Marketing to Generation Y

A student checks out a Honda Civic Coupe. The car was on campus over the weekend in connection with a marketing campaign being developed by a class in the School of Business.

A student checks out a Honda Civic Coupe. The car was on campus over the weekend in connection with a marketing campaign being developed by a class in the School of Business.

A marketing class in UConn’s School of Business is one of 20 in the country selected to put together a marketing plan to help Honda motors reach Generation Y consumers and convince them to slide into a Honda Civic Coupe when they’re ready for their next car purchase.

“It’s a great learning experience,” says Ashley Greenwood, a UConn senior and head of public relations for one of six teams the students set up. “It’s not every day a course gives you a real budget to work with.”

The budget – $3,000 – comes from Honda, which is hoping that the students, from colleges in different regions of the country, can provide valuable research on how they can reach Generation Y consumers, a market that doesn’t relate to Honda’s “suits.”

“From Honda’s perspective, this allows the market to talk to the market. They [Honda] can’t do that,” says Tony Sgro, founder and CEO of EdVenture Partners, a firm that connects universities with corporations that need help with certain aspects of business, and provides hands-on learning for students. Since its founding 22 years ago, the firm has connected companies to more than 100,000 students.

Marketing students tout the appeal of the Honda Civic Coupe to their peers at a table set up in South Campus during Southapalooza. The campaign is part of a nationwide competition sponsored by Honda.

Marketing students tout the appeal of the Honda Civic Coupe to their peers at a table set up in South Campus during Southapalooza. The campaign is part of a nationwide competition sponsored by Honda.

There are 40 students in UConn’s integrated marketing communications class. When they received the Honda job, they first created their own firm, The Brand Storrs, then developed six ‘departments’ to handle different aspects of the semester-long project, much of which is done on their own time.

Greenwood says the advertising department is the largest. “They really have to be, since their creative ideas are what drives our marketing campaign,” she says. Other departments include public relations, research, campaign strategy and implementation, finance, and reports and presentation.

On April 24, a team from Honda will visit Storrs to review The Storrs Brand’s presentation. Other Honda executives will review presentations at other colleges, and leaders of the three best plans will be flown to the car maker’s Southern California headquarters, wined and dined for several days, then given 25 minutes to present their concept a second time. All three teams will be awarded a monetary prize.

Regardless of whether The Storrs Brand is invited to California, instructor Maxim Polonsky says it will be an experience the students will remember.

“I’m very confident they will be very happy,” says Polonsky. “The gratification is usually very high after an effort like this, even higher the harder they work. They’ve never done anything of this magnitude.”

Students with T-shirts bearing the slogan developed by a marketing class.

Students with T-shirts bearing the slogan developed by a marketing class.

The students are certainly using marketing methods that would appeal to a younger crowd: posters, Facebook, video ads for YouTube, and a campaign theme – Hook Up With Honda – that has ties to the collegiate experience and lingo.

“It’s a very modern, very professional campaign,” says Polonsky. “Even the music is original.”

They’re also running an advertising campaign to select Mr. Honda, asking students for a videotape pitching themselves as the personification of one of Honda’s themes – stylish and sleek, ecofriendly, strong, efficient, and tech savvy. Four winners will be selected for the $100 prize.

“We’re using the Mr. Honda competition as another way to try and get students involved and to gain awareness of the campaign on campus,” says Greenwood.

Polonsky says in the end, it all comes down to marketing.

“They’re learning that everything is connected,” he says. “It’s really a great deal. They’re learning how to work with others, and they’re learning that when you’re part of a team some people don’t work as hard as others. It gets them stressed out. It’s a lot of work. But in the end it will all be worth it.”

Especially if they wind up in California next month.