Rowan communication students strike “gold” in marketing challenge

Rowan communication students strike “gold” in marketing challenge

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Megan Jean, Timothy Stanford, Brittany Eng; Kailey Bertelson and Hannah Vendetta.

Tested with applying everything they know about advertising and marketing to a real world problem – how to position an online retailer amid withering competition – a group of Rowan communication majors struck gold.

Entered into a semester-long challenge in the fall, the five-member team of public relations and advertising majors were tasked with how to promote BOXED, an online bulk goods retailer that launched in 2013 into a field crowded by Amazon, Wal-Mart, Costco and other established merchants.

Sponsored by Marketing EDGE, a New York City non-profit, the Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge pitted the Rowan team against 133 groups from colleges across the U.S.

When the winners were announced March 4, Rowan’s team, dubbed “Incredible Bulk,” claimed gold, and a $2,000 first place prize.

The team, Kailey Bertelson, Hannah Vendetta, Brittany Eng, Megan Jean, and Timothy Stanford, committed countless hours to the extracurricular project throughout the semester, unaware of how they’d be judged or who they’d be competing against.

“They gave us a creative brief, a target market and a budget. The rest was up to us,” said Bertelson, a junior advertising major with minors in journalism and strategic communication.

Vendetta, a senior public relations and advertising major with a minor in strategic communication, said the target market was prosperous mothers in the Delmarva region who would like to spend more time with their young children and less time shopping, especially for bulky items like paper goods.

“The assignment was to develop a campaign to target affluent moms and that consisted of doing research and coming up with tactics,” she said.

The team conducted primary and secondary research, some of which involved telephone interviews with about 20 mothers regarding their shopping habits, lifestyle, children, where they shop and what would make their life easier.

Ultimately, the research led to a campaign theme, “Two Day Shipping, more Two Day Weekends,” and advertising, including a 15-second spot in which Vendetta, portraying a mom (at right), exited a vehicle with a big bundle of paper towels, a child at her side and another atop her package, and kicked the door closed with her foot.

“The judges loved that,” she said.

More importantly, it’s the type of message that the team knew, through their research, would speak to their target market.

“Moms like relatable content,” Bertelson. “They like to see the unglamourous sides of parenting that they can relate to.”

Faculty advisor Charles McLeester said winning the competition will give the students a resume item that many peers seeking jobs upon graduating just can’t touch.

“While even a modest cash prize is a bonus for a student, the career enhancement is worth much more,” McLeester said. “The Gold ECHO does a lot to differentiate a new graduate's resume in a competitive field."

Dr. Suzanne FitzGerald, chair of the Department of Public Relations & Advertising within the College of Communication & Creative Arts, said her students’ success in the competition speaks to talent and commitment, invaluable qualities in the highly competitive communication fields.

"I'm so proud of the dedication of these students to their craft and to the department,” FitzGerald said. “I saw them here on weekends, late at night and back again the next morning. Thankfully all that hard work paid off in terms of building their reputation and, also, a monetary award."