Students work on ads project with international advisers

By University Communications
May 27, 2016
A UW-Stout student team designed an ad for Under Armour for marketing in India. Students were assigned to research international marketing with the help of international student advisers for the Social Psychological Aspects of Clothing course.

Photo: A UW-Stout student team designed an ad for Under Armour for
marketing in India. Students were assigned to research international
marketing with the help of international student advisers for the
Social Psychological Aspects of Clothing course.


What will sell in Cameroon? Will clothing that sells in the U.S. be popular in Saudi Arabia? What do companies need to consider when marketing their products around the world?

University of Wisconsin-Stout undergraduate students in Assistant Professor Meriem Chida’s class Social Psychological Aspects of Clothing were assigned a project to research and answer these questions.

“The focus of the class is learning to look at other cultures through their cultural lens, and clothing is one expression of culture,” Chida said.

To raise students’ cultural intelligence, the students read “The Visible Self: Global Perspectives on Dress, Culture and Society” by Joanne Eicher, Sandra Evenson and Hazel Lutz.

“The book helped expose business students to complex cultural issues such as ethnocentrism and orientalism,” Chida said.

The students, who are either majoring or minoring in retail merchandising and management, had to identify a niche and market a product in one of nine countries, Saudi Arabia, India, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Germany, Cameroon, Kenya and Malaysia. The assignment was called the Cultural Consulting Project. 

UW-Stout students, international student advisers and faculty gather for a project reception and certificates.

The 30 students were divided into 15 teams, and luckily for them each team benefited from a bonus: an adviser with firsthand knowledge of the country. Chida had contacted the university’s Office of International Education to recruit advisers from the foreign student population, and 19 volunteered.

The countries and advisers were randomly assigned to the teams. Each team met a minimum of two hours a month with their cultural adviser to ensure accurate and timely feedback was given to avoid orphan products — products without a market — and failed marketing strategies.

The project included choosing and profiling a real company and one of its products; some of the companies chosen were Teva, Coach, Michael Kors, Carolyn Roumeguere and Under Armour. “Students also had to research and identify companies that had the infrastructure in place to enter any of these markets. Companies could already be global or have the potential to do business at a global scale,” Chida explained.One student team designed a sandal ad for Teva to be marketed in Cameroon.

To understand what might sell in a specific market, students profiled their assigned country including map, flag, languages, religions, form of government, economy, sociocultural indicators and holidays.

The project also required that each team discover a recent marketing failure resulting from a lack of cultural knowledge or sensitivity. Some of the company flops the students found were the Italian company Dolce Gabbana that attempted to market a sheer dress in Saudi Arabia; the company Free People for its Native American-themed festival collection; and ASOS Marketplace’s T-shirt with the word “Slave” printed on it modeled by a black man.

The final part of the project was to design a promotional ad, video, print ad for a magazine, poster or billboard for the chosen product.

Finding the right niche

The team of Rachel Wehr, of St. Anthony, Minn., and Ahna Larson, of Fridley, Minn., chose to market a Teva sandal in the African country Cameroon. “Trying to find something that we could introduce to that country that has not already been introduced was hard,” Larson said. 

Their adviser was Mirabelle Bongbinsin, a visiting student from Cameroon.

But with three heads working on it they came up with a sandal design that included recycled tires as soles and traditional textiles for the straps. The ad boasted: “Preserve traditional textiles of Cameroon, keep your culture with every step you take.”

The open-ended assignment, without a lot of structure, also was challenging, Larson said. “In the end, I am so happy that is how she (Chida) structures her projects because it pushed me to become a better and stronger student and thinker,” she said.

Finding specific information on Cameroon also was challenging, Wehr said.Listening to the perspective of a native made up for it though. “I learned so much about the culture, values and lifestyle from our cultural adviser,” she said.

In addition to providing invaluable information, their Cameroon adviser also became a friend.

Larson and Wehr graduated in May with B.S. degrees in retail, merchandising and management.

Lauren West, of Rice Lake, and partner Laura Bartl, of Minneapolis, designed an ad for Under Armour for marketing in India. West loved working with her adviser, Del Kousik Chavali, and learning about retail and marketing in India.

A student team designed an ad featuring jewelry by designer Carolyn Roumeguere to be marketed in Kenya.West also graduated in May with a B.S. in retail merchandising and management.

Brittany Lauermann, of Eagan, Minn., and her teammate, Jacqueline Goutermont, of St. Michael, Minn., had the assigned country of Kenya and chose to market a necklace from the jewelry designer Carolyn Roumeguere. Lauermann said it was challenging to pick a product that they could market to a large group while keeping fashion and the traditional Kenyan style in mind. She also was surprised and interested to learn that women in Kenya dress similarly to women in the states. 

“I would never have thought that they wear things that look familiar here,” said Lauermann, who has one more year to complete her degree in retail merchandising and management.

Their Kenyan adviser was Delvin Mongare.

Elizabeth Yang, of La Crosse, and Jessica Chamberlain, of Eau Claire, designed an ad for a Michael Kors outfit to be marketed in Saudi Arabia.

Students designed an ad for Michael Kors attire to be marketed in Saudi Arabia. “The most interesting thing about the cultural and marketing project was interacting with the mentor and learning about his culture from his view,” Yang said. “The most challenging part was making sure that the information we found about Saudi Arabia was correct.”

Their cultural adviser was Ali Ibrahim Al-Kateeb, also known as Saleel Ibrahim Al-Gadeer.  

Collaboration and certificates

Racha Farhat via the UW-Stout Saudi Students Association helped co-sponsor the certification ceremony and reception that Chida organized when the projects were complete.  

Chida reached out to the Office of Cultural Affairs of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for funding. The office provided funds for the food, certificates and plaques that each adviser received.

Chida invited administrators and faculty to join the students and advisers for a meal and conversation and to hand out the certificates.

“The advisers were so excited to be so honored,” she said. “I was so happy that they felt that they brought great value to students’ lives.”

Chida, from Tunisia, is an assistant professor in the business department and has taught at the university for two years. She also is director for the federal Young African Leaders Initiative to be held at UW-Stout in June and July.

For more information about the program refer to retail, merchandising and management or contact Kathleen Cochran, director.

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Photo captions

Second photo
UW-Stout students, international student advisers and faculty gather for a project reception and certificates.

Third photo
One student team designed a sandal ad for Teva to be marketed in Cameroon.

Fourth photo
A student team designed an ad featuring jewelry by designer Carolyn Roumeguere to be marketed in Kenya.

Fifth photo
Students designed an ad for Michael Kors attire to be marketed in Saudi Arabia.