Today’s college students are used to Uber, Lyft, and other popular ride-sharing apps being just a click away.
For some, owning an automobile doesn’t hold the same sway as it once did.
This was the challenge facing students from the University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration in a project where they were tasked with marketing the Acura ILX compact sedan to the college-aged demographic.
The project was part of the Projects in Marketing course taught by Professor Bob Gilbert. Over the course of the spring semester, his students developed a comprehensive marketing campaign for Acura. Their campaign theme, “You’ve Earned It,” was supported by traditional and emerging advertising tactics, including the use of social media influencers and guerrilla-based marketing.
“Millennials and Gen Z are known for being competitive, driven, and having that ‘go-getter’ spirit, so we wanted to emphasize the fact that they deserve an Acura for all their hard work,” says Alaina Donnelly (Junior – Human Resources & Marketing), who served as head of public relations in the project.
The students say the experience has been unlike any other course at Pitt Business. There were no lectures and no written exams. The entire class worked as one. They were divided into the different units of a full-service marketing agency, with some students elevated to department heads where they manage their peers.
The students’ grades were based on the quality of the work that they perform for the client. They also find that it takes collaboration, communication, and teamwork to get the job done.
“This course is 100% student driven,” says Eliza Talvola (Senior – Marketing), who led the non-traditional advertising team. “Even in my internships, I’ve never been able to lead a campaign for a real client like this.”
Among the students’ contributions in the You’ve Earned it Campaign were working with Pittsburgh artists with a large social media following in order to build brand awareness through a social media influencer campaign.
The students filmed a video interview with local photographer Chancelor Humphrey (@KeepPittsburghDope) in which they drove around his favorite locations in Pittsburgh in the Acura ILX. A 360-degree camera followed the conversation as Humphrey shared what these places meant to him and how he has seen Pittsburgh grow as a city.
Students also threw a big party on campus to celebrate the Acura ILX. Called the Mega Acura ILX CARnival, the event featured outdoor games like life-sized Jenga and Connect 4, popular carnival foods like popcorn, and entertainment from a magician.
“Through this project, I learned how to execute a full advertising campaign and what it was like to work at an advertising agency,” says Gabriela Thoma (Senior – Marketing & Business Information Systems). “Prior to this class, I had never shot a commercial or ran a social media campaign on such a large scale. I also had never conducted market research on a sample size of over 500 people.”
Based on market research, the students were able to measure the impact of their marketing campaign. They surveyed people before and after their marketing efforts to find the following effects:
- 37 percent increase in perception and awareness when given the statement: “I would like to be seen driving this car (an Acura)
- 82 percent increase in familiarity when asked: “How familiar are you with the Acura brand?”
- 250 percent increase in purchase consideration in people choosing Acura when asked: “What brands are in your consideration set?”
The project with Acura is offered through a partnership with EdVenture Partners. The Pitt Business students will later submit their Acura project for a national case competition where it will be judged against campaigns that students from other business schools created for Acura.
To date, Pitt Business has won more than 10 national competitions. Previous classes have created marketing campaigns for the NFL and Pittsburgh Steelers, American Eagle Outfitters, Major League Baseball and Fox Sports, Honda, Nissan, and the Central Intelligence Agency. On occasion, the teams have presented to top company executives at the company headquarters.
Adam Hoge (Senior – Marketing & Business Information Systems) says his experience as head of traditional advertising in the Acura project taught him that hard work does not go unnoticed in the business world.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better course to help launch my career,” Hoge says.
- Watch a video on how the Projects in Marketing students hit a home run on a project with Major League Baseball and Fox Sports.