Sweet lessons: Students in consumer behavior class develop new products for Hershey

Hershey collab

In a collaboration with The Hershey Company, students in the MKT4220: Consumer Behavior class at the Trulaske College of Business are getting a firsthand experience of product development and brand extension. Spearheaded by Associate Professor Courtney Cothren, the project offers students the opportunity to explore the real-world process of product creation, marketing strategy development and retail execution techniques.

Over the course of the semester, groups of students were each assigned a Hershey brand. Their task? To research the brand, use class-taught concepts to create a product line extension, design the packaging and craft a detailed retail execution plan. The class voted on a winning pitch, and recordings of the presentations were sent to Kahlie Potter, BS BA '17, current manager of business analytics at The Hershey Company, for further evaluation.

“I find that students learn best when they are able to apply class concepts to a real-world project and I strive to create opportunities for them to work with corporate partners wherever possible,” Cothren said. “When I was brainstorming an idea for my large Consumer Behavior classes, I knew I wanted students to work with Kahlie so they could be exposed to the way she uses consumer insights to drive purchase intent. Additionally, there isn't a product more fun or relatable than candy! I knew this project would motivate students to better understand how marketers use the concepts we study and get creative at the same time.”

Now located at Hershey's corporate office, Potter has been instrumental in the project's development and execution. During the semester, Potter virtually addressed the class, sharing insights from her career and the industry and offered a follow-up mentoring session for interested students.

“Thinking back to my time at Mizzou and the Trulaske College of Business, course content always made more sense and was easier to remember when related to real-world examples. The Hershey Company grounds itself on knowledge of consumers and their behavior, so the project seemed like a perfect fit, and I was excited to collaborate with Dr. Cothren,” Potter said. “The project was truly a win-win! The students learned the concepts and gained practice for their careers, and Hershey benefitted by gaining awareness and an outside perspective of our numerous brands.”

The innovative curriculum and hands-on learning experience offered through this project exemplify the commitment of the Trulaske College of Business to provide students with opportunities that bridge the gap between academic theory and practical application. This project with Hershey not only gives students a unique insight into the world of consumer behavior and product marketing but also provides them with a platform to demonstrate their creativity, critical thinking and strategic planning skills in a real-world context.

While this is the first time for such a collaboration, both Cothren and Potter are optimistic about its success and potential future iterations.