Business students develop marketing strategy for Ford

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Graduate students from the VCU School of Business presented a marketing campaign to Ford Motor Company’s manager of social sustainability, David Berdish, on Thursday.

“Human Rights as a Strategic Advantage: The Case of Ford Motor Company in the Global Business Arena” was the work of 18 business students who were chosen from a pool of applicants from across various programs within the VCU School of Business’ graduate studies.

In the spring of 2012, Ford Motor Company awarded the VCU School of Business and Van R. Wood, Ph.D., professor of marketing and the Philip Morris Chair in International Business, a grant to create an integrated marketing communication strategy aimed at promoting Ford's position and experiences in the global human rights arena. The team of students worked closely with Berdish and was guided by Wood throughout the six-month process.

The students developed a multi-pronged approach to address the lack of awareness surrounding Ford’s commitment and efforts to advance human rights around the world. The team presented a full communications plan, which featured research, planning and implementation components.

“Clearly, this type of project provides participating students an opportunity to hone their research talents, polish their presentation skills and take their abilities to ‘think differently’ and offer significant insights into some of the most pressing issues facing humanity today to a whole new level,” Wood said.

The project highlights the School of Business’ engagement with top global companies, allowing for unique educational and practical experiences.

"VCU has tremendous relationships with businesses, not only in Richmond, but beyond, that enable its students to work on real-world projects that will impact organizations and their daily operations," said Kanwar Singh, a participant in the student group.

His teammate Aziz Stewart agrees.

“It's not every school that gets to do a project like this with a company like Ford,” said Stewart, a global marketing management student. “It's a tremendous honor, and I'm very thankful to be a part of it.”

The project was not only meaningful for the students, but also for Berdish, an alumnus of VCU. Ford has partnered with the business school in the past, and hopes to again next year, but this project was especially important to him.

“I’m really proud to be a part of this with VCU,” he said. “This one was very close to my heart.”

"This is the second year in a row that Ford Motor Company and Mr. David Berdish have offered a team of VCU School of Business graduate students the opportunity to work on a project that was meaningful in a real world sense, demanding in terms of the high degree of professionalism required by all participants and significant in that these projects focused upon global-game changing issues that face all of us on this planet,” Wood said. “Clearly, this speaks well for the quality of students that VCU produces and what they will be contributing in the future as professionals once they graduate.”

Ford officials will consider the recommendations the team outlined for possible application in the future.