Thursday, February 16, 2012

A study in consumer behavior

Marketing students and Conservation Biology students stand on New Smyrna Beach after cleaning trash and garbage from a section of sand.
Blue sky and white sand met a wave of “green” Marketing students when they hit the beach in late summer to clean up trash and gain a personal, direct perspective on consumer behavior.
Marketing major Justin Bosco triumphantly displays a bag of trash.

It’s a powerful behavior they hope to influence some day as marketing professionals, but it’s not always pretty.

Despite years of green marketing efforts by government and business aimed at changing behavior, students found beer cans, food wrappers, beach toys, bottle caps and hundreds, even thousands, of cigarette butts.

“It showed that some people do not care about the environment and will leave trash wherever they want,” said Kerry Burke, a junior Marketing major from Atlantic City, N.J.

“I don’t think they truly understand the impact they are having on the environment when they leave their garbage,” said senior Lyllique Roman of Kissimmee, a Sport Management major who is minoring in Business and Marketing.

“Until people start changing their habits and realizing the implications of their actions, trash will continue to be a problem,” said Justin Bosco, a junior from Vero Beach majoring in Marketing and Management. “Most of the items I found on the beach could have easily been disposed of if the people that left them weren’t so careless.”
Liz Harting, center, records the trash that Nina Laureano, left, and Alex Dobbs drop in the bag. Harting and Dobbs are Marketing students and Laureano is a Family Enterprise major.

Understanding the basic concepts and theories of consumer behavior and how that knowledge helps shape marketing strategies is the focus of Consumer Dynamics (MKG 316), a course taught this fall by Dr. Michelle DeMoss who used “green marketing” with a water theme to demonstrate the concepts.

“Green marketing is a powerful trend in the global marketplace,” said DeMoss, chair of the Marketing Department. “It illustrates the broader definition of marketing in that it demonstrates the importance of weighing the impact of marketing decisions on customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

DeMoss structured the course to support the goals of the Stetson GREEN program, using interdisciplinary activities and speakers that complemented study being done by Dr. Kirsten Work’s conservation biology students in the College of Arts & Sciences. Both professors’ students participated in the beach cleanup and shared speakers. One was Malissa Dillon, assistant director of Communications and Governmental Affairs at the St. Johns River Water Management District who visited classes in September.

Dillon is a marketer in the business of conserving and managing water, which depends greatly on consumer behavior, she told students.

“We are very dependent on consumer behavior,” she told the students. “Water is a kind of weird product, but you use the same marketing tools and concepts.”
Malissa Dillon, a government marketing professional, speaks to Consumer Dynamics students.

“You have to position the issues in the right way to get people’s attention and understanding. Use a simple message, make it memorable and include a call to action,” said Dillon.

Students peppered Dillon with questions about marketing budgets, water regulation, water sources, consumer trends, behavior and surveys.

As part of the course, students conducted in-depth interviews to understand the impact of internal and external factors on consumer decisions about green products. Students applied concepts learned in class to compare and contrast reasoning behind the decisions to better understand the dynamics that shape marketing strategies.

A supplemental text in the course is Jacquelyn Ottman’s “The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding.”

Two other community service cleanup projects also helped serve dual purposes for the course – understanding the impact of certain consumer behaviors and furthering Stetson GREEN goals, which include numerous environmental and community actions. The cleanup efforts targeted the inland wetlands of Bicentennial Youth Park and the coastal wetlands of Spruce Creek/Rose Bay.

All the course’s varied components help bring consumer behavior into focus, students say, and bring understanding that will help them in their careers.
Marketing student Kursten Lizarraga talks to marketer Malissa Dillon after class.
“Lessons like these can be applied not only to marketing careers but any career in the business world,” said Ryan Carter, a senior Marketing major from Mims. “With the economy how it is today, corporations and the market in general need to know how to better manage its most valuable resource – the consumer.”

“It’s highly important to remember throughout my career that one of my goals will be to always be consumer oriented,” said Kursten Lizarraga, a Marketing major from Port Orange.“The consumer is who will keep me in business and who will spread my product to their peers.”

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