Last term, a group of Marketing students provided consultation for Rhode Island-based Taco Comfort Solutions, a company that produces heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) products and systems. The consultation was part of a Directed Educational Experience (DEE) for the fall term, and required students to research and develop a detailed plan to help Taco integrate their new European companies into their original company to create a cohesive global brand.
Since then, a new group of students have taken over to continue the project. They’ve spent the winter term focusing on more insights, more research and — most importantly — interdisciplinary work with students from other majors to produce a more comprehensive plan for Taco’s future.
As in phase one, phase two was comprised of work from three focused teams spearheaded by Associate Professor Elizabeth Carey, Associate Professor Peter Bortolotti and Professor Anthony Fruzzetti. While there were still teams dedicated to Research and Brand/Communications, a Design team was introduced to create potential new designs for Taco’s website and other branding materials.
As challenging as pulling all the work together is, that’s where the learning happens.”
“As challenging as pulling all the work together is, that’s where the learning happens,” began Fruzzetti as he opened up the presentation. He introduced the research team, who provided a brief recap of the work that had been done in the fall.
The team then dove into their extensive research on how Taco’s products stacked up to the competition, and suggested some future steps Taco could take with their line of products to continue being an industry leader in any market.
“A lot of this process was researching as much as we could about each product, and I can now say I know way too much about hydronics and plumbing and valves,” said Bailey Doggett ‘19 with a laugh. “But in order to do good research for a company, you have to really familiarize yourself with their products. We also had a great team that got along well and helped each other with the work.”
The research team then handed off the presentation to the Brand/Communications team, who also began with a brief recap of the work done in the fall. They audited the branding and communications of Taco and its competitors, which included an in depth look at social media presence. The team then provided suggestions and discussed a potential brand mantra: Innovation, Community and Comfort.
This team included students from the Media & Communication Studies (MCST) program in the John Hazen White College of Arts & Sciences, who were excited to collaborate with Marketing students and see a different side of the media industry.
This has been such a great experience.”
“This has been such a great experience because I’ve gotten to develop my strategic analysis skills,” said Will Conner ’19. “We looked at different brands and evaluated their strengths and weaknesses, which isn’t something we directly focus on in our MCST program. It gave us a chance to look at the research side of media production, which will help us in the future when we’re creating media content.”
The Brand/Communications team’s section flowed perfectly into the Design team’s section. College of Engineering & Design students joined the project to design a new look for Taco’s website and provide suggestions for color palettes, fonts and other visual brand elements. The designs were heavily influenced by all the research the other teams had done, focusing on the brand mantra and the slogan “A Family of Comfort Tech” that the Brand team had created.
“We had to have a sensitive approach to the design and not be too aggressive,” said Leandre Mewborn ’20. “They’re a big company that is branching out internationally, and we wanted to create something that they could easily integrate into multiple social platforms.”
Mewborn and fellow Graphic Design majors Marissa Langdon ’19 and Bradley Morris ’20 comprised the Design team, and were all excited to work with students from different majors to learn how their designs could impact the marketing and communications of a company. “It was great real-world experience to be able to talk and interact with Marketing and MCST students and collaborate on something like this,” Morris remarked.
The hard work of all three teams seemed to impress Ken Watson, the vice president of corporate marketing for Taco. He sat front row and asked numerous questions throughout the presentation about their work and how they gathered their research. He also let them know how much he liked the design ideas for the website and the branding concepts.
“In this second phase, we’ve reached the same conclusion that Taco already has all the right elements to stand behind this brand position,” shared Associate Professor Carey. “By reimagining their current brand, we’re encouraging them to have every aspect of design speak to innovation, community and comfort, and then push that brand mantra through every touchpoint they have.”
Carey also acknowledged that the students did a great job walking the fine line of consulting. “They had to be extremely sensitive to the fact that Taco has already established brand equity. They did a great job not alienating the brand equity that’s already there, but bringing it to a more organized, minimalist place that also speaks to the brand mantra.”
Seeing all their hard work come together left the students in high spirits, and the professors were very proud as well. “You all rose to the occasion,” Associate Professor Bortolotti addressed the students after the presentation. “You tied all the threads together and it was very powerful. As long as you always realize there’s a bigger picture, you’ll be successful in your professional lives.”
Students will wait to see if Taco chooses to implement any or all of their suggestions, but in the meantime they breathe a sigh of relief to see their hard work pay off and another successful term come to a close.