When the spring semester began, none of the students in Associate Professor Sonya Grier's course had ever heard of the Petworth neighborhood, let alone visited it.
That all changed when Grier's undergraduate Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications class partnered with a group of business owners, called the Heart of Petworth (HOP), to develop an integrated marketing plan to bring customers and awareness to the developing Northwest D.C. neighborhood.
Located near the Green and Yellow Metro Lines, Petworth is home to more than 20,000 residents.
The Petworth Project was about getting students out of the classroom and conducting qualitative research to back-up quantitative data. Grier and the HOP encouraged students to spend time in Petworth to get a true feel for the community.
"The best part of the project was definitely getting to do some actual field work," said Stephanie Morris, BA/SIS '14. "So many classes focus on the hypothetical work and abstract ideas, but this was for real people and hopefully our work will make a real difference."
Morris and her teammates proposed a unified HOP mascot, a rabbit named "Petworth Pete," whose slogan would be "Shop the HOP" to promote recognition for the neighborhood beyond its borders, drawing a previously untapped demographic to the neighborhood.
"We could see that brand recall was really what [the HOP] needed," said Jean Peterson, BA/SIS '14, one of Morris' teammates. "Petworth has such a strong community feel and that’s what we wanted to get across in our plan."
Seeing the students learn more about the people who make up the nation's capital was the most rewarding part of the partnership for HOP member Annie Stom, owner of Annie's Hardware.
"It's been amazing to see the students jump into the unknown and get out of their comfort zone," said Stom, BA/CAS '76. "I know that when I was at American [University] thirty years ago, I never would have given this neighborhood a second thought. I hope this project will encourage these kids to get to know D.C. and its people even better before they graduate."
It's Grier's hope that projects like the Petworth partnership will expose her students to more than just marketing principles. By introducing them to new communities just a few miles from campus, students see there's more to Washington, D.C. than what is on the Red Line.
"This was the first time I ever really explored a new part of the city," said Owen Blake, BSBA '14. "I'd never really thought about visiting these smaller neighborhoods, but now I see that they're out there and they still strive to be important in the market. There’s a sense of pride and diversity there and they want to share that."
Active HOP members range from a hardware store to a yoga studio, a coffee shop to a graphic design shop, and everything in between.
"Our community is such an interesting mix in a relatively small area," said Nathan Hill, owner/operator of Nhd Design Studio. "We have residential and commercial, shops and services, and we all need something different."
The HOP will be co-sponsoring the Celebrate Petworth Fair on May 10, 2014.