With our first semester of the MSMR Program completed, I have taken time to reflect on one of the projects that was the most meaningful to me.  With every week that passed in the program, our assignments gradually shifted from fundamental exercises to real life applications.  The most impactful project to me was a semester-long project that tested our market research abilities in a real life situation.

In the first week of classes, Professor Spreng announced the project we would be completing throughout the semester.  The aim of the project was to create a Qualitative research plan that would help identify Brand Ambassadors for the CABS Department (Communications and Brand Strategy).  In implementing this project, each team assumed every stage of the client management process including research design, data collection, analysis and a final presentation of the results.  This was different from any project I had worked on as an undergraduate because we would be dealing with the collection of fresh and self-selected data in order to determine answers to formulated questions.

The project began with the CABS department presenting their current situation to our class.  They explained to us that their ideal candidate for a Brand Ambassador would be someone who is persuasive, innovative, knowledgeable, and is well connected within the Spartan community.  They referred to these types of people as “Maxcers” or Maximum Influencers.  The CABS team wanted to uncover ways they could encourage future Brand Ambassadors to spread information that did not just pertain to MSU sports, but MSU as a whole. In order to establish the Brand Ambassador program, it was essential for each team to conduct qualitative research.

Each team conducted a number of in-depth interviews and a focus group in order to investigate:

  • How the MSU brand is viewed
  • Major strengths and weaknesses
  • How to better understand the relationship between MSU students and alumni

Once we had a clear understanding of the MSU brand and its connection to supporters of the school, we were able to start brainstorming recommendations to incentivize Maxcers to partake in the Brand Ambassadorship.  Many groups recommended giving out MSU apparel to Brand Ambassadors that reach out to the most people.  Our group recommended ways to enhance the MSUToday website in order to draw in more Maxcers.

With all the recommendations that were produced from the qualitative studies, what I realized at the end of the project was that we did not have enough information to be sure that any of ideas would lead to the “perfect” Brand Ambassador Program for MSU.  We had the big picture, but without implementing quantitative research, all of our recommendations were merely hypotheses.  I was excited to learn that over the course of the next semester, a group of students from our cohort will be continuing the project by conducting quantitative research.  Overall, I believe working on the first phase of this effort enhanced my growth as a researcher and provided our class with a vision of what types of endeavors we plan to work on when we enter the field.