In professor Hope Jensen Schau's Integrated Marketing Communications course, teams of University of Arizona students select a company and create an integrated campaign that includes everything from packaging and distribution to advertising and public relations.
The campaign doesn't typically result in a signed contract with the company, but for four UA Eller College of Management students, that's exactly what happened.
The students – Charney Marks, Kevin Romo-Leon, Audrey Sibley and Jenn Schmitt – chose to build a campaign around Toasti Toes. The product is produced by HeatMax, Inc., a manufacturer of air-activated heat packs used by skiers, snowboarders and hunters – a predominantly male market.
"One of our group members was an actual consumer of the product," said Romo-Leon, a marketing senior. "Because she had already been using the product for a different purpose, we immediately saw the opportunity to expand it to the female market."
They proposed changing the packaging to appeal to female consumers and target professional women who need to keep their feet warm in inclement weather. Their new audience included women who may be attending upscale events in cold weather, but who still would like to wear open-toe shoes.
The team dubbed their reinvented product Toasti-Toezies, and created a hip repackaging plan and a detailed distribution strategy. "Along with the change in packaging, we introduced new distribution channels – two of which HeatMax had never considered," said Romo-Leon.
"They were asking all the right questions and they really did the research," said Schau. "After the final presentation, we told them they had to take it back to HeatMax."
Romo-Leon contacted the company, which agreed to fly two of the students to company headquarters in Dalton, Ga., to meet with executives in research and development, as well as the company's CEO. The Eller College marketing department funded the other two airline tickets, and the team traveled to Georgia and delivered its presentation.
The students ended up signing a contract with HeatMax that will allow them to stay involved in every aspect of the new product launch. The team also will receive a percentage of sales, have the opportunity to travel with HeatMax sales representatives to visit prospective buyers and will contribute to future marketing campaigns.
"Presenting our idea to HeatMax was an incredible opportunity for us," Romo-Leon said. "It's the ideal resume builder – we created a business relationship with HeatMax and are now considered marketing representatives for the company. The future looks very bright for our idea, and we are just so excited to think that we came up with a project that we were able to take from the classroom to the real world."