What can one of the nation’s leading construction firms learn about effective marketing from a group of college students? Plenty, according to Robert Hunt, the third-generation chairman and CEO of Arizona-based Hunt Construction Group.
“The construction industry is not very forward thinking, and our company is on the back end of that,” Hunt admits. “We could be better than we are in marketing.”
Through Ball State’s Building Better Communities Fellows immersive learning program, an interdisciplinary team of 11 students worked with Hunt’s Indianapolis office to evaluate the firm’s brand position within its market. From that research, the students developed recommendations for enhancing the company’s image in an increasingly competitive industry.
With more than $8 billion in contracts annually, Hunt Construction Group is widely recognized as America’s premier builder of sports facilities and convention centers, having constructed five of the nation’s top 10 ranked stadiums built in the past decade. The firm’s portfolio also includes hospitality, entertainment, education, health care, and performing arts facilities. In Indianapolis, Hunt built Lucas Oil Stadium, the JW Marriott, and the Indianapolis International Airport’s new terminal.
The student team’s 80-page final report outlined a cohesive brand management strategy that included website improvements, more creative advertising and promotional materials, increased social media activity, community involvement, consistent brand visibility, and employee brand training.
The students’ surveys of customers, business partners, and employees affirmed the company’s core values of quality, dependability, trust, integrity, and value. However, the firm was not seen as innovative, even though it provides cutting-edge services and emphasizes sustainable construction and building information modeling.
The team recommended adding more interactive features, brighter visuals, and consistent design elements to the company’s website and developing a more professional and polished look for print materials. Most of the website ideas have been implemented.
“We gained some good knowledge, and we have put some of the recommendations in place,” says Hunt, a Ball State business administration graduate. “This was overall a good experience. The positive spirit of the team and the quality of the faculty involvement were first-class. The students’ process helped stimulate some creativity and forward thinking in our company that continues today.”
Students majoring in marketing, advertising, public relations, graphic design, entrepreneurial management, and construction management participated in the semester-long project, mentored by marketing professor Russ Wahlers and technology professor James Jones. Hunt hired one of the students as a summer intern after the work was completed.
“Immersive learning is truly remarkable,” Hunt says. “With students, everyone has creative ideas that are cutting-edge. You get freshness and enthusiasm. Their youth drove us to think about some things in new ways.”
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