Julia Ringlstetter took the Brand Management course earlier this semester and was a member of one of the winning teams at the Brand Fair 2013. In this interview, she looks back on the experience and gives some tips to future students of the course.
A challenging assignment
When we started the Brand Management course, we first thought that our assignment would focus on a standard product. The topic of pensions came somewhat as a surprise, because it was more like a social product. We later defined the exercise for ourselves as social marketing, since it focused on a problem that needed to be solved for the larger society, not just for a company who wanted to make a profit.
Our target group was highschool students. We decided to interview students and ask them to tell us what pensions meant to them. It turned out to be really hard to speak to students. We wrote to several schools but didn’t receive any response. Perhaps the school authorities were concerned about privacy issues.
When we finally managed to speak to some highschool students, the first thing they said was: “Boring, I don’t want to talk about pensions.” In the end, we succeeded in completing the assignment but it was quite hard sometimes!
Defining the best approach
The first question we needed to investigate was which parties would actually have to be involved to get highschool students more interested in the topic of pensions, especially when we realised that the students didn’t know much about it.
We thought it was important to include the students’ school teachers and parents in our campaign plan. We had to get the parents interested and involved, so that they would feel confident in supporting their children in learning more about the topic. As for the teachers, we had to create an opportunity for them to teach the topic as part of the school curriculum. We learned by talking to teachers that although they found it important and were willing to teach the topic, they often didn’t have the time to do it.
Our research taught us that highschool students like being on the internet and reading magazines. We decided to make the topic of pensions more cool-looking instead of boring, by creating new associations on the topic of pensions and savings, by showing elderly people wearing sunglasses for example.
We created a website where students could follow a six-week curriculum with relevant content and exercises. This course implied one hour of teaching per week and it was fully integrated in the school curriculum. We created an online game that the students could play at the end of the curriculum.
The website also provided more information and instructions for parents and teachers, as well as an information board where students, parents and teachers could exchange ideas and questions.
As for the magazine, it was distributed at school but students could take it back home and share it with their parents. The magazine contained additional information that could be useful to complete the curriculum assignments on the website.
Brand Fair: turn it into an interactive experience!
Two of our team members presented our concept at the Brand Fair. Our approach was to turn our presentation into an active experience, by showing the website and the magazine and involving the jury. We were happy to see that the students in the jury were interested in the game that we had devised as part of the curriculum, which was based on the game of monopoly. They seemed to be having fun!
To be honest, we were a bit unsure whether our campaign succeeded in creating enough awareness. Perhaps the use of a funny video would have helped to create more awareness, but we were limited by time constraints.
In fact, we had many other ideas but were not able to implement them because building the website and the magazine required a lot of work and time. We tried to complement each other with our different skills and concentrated our efforts in making our different ideas fit together, and integrate them in the website and the magazine.
We were very happy to be one of the winning teams!
Tip for future students: give the jury something to remember
The experience showed me how difficult it is sometimes to find a balance between creating awareness and actually teaching something.
I learned that as a team, it is important to be on the same page. I also learned that during the presentation at the Brand Fair, it’s important to interact with the judges, engage them, give them something to remember, something tangible – in our case, we could give them our magazine – or three main points.
I noticed that the teams who had produced a video were less successful and some of the judges even seemed bored. So although the idea of showing a video sounds really nice and some of the videos were really funny, it was not an effective product in itself to convince the jury.
Feedback for teaching staff
As a general remark, I am not sure the topic of pensions was the best choice. I think that when we start learning about brand management, we should start with a standard product and not such a difficult product as pensions. In our case, I think our assignment was really, really difficult, not only because of the topic of pensions but because of the target group of highschool students.
It would have been nice to start off with a standard product in order to master the basic skills and only move on to a difficult project like this in a second stage.
The Brand Fair itself was definitely a very interesting experience because it was different from a standard course activity!
Interview by Sueli Brodin, Talkin’Business editor