Undergraduate Business students from the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) took industry engagement to a new level by contributing target market-focused marketing ideas for a new youth drink launched by KFC.
The Marketing Strategy class was approached by the KFC Marketing Manager, Claire Wilson, to seek students' involvement in a real live product. The class of 137 students were given ten weeks to work on creating a relevant strategy that was applicable to the newly introduced KRUSHERS, which targets the 18-24 age segment.
For the presentations, students created jingles, videos, mock products and new web pages. The final presentations, which were made recently in front of a KFC marketing team, won high praise.
"The students surpassed our expectations by far, through theoretical and creative inputs. It was great to have ideas from people who not only fall within our target market but are also up and coming marketers, commented Claire Wilson, after witnessing the final presentations. "It was a win-win situation for both parties: we got valuable first-hand inputs from the target segment and the students get to engage themselves in a live product.
Dr. Melodena S. Balakrishnan, Associate Professor at UOWD has led previously several industry engagement projects, said: "The concepts taught in the class from western textbooks often seem more a lesson in memorization than actual preparation for a practical career. One of the biggest barriers in education is the lack of industry involvement. In most markets, internships are a part of the course curriculum but labour laws restrict students from working. The project with KFC gave our students valuable practical lessons in marketing a product.
As part of the project, the students had to understand this target segment across the Middle East and create a marketing mix plan with recommendation for product evolution across the product life cycle, recommended pricing for new sizes and below the line strategy for the product.
The entire class was divided into 27 teams of 5 students each. The average performance of the class for the first assignment was around 55% with only three teams in the high distinctions. By the second assignment, the average performance had increased to 63% with at least six teams in the High distinctions. By the third assignment, there were 11 teams with a high distinction. By the time the third and fifth assignments were completed, the average was 71-75% with many teams submitting consultancy quality reports.
The KFC team visited the class early in the project and the students were able to relate the written case with an actual project. Winners not only got an industry recommendation, a certificate, peer approval but an opportunity to present to the entire KFC KRUSHERS Team in their regional headquarters.
Students each got a free sample and the winning team got a prize of AED 1000. KFC got a possible campaign poster, invaluable feedback, and great recommendation ideas from the target segment for the target segment.
When the project began, less than 1% of the class had heard about the product. By week 6 more students were loyal to KFC than at the beginning of the class. Further, an average 50% of class had told at least 3 others and 20% had posted the information about the project on face book. There was a buzz in the university and most students had heard about the KRUSHERS.
"The MARK 344 KRUSHERS Project is an example in teaching where industry involvement led to a symbiotic relationship helping students adapt to a real world context specifically our Middle East market, said Melodena Balakrishnan.