High-impact experiential learning and industry engagement important part of marketing course

Students in Dr. Dwayne Gremler’s Marketing Management course had a valuable opportunity during the fall semester to prepare a comprehensive marketing plan for an international company planning a U.S. launch of one of its pet care products. Vitakraft, the European parent company of Vitakraft Sun Seed that is located just west of Bowling Green, successfully sells its cat-calming product, Felisept, in European markets, and was looking for student insights as they prepared to launch the product into the American market this spring.cat

According to Dr. Gremler, Vitakraft Sun Seed approached him about getting marketing assistance on the U.S. launch.  The BGSU professor regularly looks for such an opportunity for his students to synthesize their knowledge from previous marketing classes and to apply concepts to develop marketing plans for a real client.

The purpose of the Marketing 4600 course is to help students learn about the role and responsibility of a marketing manager and that is exactly what they did through this hands-on experience.

“When I teach a capstone course such as Marketing 4600,” states Dr. Gremler, “I think it is important to provide students with an opportunity to work with a real (“live”) client.  I have them work in relatively large teams (of 14-16 students) and spend the semester developing an extensive marketing plan.”

Dr. Gremler adds, “Often in our capstone classes we have students do case studies and/or marketing simulations.  However, I really like to have students stand up in front of ‘real’ business managers and, to their faces, tell them what they should or should not be doing in terms of their marketing programs and activities.  That experience is a ‘real world’ as it gets.”

roomDr. Gremler’s class begins with having students do an extensive situation analysis to better understand the client and the competitive environment they face.  Based upon that knowledge, the team then suggests appropriate marketing goals and objectives and puts together a detailed marketing plan to accomplish those objectives.  At the end of the semester, the plan is presented to the client organization. 

In past semesters clients have included Sattler Painting (Perrysburg), Maria Early Childhood Learning Center (Toledo), the BGSU (Forrest Creason) Golf Course, Sun Seed’s SunSation Hay, and Vitakraft’s VitaSmart product line.

Dr. Gremler states: “By the end of the semester, students have had the opportunity to put many of the concepts they have learned to work and they see how all are integrally related.  Many past student have reported that they used the marketing plan that was developed as they interviewed for jobs.  The hands-on experience they have had is often quite appealing to interviewers.”

Derwin Pritchett was one of the team leaders and values his experience. "This class helped put into perspective the difference between marketing in the classroom and marketing in the real world. Leading a team of 15 of my peers as an account executive was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had in my college career, and one that I can speak about at-length in job interviews. I will be drawing on this experience and its lessons for years to come."

Rachelle Maurer was also a team leader and praised her real-world experience. "Marketing Management is the first course where I was able to put all the knowledge I acquired in my classes to construct a marketing plan for a real-life company. From the first day of class, Dr. Gremler held us to a high standard like we were employees at a company. There were many challenges along the way, but in the end it was very rewarding seeing the final marketing plan we provided the company."

It wasn’t just the students who benefitted; Vitakraft Sun Seed received “fresh” and objective marketing insight from young, potential future customers.

President and CEO of Vitakraft Sun Seed Company, Brent Weinmann, was particularly impressed with several aspects of the students’ marketing proposals, including targeted marketing segmentation and ideas on using social media to drive brand awareness.

Weinmann states, “We have been involved with two class projects with Dr. Gremler’s students and both times I was pleased with the time and attention his classes gave to our projects.  I find that gaining insights from college-age students’ perspective has helped complete our interpretation of data and round out our concepts relative to our marketing assumptions.”

In the fall the Marketing 4600 class of 29 students was divided into two teams who immersed themselves in secondary research while developing strategic marketing plans to optimize sales of a new cat-calming product, Felisept, in the U.S. The primary Felisept product, manufactured in Germany, is a calming diffuser product (similar to a Glade air freshener) that uses an organic, catnip-extract formula, clinically proven to reduce stress and anxiety in cats within a few days.

Vitakraft, started in 1837 in Heiligenrode, Germany, and has become one of the most successful names in the pet food industry worldwide. Vitakraft Sun Seed was founded in Weston, Ohio, in 1981, with a “dedication to improving the health and well-being of small animal and pet bird products.”

Dr. Gremler states: “Clients typically find students provide them with new insights or at least confirmation of marketing strategies they have already been considering but have not had the time or resources to explore.”