Students brainstorm marketing ideas for Bucky’s Varsity Meats store on campus – CALS News
Mitch Monson knows Bucky’s Varsity Meats has a lot to offer. As retail store manager in the Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery (MSABD) building, Monson mouths the choice cuts of meat that are offered at competitive prices. He and students passionate about meat science interact with customers. Sales from the store even help fund education and research through the MSABD program. But there’s something Monson is the first to admit the store needs help with: attracting more customers.
“There’s so much potential with this space,” Monson says. “I was a bit alone with [marketing] planning for the past few years, and there’s no script for how it plays out. How to market our products and reach more people was on my mind, and I really want to do it right.
In an effort to gather more and more varied ideas, Monson took the advice of Heidi Zoerb, associate dean for external relations and advancement at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The two reached out to Mike Judge, an instructor at the Wisconsin School of Business, to partner with his fall 2021 branding course in UW-Madison’s Master of Business Administration program.
“I know Mike and he worked at Oscar Mayer, so I knew he had an understanding of the meat industry,” says Zoerb. “I thought having his class focus on Bucky’s Varsity Meats would be beneficial for the store and also a great project for second-year MBA students.”
The judge agreed. In mid-October, Monson and Zoerb attended his class and introduced the students to Bucky’s college meats. The students, divided into 10 teams, were asked to analyze the store and its marketing potential and to share their ideas during final presentations at the end of the semester.
“The goal was to grow the store’s revenue to $1 million by year five,” says Judge. “They were asked to complete three things for the client: a brand analysis, a brand briefing and marketing ideas.”
In their final presentations, the students made it clear that the student-focused product and service provided by Bucky’s Varsity Meats puts it ahead of other meat shops. They also felt these benefits outweighed the challenges the store faces, such as location and availability of parking.
“We believe the essence of the store is where UW-Madison quality meets UW-Madison affordability,” Team 8’s Katie Arnold said during their presentation. “We really want to highlight the sentiments and associations of Bucky’s Varsity Meats: high quality products, an approachable staff who can educate customers, and a welcoming environment.”
To attract more customers to this environment, the student groups came up with several ideas, including offering prepared foods, a loyalty program, box lunches and cooking classes. Many groups also mentioned the diversity of the campus and the impact of offering products to international communities, such as Korean ribs or Brazilian cuts of meat. Several groups also mentioned delivery services.
“We considered graduate students, faculty and staff as our customers,” explained Karlotta Galten of Team 1. “We assume that after work they will be in a hurry to get home. A delivery program might be ideal for these customers. They could place orders in the morning and then in the afternoon the orders would be delivered to their university building on campus.
Monson was delighted with the ideas generated.
“The presentations were outstanding. They put so much work into it,” Monson says. “Also, I had two perspectives: the professional business student and a younger person on campus who would be a typical customer for us. They were able to tell me what they were looking for.
In addition to ideas from the branding course, Monson also had another inspiration last semester. He was able to work with a retail marketing class at the School of Human Ecology, where a group of six undergraduate students were assigned to Bucky’s Varsity Meats.
“They gave me a different view of marketing, and their plan focused on Christmas sales,” Monson explains. “December is really critical for us, so I liked having another idea to focus on that time of year.”
With all of this information in hand, Monson is now focused on breaking down the tactics into smaller chunks and trying them out however he can. He first wants to set up a food service that would provide ready-to-eat food to students and other customers on campus. Beyond that, he hopes to slowly implement ideas provided by students from both programs, such as cooking classes, loyalty programs, meal kits, recipe cards and game boxes.
“It’s going to take me a while to unpack all the great ideas,” Monson says. “The possibilities are overwhelming, so I’m just going to work day by day to get to where we want to be. And I would love to work with students again. It’s amazing what we can come up with when everyone puts their talents to work. same direction.