Students from Grand Valley State University teamed with The City of Kentwood Michigan to help identify how to best communicate with city residents. Two marketing research classes, both of which were taught by Dr. Kelly Cowart, Assistant Professor of Marketing, participated in the project.
The project was initiated after the Kentwood Fire Department contacted the GVSU Marketing Department for help in developing a marketing plan in 2014. After speaking with city officials, it was determined that additional information was needed to assist with the creation of the marketing plan. Marketing research was recommended to gather that information.
Cowart’s marketing research classes initially interviewed Deputy Fire Chief, Gregg Ginebaugh, Deputy Police Chief, Don Tuuri, and Deputy Mayor, Rich Houtteman to understand the city’s specific concerns. The classes worked together to develop a single questionnaire to help the city determine the type of information residents desire, the activities they attend, and their satisfaction with city operations. The link to the survey was posted on the City of Kentwood website and Facebook page to solicit participants. In addition, students worked in small teams to conduct additional marketing research such as observations, in-depth interviews, and secondary data analysis.
After a month of data collection, the teams presented the results of their analysis and their additional marketing research to City of Kentwood officials. The findings of the data analysis were very similar, however, the recommendations from the additional marketing research varied. They included two new city logos, an online newsletter, a mobile app, and a TV commercial. The city rated the teams based on the anticipated impact of their recommendations. First and second place winners were chosen from each class and were awarded prizes by the city. The city produced a YouTube video to announce the winners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwYux31u96k.
The City of Kentwood was very interested in incorporating social media in its marketing plan. College students are among the heaviest users of social media and were well-suited to help identify how social media can be best used to meet the city’s objectives. Additionally, many cities now realize the influence of younger consumers on popular culture. GVSU students were enlisted for their expertise in both of these areas.
“The City of Kentwood is quite progressive in its realization that the students of today are potential residents,” Cowart said. “It’s wise for the city to include their insights as they strive to attract new residents and better serve current residents.”
The results of the questionnaire will influence how the city communicates with the public, its service offerings, and its operations in the future. The goal is to effectively reach out to the community and raise awareness of all the services offered by the city. The highlights of the survey will be presented at the City of Kentwood Commissioners meeting this summer.