Using Walmart as a Classroom

Yep… my blog is about marketing, so I bet when you read the title to this post you thought I would be discussing some promotional strategy Walmart uses, or their secrets to their product placement strategies.  Well, that’s not the real purpose of this week’s post. Instead, I’m going to share how I used the retail giant in the classroom….. more accurately, how I used Walmart as the classroom.

walmartThis week, my Principles of Marketing (BUSI-141) classes are studying the Product portion of the Marketing Mix. They don’t like it when I lecture, and I don’t like it when I lecture, so I try very hard to incorporate creative, interesting activities to help them learn in interactive ways.  It’s my belief that they learn better and retain more that way, and I feel certain this project will prove that.

So for product strategies, I tried something new….. we held class at the local Walmart last Tuesday.  Literally… class was held in the store that’s just a couple of miles off campus. I have assigned students to make trips to different locations and report back, but I’ve never actually held class at a retail store like this before.

Nearly all of the students showed up for the “field trip,” so I was very pleased with the participation.  The students worked in teams with each team being assigned a specific product such as Gain Laundry Detergent, Samsung TV or Pantene Shampoo. They were given directions as to what to look for and assess…. something like a specialized, educational scavenger hunt.  Some of the things they were analyzing included:

  • Product type (i.e. convenience, shopping, specialty or unsought)
  • Describing the core, actual and augmented layers
  • Product line description including the different varieties, sizes and/or flavors available
  • Product placement in the store (all locations)
  • Specifics on the packaging
  • Competitor comparison of location and packaging

All of the students kept busy the entire time finding the (surprisingly) various locations where their product was placed, assessing competitor products, taking notes and asking multiple questions during our “field trip.” The longer they went and the deeper they looked, the more interested they seem to get.  Here are some snapshots of our day….

The kids with the toys?
Yea, they’re my students, but they were seriously assessing Star Wars toys – for most of the time. 🙂

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For the few days after our trip, I’ve caught students in the halls or other classes and asked for their impression of the project.  I’ve received all positive comments.  I keep hearing the same comments over and over again: “I never realized a product could have so many competitors,” “I didn’t know there were so many varieties available,” I never paid attention to why certain products are put on certain shelves,” “That was way better than sitting in the classroom!” 🙂

Although originally intended as a joke, I couldn’t agree more with that last statement. Physically going to a store to study product strategies turned out to be awesome.  Not only did it help enlighten the students on that day, but while I was covering the chapters on Product Strategies during the next class, it increased the interactivity (and, I think, understanding) of the students.  To drive the part of the Marketing Mix even further, each team will be giving a presentation to the class of their findings for their particular product.  I’m very excited to see how the product presentations go, and will be able to complete a full analysis on the class assignment afterward.

But wait…. they won’t be done with their products just yet.  When they return from Spring Break, the teams will use the same product from the Walmart trip to put together a presentation about distribution.  We’ll see how well they think outside of the box when they attempt to discover all the ways Duracell gets batteries into the hands of their consumers, or all the options a customer is given when buying a bottle of Coca Cola.

I invite you to check back in a couple of weeks to hear how the Product Presentation went. I’m hoping to share some videos as well.  I’m expecting some great insight!! 🙂

What other interesting and interactive class projects can you think of to teach marketing concepts? I would love to hear your ideas!!!

Class dismissed….. pc

FINAL NOTE:  Thank you Buckhannon Walmart for allowing us to hold class in your store. We learned a lot and appreciate the opportunity!!!

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