When Nichols Marketing and Business Communication Professor Jean Beaupre asked her honors class in the Principles of Marketing to identify a brand that they liked, Crocs—the footwear that is hard to miss during the summer—came out near the top of the list. For the first half of the fall term, the name kept coming up in class discussions.
At that point, Beaupre stepped out of the box. Why not contact the Colorado-based company and pitch a real-life marketing campaign run by the students? What followed was the class production of a creative introductory video, an ongoing relationship with the Crocs marketing department, and a spate of student initiatives spread across the Nichols campus.
The video took the place of a more routine email inquiry to the company. The plot centered on one student becoming obsessed with Crocs, and the rest of the class doing a mock intervention.
“Crocs loved it,” Beaupre recalls, adding that she heard back directly from the chief marketing officer, who urged her class to come up with a “campus ambassador” program that would use a week-long series of events and a social media campaign to increase the product’s profile.
“There’s nothing like connecting with a real marketing team on something that goes out to the public,” says sophomore class member Mikayla Henault.
Breaking into groups, the 27 members of Beaupre’s class began plotting a strategy. They held a videoconference to present their ideas to the company’s entire marketing department. After putting the presenters on hold for a few minutes, the Crocs contingent signed off. Crocs Week at Nichols was born.
The Crocs crew asked for the shoe size and favorite color of each student, and a batch of the shoes were on their way to campus. More significantly, the Crocs marketing team gave the class a sneak preview of the company’s marketing plans.
Throughout one week in the late fall, the teams of Nichols students put their ideas to work on campus. At basketball games, they threw crocks into the stands. Another team took up a position in the Fels Center, where fellow students posed in a life size Instagram photo frame along with a brown Crocs shoe reshaped to resemble a Bison.
A campus wide scavenger hunt searched for pictures of the footwear. Another team produced a video wrapping up Crocs Week.
The Principles of Marketing class also made use of social media, getting other members of the Nichols community to re-tweet a Crocs picture more than 100 times. (#CrocsCampusChallenge). For each of the re-tweets the company donated a pair of its shoes to needful recipients in Haiti. (#CrocsforHaiti)
All of that involvement, admits sophomore class member Brooke Downey, came as a welcome surprise. “I was just expecting to learn the basic foundations of marketing, with a lot of notes and tests,” she says.
“It was one my favorite classes because we got the real life experience of putting marketing to use,” adds junior Shanlee Crowell. “It was very cool.”
Beaupre notes that the hands-on experience with high profile marketing amplified the classroom curriculum. “It happened to align directly with the sections we were covering,” she explains. “What better way to do that than in a real life project. It was a little more work for the students and for me, but it was so worthwhile.”
The project also provided students a glimpse into future careers in general and at Crocs in particular. “How great would it be if one of them could get a marketing job there,” Beaupre muses.
The Crocs project has continued this spring term, in the form of a class offered to Webster High School students through the Nichols Honors Academy.