By: Courtney Driscoll –

The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing plays a vital role in preparing students for life after graduation by allowing them to utilize institute resources while studying at the University of Akron. The Institute has a variety of resources to offer students, such as a fully equipped focus group room, conference and study rooms, marketing analytics computer lab and a video production studio. A saying that you can hear circulating in the halls is that The Taylor Institute is “Where Theory Meets Practice”. Faculty and administrators understand that it’s not enough for students to just be taught theory; they must also practice what they learn to truly absorb it.

One of the rooms that gets used quite frequently is the Taylor Institute Focus Group Lab. The lab is used for a variety of classes in which students need to determine the “hows” and “whys” an individual feels about a certain product. Focus groups are a great way for students to gather this qualitative data while working on class projects. Being able to develop the skills of planning, facilitating, and analyzing the results of focus groups can give a student a step above the rest when entering the work force.


In many classes, like Dr. Federico de Gregorio’s Integrated Marketing Communications course, students are able to work with real clients on real projects. This semester Dr. de Gregorio arranged for students to work with Brandon Ford, founder of Vintage Teaworks, a wine-inspired loose leaf tea company that produces six different varieties of tea. The goal of the project is for each team in the class to create a yearlong marketing campaign for the client, complete with a timeline, examples of digital content and a budget.


One team decided to organize a focus group to better understand the perception of tea amongst college-aged individuals. When focus group particpants arrived at the focus group room they find a large conference table with TV equipment. Behind the two-way mirror is a room supplied with recording equipment to document each session for later viewing.

During the first half of the focus group participants were asked questions such as “What words do you associate with tea?” and “What characteristics do you consider when choosing a beverage?” The second half of the focus group was used to see how participants perceived Vintage TeaWorks brand. The group was shown a variety of print advertisements and packaging from both Vintage TeaWorks and other tea companies to determine packaging and advertising preferences. This data was recorded and used to shape the campaign. Thanks to the Taylor Institute and their resources, students can create data rich campaigns for any type of client.

To find out more about Vintage Teaworks follow them on twitter @Vintageteaworks and visit their website –