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Newburg says the experience was enlightening.

“I think the biggest takeaway was creating something for a real client,” she says. “Prior to this project, I have always come up with things that I liked. This time I had to create something not only I would like but that our client would like. We had to keep our budget in mind and it forced us to be creative and to see how expensive things can be.”

Whether or not Worth utilizes the students’ campaign she indicated to the professors that elements of all three projects will probably affect the dealership’s marketing decisions.

Merriman says results for the students are significant.

“The students learn how clients drive the graphic design business,” he said. “They need to know how to interact with clients and understand there is a business basis for a lot of graphic design decisions. They learn strategy, who the target market is, budget, campaigns already in process—all that must be integrated into the designs they do for a client.”

Wallentine and Merriman have been doing the joint project for about six years. In previous years students have created projects for The Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas Rush (formerly Olathe Youth Soccer), and New Horizon Ranch.