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Attracting New Clients:
BA 323 Students Develop Marketing Plans for Tanning Salon Chain

Marketing students tackled real world advertising challenges in a unique opportunity presented them by Classic Tan founders Evona and Don Kermath. As part of Tiffany Barnett White's BA 323 class in marketing communications, students were briefed on marketing communications challenges the Champaign-area indoor tanning business faces and were asked to develop fresh ideas for expanding the indoor tanning market. For added authenticity, the marketing students presented their ideas to owner Don Kermath in a conference setting and received immediate feedback.

Several elements were required in the presentation to satisfy the Classic Tan assignment:

 a well-justified positioning statement and corresponding creative strategy

 communication mix recommendations (e.g., advertising, direct mail, sponsorship, sales promotions) most appropriate for Classic Tan's marketing challenges, given a limited budget.

The student teams presented sample tactics such as a storyboard for a TV ad, copy for a direct mail piece, or a script for a radio ad. Other recommendations included in their presentation could be described.

Currently, the customer base demographics show that women comprise a majority of Classic Tan's clientele. Consequently, most presentations focused on attracting more men to one of the several locations the tanning chain maintains. "Make an emotional appeal to the target audience," said Don Kermath to one group, "We mostly use logic to justify the emotional decision we have already made in our heart."

With Kermath's information in mind, advertising ideas ran the gamut. There were clichés and the occasional raised eyebrow as Kermath's skilled marketing eye sifted through the numerous sales pitches-from mock radio ads: "Get some fun in the sun for half the trouble at Classic Tan" to print ads that urged male readers to imagine themselves standing -tanned and fit - next to an attractive woman (illustrated with a headless male beside the striking model).

Presentations were particularly focused with disproving some myths related to tanning. "Basically we wanted to shed the stereotypes that tanning is unsafe and feminine," said a student presenter whose radio script garnered laughs and a nod from Kermath.

With Kermath's hands-on, realistic analysis of their presentations, students were able to see the negatives and positives of their marketing plans from a business person's perspective. "I've seen some pretty interesting ideas here, but you want to make sure that with your advertisements, you can help justify the emotional decisions we make," noted Kermath.

Classes like White's that include realistic assignments use the integrated learning approach that incorporates hands-on learning and teamwork in addition to traditional lectures. The blend of entrepreneurial advice from Class Tan owner Don Kermath and classroom knowledge proved to be an effective tool to help students understand some practical aspects of advertising.

--Michael Romain
December 2004