URI marketing students creating excitement for Ford Fusion

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Group entered in regional contest run by New England Ford Dealers, Event to be featured on the Quad, April 19

KINGSTON, R.I. — April 11, 2006 — Mike Flood, the owner-president of area car dealership, Bailey-Flood Ford, has been involved in plenty of marketing meetings, focus groups and advertising campaigns.

But a meeting in March with 15 University of Rhode Island business students seemed to energize him.

“You’re doing a great job,” Flood told the group that is involved in a competition with other New England colleges to market the Ford Fusion, a sporty car designed to appeal to young buyers. “Many times, we in the industry get in a room to discuss what people want and we can be way off. You have a lot of great ideas, and that was why I was excited to come here. We got moving in the right direction.”

Flood joined Ralph Tricomi of the Ford Motor Co.; Kami Scott, account representative with J. Walter Thompson, Ford’s advertising and marketing firm; and Ricky Brown of EdVenture Partners, a marketing company that provides industry-education partnerships to more than 380 campuses across the United States.

The project, dubbed by 15 senior students as Envision Student Marketing and Promotions, is the curriculum for Marketing Professor Ruby Dholakia’s directed study class this semester. Most are enrolled in the College of Business Administration.

“We teach theory, but this activity will give the students a chance to execute a marketing plan and collect evidence about whether it worked,” Dholakia said. “It brings together everything we teach in an academic setting, –research, data collection and analysis, and communication. Finally, they have to pitch their ideas to the client.”

The students have a budget of $5,000 to implement their marketing and advertising campaign. They are competing against Bentley College, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the University of New Hampshire and the University of Southern Maine for the Ford Fusion College Marketing Program Scholastic Achievement Award. There is a $3,000 first-place scholarship award and a $1,000 second-place award.

The top two teams will be given the opportunity to present their final projects to J. Walter Thompson and the New England Ford Dealers.

The URI Envision group’s keystone event on April 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. will have four Fusion activity stations on each corner of the Quadrangle. Each participant will be eligible for the grand prize—a free Ford Fusion. The rain date is April 20.

During the preliminary March meeting, the students impressed the business leaders. Tricomi asked several questions of the Envision team about the student focus groups and how they viewed the Ford brand and logo. The group told him students liked the Fusion, but associated Ford with older customers.

“I am very impressed; you have a very comprehensive plan covering every layer of a campaign, and you mesh the use of traditional and new media very well,” Tricomi said.

Flood said the URI students developed a marketing and advertising slogan that will be appealing to their peers—“Exceeding Your Limits Everyday.”

“The executives were very interested in how we are going to get students or young professionals in the car,” said URI student Kasey Hoogasian, a member of the Envision public relations team.

“They really liked our use of the Internet and the web,” she said. “They told us we were the only group to attach numbers to our analysis of the effectiveness of the Internet.”

Hoogasian said the group will be advertising for 14 days on Facebook, an online directory that connects people through social networks at schools. Use of that vehicle will generate 210,000 perceptions.

“This has been a great learning experience because it is difficult to work with such a large group,” she said. “Scheduling common meeting times and gaining consensus from 15 individuals with varying opinions can be challenging. We all feel like we’ve done more than 3 credits worth of work. You have to be open-minded, consider what is good for the project, and meet the goals set by Ford and J. Walter Thompson.”

The students and their hometowns are:

Julie Conklin Lincoln, R.I.

Alisa Reikhrud Cranston, R.I.

Kasey Hoogasian Cumberland, R.I.

David Bilow East Providence, R.I.

Matthew Sacks Warwick, R.I.

Mike Tenenbaum Marlboro, N.J.

Maria Sical Warwick, R.I.

Eleni Fotopoulos South Kingstown, R.I.

Trent Blazure Clinton, N.J.

Molly Hebert East Brookfield, Mass.

Edward Bidlack Newport, R.I.

Amanda LaConte Wayne, N.J.

Kim Tomlinson Columbia, Conn.

Michelle Palazzo Cranston, R.I.

Jen Marcin Upper Saddle River, N.J.

FLASHY FUSION AD: Eleni Fotopoulos of South Kingstown displays an ad for the Ford Fusion her URI student group developed to promote an event on the Kingston Campus April 19. URI News Bureau photo by Michael Salerno photography.