The Real Thing

Story by Margie Peterson
Images by Christa Neu

Marketing students pitch social media strategies to Martin Guitar and HangDog Outdoor Adventures.

students at Martin Guitar marketing presentation

With polished pitches and detailed plans, Lehigh Business marketing students offered executives of two Lehigh Valley companies ideas for expanding their digital and social media marketing. 

At the May 4 event in the Business Innovation Building, eight teams from two digital and social media marketing classes had 13 minutes each to showcase their social media campaigns for either 190-year-old C.F. Martin & Company (better known as Martin Guitar) or the fledgling HangDog Outdoor Adventures.

Emily Friedman ’23 and Samantha Thompson ’23 were among those who worked on plans to promote Martin’s brand to young enthusiasts. Their plan included identifying and offering incentives to micro-influencers who play guitar and have followings on sites such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. Students pitched ideas for a collaboration with Levi’s jeans and created videos and promotions encouraging user-generated content to appeal to a younger demographic.

Friedman says pitching to a real business was exhilarating. 

“Your client team is sitting right in front of you,” she says. “Watching their reaction, seeing them nod their head and smiling, it gives you more adrenaline.” 

Thompson’s group produced a video designed to appeal to young people looking for their first guitar and also created key performance indicators for tracking the campaign’s success. A guitar player herself, Thompson was among the students who took a tour of the Martin Guitar factory in nearby Nazareth, Pennsylvania.  

“I was geeking out,” she recalls. 

Students recommended highlighting Martin’s commitment to sustainability and increasing the company’s activities at Musikfest, such as a Build-Your-Own Guitar workshop and opportunities for people to audition to play at the Martin Guitar Lyrikplatz. 

Mike Nelson, vice president of marketing for C.F. Martin & Co, was impressed. 

“Absolutely we can use some of those ideas,” Nelson says. “They really thought it through to offer those specifics.”  

students at Lehigh Valley Grand Prix marketing presentation
HangDog Outdoor Adventures owner Mike McCreary ’07 (center), marketing Professor of Practice, Deirdre Trabert Malacrea (far left) and her class.

Four other teams of students presented their plans to HangDog Outdoor Adventures owner Mike McCreary ’07, who also owns Lehigh Valley Grand Prix. McCreary plans to launch HangDog in the Easton area as a four-story adventure ropes course with ziplines, food, a craft beer garden and live music. 

McCreary loved the students’ suggested hashtag #ComeHangWithUs and the idea of having a college night in the early fall or late spring geared toward offering discounted admission to local students. 

He was also interested in tips on attracting local social media influencers who would then post videos and photos of their HangDog experiences on sites like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, X and TikTok. 

“Putting more emphasis on influencers is something I hadn’t thought about much,” McCreary says. “I love that idea.” 

Colin McMahon’s group pitched the college night plan.  

“This company and this project allowed us a lot of freedom to use our creativity,” McMahon ’23, said. “Being able to work with a hands-on project that was applied to the real world and work directly with the company was incredibly insightful.”

That’s music to the ears of Deirdre Trabert Malacrea, professor of practice in marketing and a former Pepsi marketer, who teaches the digital and social media classes and recruits businesses.  

“We really want to promote career readiness for our marketing students by giving them real world experiences,” she says. “I’ve had students tell me that working on this project during their marketing career at Lehigh helped them actually secure their jobs. Talking about their project experience gave them something relatable to discuss with a potential employer.

“They learn how to be accountable to their teammates and to an outcome. They get to hear the inner workings between professionals. The next time they create a marketing campaign won’t be their first rodeo.”