Innovative Student Campaign Targets Elusive Millennial Market

Bob Gilbert

Faculty member Bob Gilbert

This semester, a group of Pitt Business marketing students are racing against the academic clock as they compete in a nationwide contest, the Acura ILX Marketing Challenge 2016.

The undergraduate team, called “Pros in Motion,” is competing with 20 other prominent universities to develop and implement an integrated marketing communications campaign for Acura’s ILX model.

In this class, the students shift their focus from “getting an A” to winning a nationwide competition. The class, called ‘Projects in Marketing’ organizes students into a working marketing agency, with four key departments:  Campaign Strategy, Public Relations, Advertising and Research. As their campaign progresses, students learn the value of cross-functional teamwork in addition to the specialized skills required in each department.

Automobile companies across the industry have realized that many millennials lean toward using public transportation and other transit options instead of purchasing cars. A survey of approximately 900 student respondents, carried out by the Pros in Motion research team, found that millennials rate themselves as relatively low on their interest in and knowledge of cars.  The survey also found that millennials are driving less and, when they do need transportation, are more likely to borrow friends’ cars or use services such as Uber. Instead of purchasing a new car, respondents indicated they would rather spend their limited resources on travel, recreation, and entertainment. The task for Pros is Motion will be to re-prioritize the millennial mindset to focus on the utility and value of cars, and to get the Acura ILX entered into their consideration sets.

In just 3 months — the length of a semester — the students must establish a campaign theme; conduct exploratory and descriptive research with the target market; design and implement a set of promotional tactics, including advertisements, social media plans, public relations efforts, and campus events; and conduct post-campaign research to evaluate the campaign’s success. Already, the students have created a website around the campaign theme AimHigher412.

Promotional materials created by the class

Promotional materials created by the class

Unlike classes that strictly emphasize theory and concepts, this class provides hands-on experience-based learning with a world-class brand. Upon completion of the semester, the top three teams from the group of 20 colleges competing nationwide will present their campaigns to Acura executives in Torrance, Calif. The winning team will earn $5,000 for their university.

Every semester, the Projects in Marketing class works with a different client. Students have a track record of working with internationally recognized brands in need of better understanding the young-adult segment of the population. Past clients have included Fox Sports, National Football League (NFL), American Eagle Outfitters, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the United Way. The University of Pittsburgh team has placed in the top three of national competitions 11 times.

The fall 2016 team hopes to continue the University of Pittsburgh’s winning tradition. In addition to bringing home another title for Pittsburgh, the students will use the experience to find their next job offer.

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