By Shruti Mungi '19
Students in a strategic brand management course used what they had learned in the classroom to create a real-life brand audit of a Galesburg business, the Knox County Brewing Company.
Business 343, taught by Professor of Business and Management John Spittell, explored the issues in planning, implementing, managing, and evaluating brand strategies. In previous years, students used well-established brands for class projects. This spring, the focus was turned to a local business with the potential and need for brand management.
Knox County Brewing Company (KCBC) is a local company founded by former Knox College employee Sarah Hansen and her husband, Matthew. They bring more than 15 years of social entrepreneurship experience to Galesburg and seek to partner with local businesses to support the local economy.
“KCBC really represented Galesburg, and the atmosphere was unique and different than other bars around Galesburg,” said Dom Parello ‘19. “We knew that since it was young, we would be able to help look at the unique elements of the brand and build the best strategy for them to compete.”
During the term, students learned about the theoretical aspects of brand management. The class was later split into four teams for the audit, one for each major area of marketing: pricing, product, promotion, and placing.
The experience, students commented, was an example of the kind of experiential learning that goes on at Knox.
“It was incredible to help a local business here in Galesburg that we could actually go to and visit and experience ourselves,” said Parello, who was involved with market research and overall organization of the project.
“The fact that we were doing a real-world project with a professor with such a long background in marketing and brewing allowed this project to be more than that. For me, it felt like it was a real job, like we were a marketing team building something for a client,” he added.
Jordan Anderson ‘19 specifically focused on consumer knowledge and brand resonance within the market. His group developed and passed out surveys within the business, and gathered demographic information to get an understanding of the market.
The real-world implications of the project created some pressure of delivering quality to KCBC in their audit, Anderson said. Nevertheless, the scale of the experience was unique for having taken place in a college classroom setting.
“I learned much more in this class than I have in others because of this real-world application. I don’t know if there is another class on this campus that would be able to prepare you more for post-graduate life than this,” he commented.
Students presented their brand audit to KCBC during the finals period. Some aspects of the brand they assessed included KCBC’s commitment to local sourcing, social entrepreneurship, and community involvement.
“The biggest thing we found was that you want to help support local,” Parello said during the presentation. “We thought it was a great opportunity to get involved in the same kind of thing: apply what we learned and help something that is bigger than ourselves.”
KCBC is eager to implement the students' advice, which includes menu changes, event nights, and social media advertising. After benefiting from the student project, KCBC is also in the process of creating future opportunities for Knox students to engage with the business.
“These students not only gave us the unbiased outside perspective that we needed, but they assisted us in thinking of real-world solutions,” said Matthew Hansen. “Even better than that, the students gave us critiques and ideas that were outside of our field of expertise, which has allowed us to step back and take inventory of some of our true needs.”
“Our experience with the class was nothing short of helpful, informative, and excellent,” he added. “It really speaks to the student quality of Knox, and the leadership and experience of John Spittell.”