A community-minded marketing class at Saginaw Valley State University hopes to help the Village of Chesaning reinvent public perception.
After the loss of the popular Chesaning Showboat Festival in 2013, leaders in the small town located in largely rural in southwestern Saginaw County are hoping to strengthen the village's image.
Gary L. Clark, SVSU professor of marketing, and 26 students in his marketing research course plan to provide a blueprint that empowers the community of about 2,000 residents.
“The Village of Chesaning is primarily interested in four things,” Clark said. “What is their current image, how can they increase their population, what does their population want to be offered that the village council can provide, and how should they brand Chesaning?”
The collaboration began when Chesaning Village Administrator Troy Feltman sought out Clark, whose previous classes have led marketing-related projects for approximately 130 businesses and organizations.
“The reason the village engaged the marketing class was to help us with a branding process we're going through,” Feltman said. “We're trying to create a new identity for the community.”
Students will survey the community's residents, teachers, municipal leaders, business owners and members of the Chesaning Chamber of Commerce.
At the end of the semester in April, Clark and his class will present their findings to Feltman, who will then decide what to do with the information.
“We will give them data on what the surveyed people think, and they will make their data-driven decisions,” Clark said. “We will suggest certain things they should do, but they'll have to make their own decisions based on the information.”
Zackary Gibson, a marketing major from Davison, has enrolled in several classes with Clark that worked on marketing projects with other organizations. Gibson said collaborating with a community such as Chesaning has presented a unique challenge not put forth by the companies and organizations they've worked with in the past.
“It's going to be a challenge,” he said. “We're used to businesses, where it's easy to look at what your strengths and weaknesses are. But, with a community, there are so many things you can do. You can deal with the council, the school system, the downtown, the businesses or the residents.”
Brittany Lentz, a communication major from Applegate, has been a part of the website analysis team that compares Chesaning to other communities of similar size to see where the village measures up. This process includes comparing municipal websites, school systems and opportunities for growth.
For Lentz and her classmates, the project offers a hands-on learning experience that will strengthen their résumés.
“It's really good real-world experience,” Lentz said. “The assignments you do apply to real-world jobs.”
Gibson echoed his classmate's sentiment. He said students will not only know how to do a job, but they'll be able to show it as well.
“As a marketing student, this real-world experience is something I can discuss in a job interview,” he said. “You have something tangible you can take into an interview. This is something you can't get from other classes because it's beyond theory. You've applied it, and that's what employers really like.”