Enlisting alums for experiential education opportunities is a hallmark of the College of Business’ beyond-the-classroom approach to learning.

Students present projects in marketing promotional strategies class

Students present ideas for their Peanut Patch boiled peanuts campaign.
Image Credit: College of Business

One of the recent best practices involving students’ exposure to real-world learning is happening this semester in Michele Cauley’s 4230-Promotional Strategy class in the Department of Marketing.

The professor of practice has her students immersed in a marketing campaign with the aid of Clemson University alum Annie Ham, master’s ’97, vice president of marketing for McCall Farms, a family-owned vegetable canning and freezing operation based in Effingham, S.C.

“This class assignment charges students with developing a real-life promotional campaign for one of McCall Farms’ eight brands – Peanut Patch,” Cauley said. “Teams of students are challenged to develop a promotional pitch and proposal paper to reach the intended target audience for Peanut Patch’s canned, boiled peanuts.”

The campaign is aimed at a millennial and Gen Z football fan base that includes social media components, campus events and billboards promoting Peanut Patch’s boiled peanuts.

“The students received the project brief from the client as they would in a real-world scenario before crafting unique marketing plans and creative content for use on a variety of social media platforms and experiential activations around campus. The goal was to use a grass-roots approach to create buzz around the product on a local level,” Cauley said.

The 12 teams of students had almost two weeks to develop their ideas before pitching them in seven-minute presentations for Cauley and McCall Farms’ review. In addition, teams submitted a five-page promotional proposal which along with the presentation and client input determine their grade on the project.

Ham said McCall Farms’ research showed consumers ages 18-35 were very interested in boiled peanuts as uncovered through social media mentions and monitoring, but many were not buying Peanut Patch.

“Since boiled peanuts are very popular at college football tailgates and parties, we thought it would make sense to target millennial and Gen Z fans in South Carolina through a statewide promotion, “S.C. Peanuttiest Fans.”

The promotion has students from five South Carolina universities creating marketing campaigns for the fan bases on their campuses and competing online for votes on photos showing off their Peanut Patch and fan spirit at Peanuttiestfans.com.

Marketing student Meghan Carter

Meghan Carter
Image Credit: Submitted

Clemson senior marketing major Meghan Carter said the promotional exercise opened her eyes to what it takes to launch a real-world campaign.

“In class, we talk a lot of hypotheticals, but being able to work with a real company where your ideas might be used, is not only fun, it’s a great way to learn,” Meghan said. “Everything about it was like working in a real-world environment. We worked as a team, the client had deadlines and there were pressures that came with those responsibilities. I think the project gave us all a better idea of what to expect when we enter the workforce.”

Ham felt Cauley’s Promotional Strategies project was a great opportunity for students to learn how a large-scale regional marketing campaign is developed, executed and measured, all while playing an active role in the process.

“Through this experiential learning opportunity, McCall Farms is interested in gaining insight from a demographic that canned food companies often find difficult to reach,” she said. “We are hoping this project will be the first of many shared learning projects between Clemson and McCall Farms.”

Cauley said the College of Business’ experiential learning opportunities like the partnership with McCall Farms bridges the gap between theory and practice.

“Collaboration with industry creates invaluable learning experiences beyond the classroom,” Cauley said. “In this case, McCall Farms benefited from their target market having an active role in the promotion, and students gained first-hand knowledge of how to create and execute on a promotional campaign.”

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