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Marketing Students Help Iowa City Company Expand to the Web

A team of University of Iowa marketing students is helping a 19th century Iowa City business expand its market using 21st century technology.

Bankers Advertising Co. has been around since 1896, when it was known as Commerce Advertising, and in its latest iteration manufactures and sells such promotional products as calendars, planners, banners, signs, and apparel. The company recently decided to expand its marketing to sell products via the Web, but wanted the new division to have a separate name and identity from the traditional company that would continue to work through its distributors.

So they turned to students in an Advertising Theory class taught by Rob Rouwenhorst, a member of the Tippie College of Business marketing faculty. The students studied Bankers Advertising's current marketplace position, competition, and the latest in marketing trends to develop a plan to upgrade its image and beef up its Internet marketing efforts.

The 40 students in the class were divided into 10 teams, each of which developed a plan that they presented to the company's executives. The company eventually chose a proposal written by students Glynis Gallagher, Laura Krogh, Ryan Shenefelt, Laura Krogh, Su-Jeong Yang, and Jennifer Wenz.

Their work included a marketing plan, a proposed name for the Web division and a color palette and logo proposals. The winning plan focused on helping Bankers Advertising maintain the personal touch that's kept it in business for over a century, even though the transaction is being done online.

"After an order is placed on the website, we think the company should contact the customer thanking them for the order and asking how the process was," the team wrote in its proposal. "This shouldn't be an automated message; it should make the customer feel important, building more company loyalty."

Shenefelt says the group approached the project as if they were an ad agency, using what talent they had among them when it worked but looking outside the group if necessary. For instance, he said none of the team members had any experience in graphic design, so he worked with a friend to develop logo proposals.

Rouwenhorst says the project is an example of the university helping Iowa businesses by providing the opportunity to work with the business world's future marketing professionals who bring up-to-date, fresh ideas and encourage consideration of new marketing media.

"In addition, projects like this allow students to use the skills they have learned in the classroom and make a difference in the real world," he says.

Wenz says the experience showed her how important relationship building will be to professional success after she graduates this week.

"You learn that you have to get to know the client and show them that you care," she says. "I think one of the reasons our plan was selected was because we showed them we cared. We visited their factory, we asked them lots of questions, we took time out of our day to show them that we were interested in their business and to find out what they wanted."

The company was pleased with the students' work and said it will incorporate aspects into its final plan when it's rolled out in the coming months.

"We're very grateful to have the opportunity to tap the brains of these young up-and-comers in the marketing and advertising industry," says David Bywater, president of Bankers Advertising. "We're finding out what makes the new generation of buyers tick. This information is incredibly valuable."

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