Students gain experience marketing local products on international scale
Students in a marketing class enjoyed some real world experience in product expansion as they helped North Dakota companies generate ideas for exporting into foreign markets.
Rajani Ganesh Pillai, assistant professor of marketing, worked with Sharon May, director of global business development at the North Dakota Trade Office, to find North Dakota businesses interested in helping the students come up with marketing plans for their products.
“I wanted to find a way to make it more real for students and give them an opportunity to apply their learning from this class to solve a real problem for companies,” Pillai said.
The participating companies worked with the North Dakota Trade office as they consider international expansion. The North Dakota Trade Office is located in Richard H. Barry Hall and works to expand North Dakota exports to foreign countries. The class project highlights the benefits of the co-location of the North Dakota Trade Office and the College of Business.
“When these companies were approached with the idea, they were thrilled and immediately got on board,” Pillai said. “These companies were very excited to work with our students.”
Students took on the role of marketing consultants for the companies by conducting market research and making recommendations on marketing plans. They interviewed company personnel and sometimes made site visits. At the end of the semester, they presented their projects to the companies.
Anaïs Liogier, an agribusiness and applied economics graduate student, said the project was a great opportunity for students to show what they can do in the field rather than on a paper exam. Her marketing team worked with Heartland Flax and chose South Africa as a potential market.
“The term project with the companies is something that every student in a marketing class should do before going to the professional world,” she said.
Kaylyn Stroh, a senior in marketing, also worked with Heartland Flax. Her group picked Taiwan as a potential market. Part of their strategy included changing the colors and brand name of the product as well as packaging to cater to different local expectations. She enjoyed talking to the North Dakota Trade Office as part of the project.
“A lot of us never really knew they were such a big resource,” she said. “They were very helpful.”
Stroh grew up on a farm near Tappen, N.D., and was familiar with flax, but to see its marketing on a global scale was eye-opening. Working with local businesses helped her build on her creative, interpersonal and professional skills, she said.