Marketing class role-plays at fair

Have you ever dreamt of becoming a global investment tycoon, but felt like you couldn’t because you’re already majoring in philosophy? Last Thursday, students were given the chance to live out this alternative reality by participating in the third-year International Marketing class’ mock “International Fair,” where they could speak with “salespeople” and discuss market goals like an everyday member of Dragon’s Den.

Hosted in Avard-Dixon, the fair gave the class a chance to exhibit their newly acquired skills during an unscripted simulation. Random passersby were encouraged to take on the persona of a potential investor, patron, or customer of the (mostly) fictional companies created by the students taking the class.

The fair was set in New York, a metropolitan hub of the global economy.  There were nine different booths present at the simulation, which was overseen by the class’ professor, Oliver Mesly.

Norwegian exchange student Thomas Hansen and German student Sandra Mehl showcased a northern-European alcoholic drink commonly called “hot wine,” or “mulled wine” in the West, under the brand name “Winter Wonder Wine.” Aside from simply displaying a product, Hansen wanted to “find an agent to represent their company overseas in order to expand into new markets, like Canada.”

Having analyzed the variability of several different markets, Mehl and Hansen decided to narrow potential expansion to three different emerging markets: northern China, southern Argentina and Canada.

“A lot of Canadians have never had hot wine before, and since we’re so used to it, the opportunity of finding a market niche here seemed hard to pass up,” Mehl said.

Mehl and Hansen even had free samples of the wine, which caused the nearby Model UN team to take a brief pause from their practice for a festive break. (Full disclosure: I had some. It was delicious.) A bit of forced speculation posited that the wine samples were part of the reason Robert Campbell made an appearance––albeit briefly.

Another company was “Voltage Splitboards,” created by third-year student Erik Oliver and fifth-year student Shelby Colton. The company was intended to fill a market opportunity for skiing and snowboarding. “We created our own brand called ‘Voltage’ to compete with big, established brands,” Oliver said.

The group went so far as to form a “partnership” with energy drink company Red Bull in an effort to boost sales. A series of sporadic encounters with student participants complicated things for the Voltage representatives.

Oliver elaborated on the fair’s element of unpredictability. “For all intents and purposes, we are salespeople for this company, and so we have to adjust to whatever happens to come our way.”

When I first approached Oliver for an interview, he thought I was an enthusiastic student pretending to be a reporter to quiz him on his knowledge of the product.

“The fake reporter thing was funny because in an event like this, we [had] different levels of engagement from different people,” he said. “Some were really invested. For example, some posed as individuals from certain demographics, or asked questions like, ‘How does this help me? Why do I want this product?’ which made it feel realistic.”

Colton agreed that at times the simulation felt real. “I was a brand ambassador over the summer and the feeling you get when you’re trying to sell the product is very similar to how I felt when someone would walk up to our stand today.” She felt the heightened authenticity is what forced class members to adapt under pressure. “I think it really challenged us and forced us to go above and beyond the typical presentation.”

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