Experiential Marketing Students Promote the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA)

Experiential marketing ICA event on the Snead Hall lawn.

Our Spring 2017 experiential marketing (MKTG 430) students put on small events around VCU campus on April 3, 5, 7, and 11. The events were the students’ semester-long project, where the students designed event activities and execution plans.

The purpose of the events was to promote brand awareness of VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) to VCU students on campus. An additional goal was to collect interested students’ emails to add to the ICA’s electronic newsletter list.

ICA supplied the students with an ICA branded 10’x10′ tent to use, premiums to distribute, and uniform t-shirts. Also, the MKTG 430 students received $500 in EPIC project funding from the School of Business to purchase supplies for their events. There were activities, games and giveaways at each location around campus. The four student groups blogged about their events (below).

Becoming Part of the Arts

Nidaa Badwan, artist featured in ICA’s opening exhibit Declaration, and collaborative art piece made by VCU students.

Upon reflection on our event, we were confident that we had exceeded our goals and expectations of obtaining emails and educating the VCU community on the ICA and their October opening. Beyond the numbers, we were able to offer a better understanding of what the ICA means specifically to VCU students, and therefore provided them with a ‘need’ they were not already aware of.

Our collaborative art project intended to get students to “join the conversation” was especially successful, and students enjoyed spending time using various arts and crafts. A majority of students remarked to us how they don’t spend much time drawing and painting, so the activity presented an opportunity to take a break from their busy schedules. In fact, a lot of students that came up to our table found that they were really interested in the activity and the ICA, many actually returning to the table during their free time between classes.

Even though we felt our event was very successful, there were still a few things that could have improved on. For example, the display of our premiums could have been executed a little better. We noticed that when we attempted to engage students walking by our tents we had to readjust our methods of communication depending on their reaction. Going forward, we understand that as a Brand Ambassador, certain people are going to be more receptive to you than others, so effective targeting is necessary. For example, large crowds would often walk by, and we had to carefully and quickly assess who to approach based our perceived likelihood of their interest.

Overall, we believe our event was successful in sparking many students’ interests in the ICA, and in leaving them more informed about the Institute than they were before.

Team Monday Bio

Josh Elder – Senior

Marketing, Product & Brand Management

YonnieB – Senior

Marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications

Ashawnna Sawyer – Senior

Marketing, Product & Brand Management

Lee Kuykendall – Senior

Marketing, Product & Brand Management

Alex Bloom – Senior

Marketing, Product & Brand Management

What’s Your Art?

Dr. Suzanne Makarem, Dr. Wayne Slough, & Dr. Haeran Jae at the ICA event using our Snapchat filter

After almost a whole semester of planning, rehearsing, and perfecting the campaign, our experiential marketing (XM) event was finally underway. We set up our event in the lawn of Snead Hall. When our event began, we noticed it was difficult to pull people in at first, but once we got into the swing of things, everything else fell into place. We used our microphone to pull people in and capitalize on informing students about the ICA. We had a prize wheel where people could spin to win one of the premiums or be entered in a raffle to potentially win our grand prize, the Echo Dot. We had a sheet of paper where everyone could write what art meant to them, and it was interesting to see the different answers, especially coming from business students and faculty. We were supposed to have a person at our event drawing caricatures for people, but they unfortunately could not make it. We also had cornhole set up for students to play if they wanted to stick around our tents for a while. When the crowd died down in between classes, a few of us went inside Snead to try and get people to either come join us outside, or just sign up for the ICA email list. This idea worked wonders in getting the word out about ICA as well as our event. Many students knew about the ICA building, but did not know what the ICA really is or what they are going to offer, and we were happy to fill them in on all of the amazing and cool perks. We had a blast, and we were all able to learn a lot from this experience like how difficult it is to set up and take down all of the heavy equipment, and the struggles of trying to attract people to our event. It was a lot of hard work, but we could not have done it without each other. We came together as a team, and turned a simple email list into an event.


Adonis Fisher (Leader) – Major: Marketing;Management, Year: Senior

Madison Pope – Major: Marketing, Year: Senior

Lindsey Saunders – Major: Marketing , Year: Senior

Victoria Diaz – Major: Marketing, Year: Senior

Tyree Smoote – Major: Marketing;Product and Brand Management, Year: Senior




Photo Friday ICA

Team Friday in front of the 3D puzzle station. From left to right: Joe Cokes, Nicole Bradshaw, Mariam Shehapi, Willie Nixon, Brooke Fulton.

After four months of planning and preparation, the day we had anticipated finally arrived. The wind was strong, clouds covered the sky, and students seemed gloomy passing by, but we were eager to apply the skills we had learned throughout the semester.

We were fortunate enough to have been given this opportunity. This was a way for VCU Business Students to put on a live marketing experience, while representing the Institute for Contemporary Art. The overall objective of the event was to engage in quality interactions with VCU students, in which we could inform students of all the ICA has to offer. In order to do this, our event featured three key activity areas:

1) A green screen photo experience to bring to life the ICA’s opening exhibit, Declaration.

2) A 3D puzzle competition to highlight the ICA as Richmond’s missing puzzle piece.

3) A bead count contest for the chance to win a FitBit, in order to entice student interest in our footprint.

Setting up efficiently and quickly, we overcame the barriers and hardships that event personnel typically struggle with when setting up an experiential event. These barriers included: learning to adapt to weather conditions, managing client relations, as well as attempting to capture the audience’s attention. With proper organization, teamwork, and a backup plan in place, we were prepared for anything.

At the completion of our event, we achieved our goal of email subscriptions by obtaining over 100 student emails for the ICA newsletter. We also talked to countless students about the ICA and encouraged participation within our Declaration awareness campaign. Overall, this was a rewarding experience, which put the experience in experiential marketing.


Brooke Fulton – Senior; B.A. Fashion Merchandising; B.S. Marketing, Concentration in Product and Brand Management.

Joe Cokes – Senior; B.S. Marketing, Concentration in Product and Brand Management.

Mariam Shehapi- Senior; B.S. Marketing, Concentration in General Marketing.

Nicole Bradshaw- Senior; B.S. Marketing, Concentration in Product and Brand Management.

Willie Nixon- Senior; B.S. Marketing, Concentration in General Marketing.

Pop It Like It’s Hot

Group Tuesday in front of ICA gradient community art project.

It’s Monday night at 7 o’clock and our team can be found in a small kitchen filling up 150 water balloons with paint. 5 exploded balloons, 6 jugs of paint and 2 hours later we have all our balloons filled and feel confident about our event for the next day.

To increase brand awareness for the Institute of Contemporary Art we put together an art project for participants to throw darts at a board of paint filled balloons, that would ultimately create the ICA gradient. Our objective was to capture at least 100 emails from the VCU community within 2 hours.

We experienced a few setbacks and hardships in the execution of the event. The first was that we had to postpone our event a week due to the weather forecast- luckily we had good weather the day of the event. Additionally, the project was messier than we anticipated as far as filling the balloons and cleaning up. A major setback that delayed set up time was transporting the board across campus.

Our location was not in plain sight, providing opportunities for people to easily avoid us. We had a few peaks when classes let out at 10:50 and 11:50, but we feel that if we were in front of the library we could have garnered more foot traffic.

We worked well as a team. It was easy to delegate tasks and the planning process went well. We all actively participated in every aspect of this project from planning to execution.

Overall we thought our event was successful. We captured 67 emails and the art project looked great in the end. The project was simple enough to explain and people were enthusiastic about participating and anxious to learn more about the ICA.

Author Bios

Asya- Asya is a senior marketing major with a concentration in Product & Brand Management, and will be graduating VCU in December 2017.

Hunter- Hunter is a senior majoring in Marketing at VCU and will be graduating in May 2017.

Jen- Jen will be graduating in May 2017 from VCU with a B.S. in Marketing.

Hana- Hana is a double major in Accounting and Marketing with a minor in Media Studies and she will be graduating in May 2018.

Ana- Ana is a senior Marketing major and Media Studies minor at VCU, where she will be graduating in December.

Reynolds to Rams – Spring 2015

VCU’s undergraduate Experiential Marketing class once again invaded the Parham Road campus of Reynolds Community College in Spring 2015. Three teams of five VCU students engaged with Reynolds students, discussed campus life at VCU, and signed up Reynolds students for the “Reynolds to Rams” program, a unique initiative that connects Reynolds students with VCU business students in efforts to make the transferring transition easier for Reynolds students. The VCU students created a fun, interactive physical presence on the Reynolds’ campus with a branded tent, music, activities, and free t-shirts. Each of the three Experiential Marketing teams describe their experience on Reynolds campus in the blog postings below.

The Life of a RAM

Team RAMzey looking stylish

Team RAMzey looking stylish

It was a beautiful Monday afternoon as we ventured towards the Reynolds campus. After four months of preparations, it was finally time to apply our skills in a real world situation.

Our overall objective was to educate and inform prospective students about the Reynolds to Ram Transfer Program. We wanted to create an experience that students would not only leave knowing they’ve been given the tools for success, but an involvement that would be enjoyable and exciting for everyone involved.

Even though neither of the members in our group had any prior events marketing experience, we all possessed a set of eclectic abilities that would ensure we would be prepared for what lied ahead.

While we began the set up for the event, we already began arousing student interest. By the time we started the music, programmed the video, and laid out our premiums for the affair, students became even more curious and began to approach us.

We had to keep in mind that despite our target audience being business students, the same level of effort had to be applied towards all prospective pupils. Questions that couldn’t be answered regarding majors outside of The School of Business were forwarded to a VCU transfer representative waiting inside the Reynolds cafeteria.

The variety of supplemental activities that were made available was an extremely effective tool used in breaking the ice with students alike. Students played corn hole, dressed up in costumes, and took pictures in our tent. Some faculty even joined in on the fun with Charles singing a song for everyone to enjoy.

As the event was coming to a close we noticed we had more premiums then we had time to give away. At this point, we passed them out like hotcakes but still made sure to inform student about the program.

At the end of it all the R2R Program was a great experience that allowed us to apply what we learned in an interactive setting that promoted one-to-one brand ambassadorship.

Katelen Thomas – Senior, Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing concentrating in Product and Brand Management

Halle Nurse – Senior, Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing concentrating in Integrated Marketing Communications

Ahmad Abdullah- Senior, Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing concentrating in Integrated Marketing Communications

Kyle Lee – Senior, Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing concentrating in Product and Brand Management

Janette Pimienta – Senior, Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing concentrating in Product and Brand Management

Making an Impression

Only smiles from our Reynolds to Rams group.

Only smiles from our Reynolds to Rams group.

It was difficult imagining what to expect on the gloomy morning of our event at Reynolds. The weather was iffy, the time wasn’t entirely desirable, and most of all, none of us had any previous familiarity with experiential marketing. We didn’t let that dampen our spirits, however, as we put on our smiles and headed to Reynolds campus to set up for our tabling. We were gleefully surprised to hear that Mason had organized a last minute coffee sponsor to give our table some pizzazz and give us some much needed energy. With our table filled with goodies to give away, music playing, and our cornhole board ready to be played, we began drawing attention to ourselves to attract potential VCU students.

Our main goal of the event is to have Reynolds’ students sign up for our Reynolds to Rams program. The program puts people on a listserve, allowing them access to important information on how to have a smooth transfer from Reynolds to VCU. Although this is a necessary step in influencing students to apply to VCU, we soon noticed that the impression our event left with them was just as important. Students would stick around just to talk to us about our experience at VCU, our interests, or just to hang out and play a game of cornhole. We were elated with the compliments we received and students were open in talking about their appreciation for VCU. This made it easy to entice people into the program and begin the process towards being a Ram.

It was a great learning experience for us as a team. As it turned out the weather was great, the students were enthusiastic, and we all had a great time leaving a lasting impression on everyone.

Our group consists of Connor Joyce, a Senior Marketing major, Mason Flippo, a Senior Senior Marketing major, Joanesse Veilard, a Junior Marketing and Business Administration major, Natasha, a Senior Marketing major, and Syed Ahmed, a Senior Computer Science major. A big thanks to our sponsors Campus Cookies and Legends Roasting Company for helping us out!

Ramifying Reynolds Students through Experiential Marketing

“Rain, rain go away, come again another day,” a nursery rhyme to describe what we were all thinking as we woke up on the day of the event.

Our team arrived 15 min early to the Reynolds campus excited, nervous, and a little unsure of what to expect. The day had already started out seeming as if everything that could go wrong would.

VCU XM Making it Real for Reynolds students to become Rams.

VCU XM Making it Real for Reynolds students to become Rams.

We found out early in the day we had a miscommunication in the delivery of RaMopolies and would not be able to have them. Then as we began to test the different technologies we realized that the tablets, to be used for sign ups, while they would work inside they wouldn’t work outside for some reason, and the camera from the library, would not hold a charge. As the event progressed, we realized our main pull-in, VCU cheer and spirit team, were going to be a no show.

But all was not lost!

After evaluating the situation we came together as a team and quickly began to pull in our contingency plans. We had paper signups in place of tablets, we had VCU Dining Service cups as an extra premium, we had our team photographer, the official VCU “Make It Real” desk, and a team emcee.

Our team quickly learned the importance of thinking on our feet and improvising while maintaining composure and still delivering the message of the campaign. We learned the importance of building the energy and excitement in the atmosphere surrounding the event. The final and most important lesson was the importance of having a really great team that works well together, can think on their feet, and is willing to handle any part of the activation/execution of the event. We had a really awesome team and great event! Thanks Reynolds to Rams.

Mickey Gentry-May ’15 B.S. Marketing, Alisha Gowda-May ’15 B.S. Marketing, Yvette Pate-May ’15 B.S. Marketing & B.A. International Studies, James Thornton-May ’15 B.S. Marketing, and Nina Tran-May ’15 B.S. Marketing

Experiential Marketing Arrives at Virginia Commonwealth University

XM class assets for the Reynolds to Rams initiative featured creative from the VCU Make It Real Campaign.

Experiential marketing is a marketing strategy designed to cultivate positive, personal brand interactions with consumers through product and service offerings, communication, and staged experiences. Experiential marketing is a unique marketing effort that has a positive effect in brand metrics, including brand awareness, brand recall, and purchase intent (Adweek 2009). National consumer brands consistently dedicate promotional budgets to experiential marketing, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, GEICO, General Motors, and Starbucks. Not only is experiential marketing gaining momentum in practice, it is also becoming more prevalent in the marketing literature. Over the past several years, research on experience marketing, event marketing, and experiential elements have been published in top marketing journals, including Journal of Marketing (2009), Journal of Marketing Research (2012), and Journal of Advertising (2011).

The Department of Marketing within Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business offered its first Experiential Marketing (XM) course in Summer 2013. The class is now offered in spring semesters and covers a wide array of XM topics, including brand experience, ideation, XM tactics, event marketing, mobile marketing, sponsorship, venues, target markets, marketing assets, human elements, premiums, sampling, involvement and participation, outcomes, premiums, sampling, social media and technology, business markets, and marketing research. Guest speakers include experts from national XM agencies and local XM venues.

The Spring 2014 class project involved the creation, planning, and activation of a joint XM initiative for VCU and a Richmond-area community college. Reynolds to Rams is an ongoing program designed to connect Reynolds Community College students with current VCU School of Business students for student-to-student connection, advising and immersion activities to ease the transfer process and ensure that dedicated Reynolds students become successful VCU Rams. The VCU XM students were broken into three teams and each team was invited to the Reynolds campus to promote the Reynolds to Rams program. Specific goals of the events were for VCU students to provide personal testimonials, deliver key talking points, and encourage event attendees to sign up for the Reynolds to Rams program.

The events took place in April 1, 2, and 9, 2014, after several weeks of classroom learning and during peak community college transfer application and recruitment time. Students had access to course marketing assets (e.g., tent, table cover, premiums, collateral, iPad for data collection, camera for documentation), but planned the scope and details of their own event. Additionally, students were charged with interjecting creativity to make their event unique from their classmates’. At the conclusion of the events, our teams had engaged with hundreds of Reynolds students and signed up nearly 250 students for the Reynolds to Rams program.

Each student team was asked to provide a reflection of their XM learning experience. The student reflections are posted below.


Jodie L. Ferguson, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Marketing at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business. Dr. Ferguson earned her Bachelor’s (Marketing) at The Ohio State University and earned her M.B.A. and Ph.D. at Georgia State University. Dr. Ferguson’s research focuses on customer responses to firm decisions in the marketplace, including behavioral pricing, response to dissatisfaction, privacy concerns, and business ethics. Her research has appeared in various marketing and business journals, including Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Business Ethics, and Journal of Brand Management. Dr. Ferguson teaches undergraduate Marketing Principles and Experiential Marketing, and undergraduate and graduate Marketing Research, and she recently received the VCU School of Business Distinguished Teaching Award (2014). Dr. Ferguson’s practical experience involved experiential marketing at Marketing Mix (St. Louis) and Euro RSCG Impact (now Havas Impact, Atlanta), where she worked on experiential initiatives with brands such as Gatorade, P&G, Nestle, and Dunkin’ Donuts.