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NMSU marketing students' plan strikes chord with Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra

A group of marketing students from New Mexico State University hit just the right note with the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra as it works to tune up its efforts to reach out to new and old listeners.


Proposed student logo for the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra.
A team of students in a marketing class at NMSU's College of Business is proposing this new logo for the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra. (Logo provided by Elissia Gonzalez)
Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra logo
The Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra's current logo. (Logo provided by the Las Cruces Symphony Association)

This past spring semester, the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra, which is housed on the NMSU campus, approached the marketing department at the College of Business to help freshen up its marketing campaign. Michelle Jasso, an associate professor of marketing, tasked students in her upper level promotion management class to create a marketing campaign for the symphony. The students were split into nine teams and competed against each other to score the winning campaign, as well as an "A" in class.

"It was actually an idea from one of our board members to approach the university, and we were looking for some ideas to brighten our marketing plan and try to reach a younger audience," said Katie Tomicek, executive director of the Las Cruces Symphony Association, who helped to judge the contest. "I thought all of the teams did a great job. All of the teams had something nice to offer."

But there could be only one winner and that was Team 2, made up of marketing and design students Chloe Kuntz-Phillips, Elissia Gonzalez, Nicholas Taylor, Shellee Gipson and Dominc Guzman. Most of the students on the team graduated from NMSU in the spring.

For Gonzalez, who majored in graphic design, the competition provided a valuable lesson on the importance of paying attention to a client's needs.

"I was trying not to do certain things, but then I remembered that this is what the symphony wanted and I should do what they want because they are the customers," said Gonzalez, who now works as a graphic designer for the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

Listening to the client was one of the main reasons Team 2 came out on top,

"That team had everything; a good writer, a good graphic designer, someone who came up with good ideas," Jasso said. "They just hit every criteria and they still worked outside the box."

The winning team created a total marketing plan that included social media, a brochure for prospective donors, program guides, ideas for fundraising events and an updated logo. The logo, which was designed by Gonzalez and her team, impressed Tomicek.

"The winning logo I really liked," she said. "It was very creative. I liked how it was very abstract. They did stay within the colors that we had asked. It's actually an abstract cello and the bird looks like a flower so you get the idea of blooming. Our tagline is 'A Symphony Blooms in the Desert.'

"It does stray quite a bit from what we have currently, so I do have to take that into consideration if we're going to release a brand new logo or if we're going to take our current logo in this new direction," Tomicek added. "That's something we're looking at now and we'll probably know for the next season. A lot of our marketing materials had to be done for this coming season before this competition was finished. So a lot of things in the winning plan probably won't show up until of 2013-2014 season."

Tomicek also praised Team 2 for recommending that the orchestra have separate, but similar, branding for the symphony and its educational outreach efforts.

"They suggested branding them closely but they are really their own separate ideas," Tomicek said. "We had always put the programs under the same umbrella. I thought this was a very, very good idea."

Team 2 also devised a strategy for using social media in order to raise awareness of the orchestra among young professionals in their 20s and 30s. In particular, the team suggested using the websites Groupon and LivingSocial to offer unsold performance tickets to a younger demographic.

Reaching out to younger people while remaining true to the symphony's core audience proved to be the most difficult task for the marketing students. The symphony, which started as a small community orchestra in 1962, is expected to reach more than 23,000 people through 12 classical concerts, two pops performances, a chamber concert and a variety of educational outreach programs in the 2011-2012 season. The agreed upon goal for the logo was that it remain elegant and retain the current color scheme of silver and crimson.

"Some teams wanted to give the logo a younger feel, but it was too young," Jasso said. "The orchestra's demographic is older and more traditional. Some of the teams were disappointed, but I told them, you have to listen to the client."

The marketing competition is held every semester for the upper level promotion management class. Past clients have included government agencies and the Barnes & Noble bookstore on campus. Next year, students will be creating a marketing plan for NMSU's athletic department.

"I'm glad to do this," Jasso said. "It's a lot of fun."