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BBAs cruise for career experience

At first glance, a class offered at Goizueta Business School this semester seems a lot less like schoolwork and a lot more like vacation. But there's no mistaking the hands-on experience and marketing insights the students gain from Integrated Marketing Communications.

In an effort to help cruise company Royal Carribbean International develop a loyalty program, BBA students are taking a cruise during spring break to observe passenger behavior in relation to cruise services and to collect data from passengers about possible loyalty plan options. The students will create a loyalty program for the company involving several aspects of guest experience, a retail experience, crew involvement and post-cruise engagement.

Taught by Assistant Professor of Marketing Reshma Shah, Integrated Marketing Communications is an elective in Goizueta's marketing concentration, and it involves the strategic process of planning, developing, executing, evaluating and controlling the use of various promotional mix elements to effectively communicate with target audiences.

Shah developed the class five years ago, using The Coca-Cola Company as a client, to give her students the opportunity to study a youth consumer.

"We have been working with The Coca-Cola Company for years in a variety of ways," says Shah. "Our main client at the company was intrigued by the possibility of providing a project similar to the ones we give our MBA students, but to the BBA students, since they are more representative of the age segment they are focused on targeting — youth between the ages of 16 to 24." The company was so pleased with the results of the project they have collaborated with Shah for this class ever since.

In this year's class, students are working with Royal Caribbean, a strategic partner of The Coca-Cola Company, which is included in the project but is not central to the development of a loyalty program.

Because of the strong hands-on marketing component, Shah says the experience is as real as it gets. "This is like an internship that spans four months and involves teamwork," she says. "Royal Caribbean plans to implement our recommendations, so from beginning to end, my students will be immersed in the consulting and research processes that enable them to provide actionable recommendations to our clients."

And with that immersion comes experience these BBA students can trade on long after the cruise is over. "Ultimately, I hope to provide them the tools and knowledge through this project that they can use in their jobs and for any of a number of different projects."

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