Marketing unites students, Groove in common cause

Robert Thomas

Many students cringe at group projects, especially when they’re picked at random.


But for students of first-year NMU instructor Dipankar Rai’s MKT 432 Advertising and Sales Promotion class, this was their fate. The course’s culminating project challenges students to develop multi-platform, crowd-sourced fundraising campaigns dedicated to a local charity.

“From the beginning, we were a group of four random people,” senior entrepreneurship major Quinn Olender said. “We didn’t know each other at all.”

Olender was placed with junior photography major Siera Schmidt, senior marketing major Brenda Johnson and senior economics major Shelby Flack after picking the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (UPAWS) from a bucket of random charities.

“We were really fortunate to be put in a group where we’re all on the same page and we all want to do well,” Olender said. “It worked in our favor.”

The project required students to raise money through the popular crowd-sourcing website Indiegogo by creating viral advertising campaigns over social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Going beyond requirements, this UPAWS group created YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram sites dedicated to their charity.

According to Rai, teaching through direct experience and encouraging students to physically apply what they learn in class is much more effective than  merely absorbing it via lecture.

As for this group, Rai said they have exceeded his expectations.

“They’re not only raising money for the campaign, but they’re hosting an event which is extra work that they’re willing to put in,” Rai said. “They are very enthusiastic.”

What really sets this campaign apart can be found by searching “Sirius Sounds: A UPAWS Charity Event” on Facebook.

The event, a musical performance featuring the local electronic DJ collective Groove MQT, came about with the help of Johnson’s networking ability. She was approached by a member of Groove MQT interested in donating his musical talent for the sake of the animals. From there, Johnson said, the event just fell into place.

“After that, more DJs volunteered,” Johnson said. “Before we knew it, we had a volunteer security team and the Masonic [building] volunteered and offered their space.”

The group attributes a lot of their success to careful planning, teamwork and persistence. Nobody was assigned formal roles or jobs; each person took turns updating the social media sites while the others contributed as their schedules permitted.

“We’ll go week-to-week doing different social media,” Schmidt said. “We’ll contribute whatever we can, whenever we can.”

Schmidt believes the group’s Facebook page, “Help NMU Students Help Animals,” has been the one of the most instrumental platforms of their campaign, citing the page’s photo contest (which pit users’ adorable pet pictures against each other) for increasing public awareness and interaction with other Facebook users.

“We launched our campaign and kept it going; we never slacked,” Olender said. “There was at least one post on every type of social media every day and we’ve continued with that.”

Groups were also instructed to produce promotional videos pertaining to their individual charities. Now on their YouTube and Indiegogo pages, the video came together when Olender’s sister, a videographer, volunteered to help produce the video.

“She made a pretty professional, quality video and edited it,” Olender said. “So we were very fortunate to have that.”

As of Tuesday, March 25, the campaign  raised $1,548, passing the halfway mark to their goal of $3,000.

To spur contributions, Indiegogo translates online donations into perks, ranging from reduced-priced tickets for the Groove MQT show, to a set of UPAWS stationary and magnets. Donations are deposited directly into an account set up by UPAWS.

The group said they said they are thankful for the amount of volunteers and participation.

“We’ve been so appreciative of all the people who have volunteered to help us out, because they genuinely didn’t have to,” Johnson said.

Schmidt said their success depended on that help.

“Thank you to everyone that has been supportive to us,” she said.

The Groove MQT show will take place at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 28 at the Masonic Building in Marquette. The campaign started Wednesday, Feb. 26 and runs until Saturday,  April 28.