In January 2019, Dr. Mary Beth Pinto, professor of marketing at Penn State Behrend, tasked forty-four students in Marketing 444 Buyer Behavior and Applied Research with writing a marketing plan for the Erie County Historical Society (ECHS) to help the museum attract visitors under the age of 30. This is a demographic the museum staff knows it is not reaching.
The students worked in small groups through the semester and generated detailed marketing plans for ECHS. One of the recommendations was to use the name Hagen History Center for all marketing efforts. (Thomas B. Hagen ’55 is the chairman of the board of ERIE Insurance and a benefactor of the ECHS). Another recommendation was to use the slogan Make History With Us. Both were adopted by the ECHS staff in 2019.
Other recommendations included enhancements to the society’s website, increased utilization of social media, and the creation of events aimed at audiences under age 30. Many of these recommendations were implemented and continue to be expanded upon.
In 2020, the Black School of Business asked ECHS’s advancement director, Geri Cicchetti, to serve as adjunct professor for the Marketing 444 classes. With an MBA and a concentration in Marketing, Cicchetti has more than twenty years of experience teaching in an adjunct capacity at the college level.
This year’s Marketing 444 students, forty-three juniors and seniors, were hard at work on their marketing plans for ECHS when they left for spring break in March. But that’s where the lesson diverged for this semester’s students because the COVID-19 crisis forced Penn State to implement remote learning for the remainder of the term.
“For students working together in teams, it is difficult not to be able to meet physically,” Cicchetti said. “In addition, once they returned home, many students were living in different time zones. Some were international students; one was from California, and many others were also out-of-state. Some students lived in rural areas and needed to drive to other locations to get Wi-Fi. And these were just some of the challenges that students faced.”
They needed to be especially creative in completing this project, and Cicchetti said they rose to the occasion.
“They met via Zoom,” she said. “They worked independently and then shared their work with their teammates via email or Google Docs. Because of their perseverance and diligence, The Hagen History Center will again benefit from ten creative, insightful and detailed marketing plans.”
With the changes recommended and implemented from the 2019 class, what additional recommendations would the 2020 class have?
“As the museum has no marketing director, the 2019 class started from scratch and they had many opportunities to recommend basic marketing enhancements,” Cicchetti said. “But, with several of these recommendations implemented from the 2019 marketing plans, the 2020 class had a different starting point. They needed to bring the museum’s marketing to the next level.”
Cicchetti is confident they will do so and said she looks forward to sharing their plans in May with the board and staff of the Hagen History Center.