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ODU Marketing Students Compete to Create Marketing Plan for New Aerosol Can Recycling Product

Local environmental firm Katec, Inc. has developed a product called Aerosolv, an aerosol can recycling system that will hit the market next month.

Company officials were looking for innovative ways to market the new product to the auto parts retailer industry. So owner Michael Campbell reached out to the entrepreneurial students in Old Dominion University's Strome College of Business.

Students in Vijay Mali's Advertising Strategy class spent the summer semester doing market research about the company and the product, finding a market and creating a plan to market it to auto parts retailers like Napa, Autozone and Advance Auto.

During the last week of class in early August, the students presented their plans to a panel of judges, and the winning team of Jena Staffon, Taylor Million, Shaynna Mann-Hubbard and William Workman received a $1,000 prize from the company.

"I think the biggest positive of this semester is this was a live project. Students could roll up their sleeves and attempt to solve a real business problem," said Mali, instructor of marketing with the Strome College.

Aerosolv, the first aerosol can recycling technology to be verified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a contraption that safely punctures and drains aerosol cans, so they meet the requirements to be recycled. Katec operations manager Matt Turley, an Old Dominion graduate himself, demonstrated the product before the student teams presented their marketing plans.

Turley was eager to see what the teams came up with.

"We're really excited about getting young minds on a problem," Turley said. "As (owner) Michael (Campbell) told the students when they received the assignment, 'How do you sell that? That's your job.'"

In teams of four, the students presented their ideas for product placement, marketing and brand differentiation. They had researched potential customers for the product, conducted informal (and formal) market research and suggested outside-the-box ideas such as marketing the product to hair salons and hardware stores which use a great many aerosol cans.

Mali said the students did excellent work throughout the semester. "This is an actual business we have done work for. What we have been learning in class, we have applied to the project," he said.

Yuping Liu-Thompkins, professor and chair of the Marketing Department in the Strome College, served as one of the competition judges. She said receiving financial support for this type of hands-on, experiential learning is invaluable for Old Dominion business students.

"As a University community, we want to build connections in our community," Liu-Thompkins said. "We want assignments that allow our students to step out of the classroom and into meaningful partnerships with community organizations and businesses."

In addition to the prize money for this project, Katec has provided an additional $4,000 to the Marketing Department, to fund two more contests and support other experiential learning initiatives.

For information about the product, and to see a video of Aerosolv being demonstrated, see the Katec Website.

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