Mason students in the boardroom

How marketing wine provides real-world experience in client-relations for future advertisers

By Lauryn Cantrell, Staff Writer

During the first half of the Spring 2018 semester, Mason graphic design and marketing students in AVT 416: Advertising Design created original advertising campaigns for the private wine label Geo. Mason Wine.

The project began last year when students enrolled in the course for the Spring 2017 term were tasked with creating a brand identity for the wine that the George Mason University Alumni Association will sell to fund student scholarships.    

This year, students were separated into three groups – Wine Wizards, Design Next, and Tipsy Corks – to begin designing an affective strategy that was cohesive with the previously created label for the red and white varietals.   

The entire process began with research. Students met with their client, the Mason Foundation Wine Committee, made up of members of the George Mason University Alumni Association, university faculty, local professionals, vintners, and volunteers. The inquiring students asked the committee about their aspirations for the product and their target audience. They conducted surveys and researched attention spans, tapping into the social behaviors of consumers to guarantee they make the greatest impression on predicted purchasers: females and Mason alumni.

Students relied on their experience with Adobe Creative Suite design software, website design tools including HTML and CSS coding, packaging design, print and digital design to fashion business cards, flyers, table toppers, wine bottleneck charms, floor displays, social media posts and mockups of websites. Those items may seem small individually, but together they serve as product placement tactics so that when people see the logo, they are more likely to buy the product.

Groups generated collateral items to be sold and given away at university events such as wine totes baring the label, patriot hats, sunglasses, wine stoppers, stemless wine goblets, coasters and gift boxes for seasonal celebrations, particularly graduation, to commemorate more students becoming alumni of the university.

On March 7, students met with their client in Merten Hall for an official board meeting to present their final designs.

The teams played off capturing themes such as the youthful spirit and gaiety in leisurely enjoying a glass of wine, inviting a ‘life-of-the-party’ character to a celebration, and reminiscing in shared memories over a bottle.

The students chose minimalistic designs and sans sarif texts to emphasize the traditional calligraphy of the label and the history surrounding the founding father.  The student’s choices captured the legacy of the university, while making the product relevant using popular trends observed in modern marketing campaigns.

After the last team’s presentation, adjunct professor of design Jim Van Meer, a 2017 Mason alumnus himself and members of the Mason Wine Committee brought all three teams to discuss their presentations to learn from the experience and better themselves as they prepare for professional careers in the industry.

Students were informed of whose campaigns were chosen to be the official marketing strategies for the brand on March 19, upon return from spring break.  The committee’s favorite campaign was developed by Design Next, consisting of undergraduate students Amanda Malloy, Megan Zendek, Gabe Mayuga, Leona Lynch, Ann Kang, and graduate student Briana Sam as the Team Lead. Their work will be featured in retail stores, university events, the product’s official website, and online and print publications including The Mason Spirit, the official magazine for the George Mason University community.

The board members appreciated the humor in the group’s presentation and believed their theme of, “Inviting George,” to a celebration captured the spirit of the brand.  Design Next developed a real-life persona for what was before a face on a label and made a historical figure relevant to today, by having their official mascot sport his sunglasses and patriot hat, as depicted on the label.  Now, George is an individual who could officiate a wedding, relax on the couch with, or grill burgers at a homecoming tailgate, the sorts of scenes depicted in the team’s proposed social media posts.

“I believe we were successful in including within our designs and presenting our mascot as an approachable person you want to take to a party, signaling the wine is ideal for celebrations and events focused towards the George Mason community.  We worked hard in finding scenes where he is relatable,” says Briana Sam, who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Designing and Merchandising at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Students had to comply with the legal implications of copyright and alcohol beverage consumption when creating their approaches. The hardest parts about the project, the future advertisers believed, was maintaining their creative integrity while staying true to the wishes of their client and the allotted budget.

“If this is to be a simulation of the work they are going to be doing professional, they have to answer questions regarding budget proposals,” explains John Paul Phaup, ’81, member of the Mason Foundation Wine Committee and the Mason Foundation Alumni Association board of trustees.

According to the course description, the class provides insight and preparation in the creative design process behind effective and memorable advertising through the creation of marketing campaigns for actual client use. The client-based project, Professor Van Meer shares, helps students gain real-world experience with the support of the classroom setting.

“They’re working on a real world project for a real world product.  This is something they are getting exposed to at a student level that usually takes them a couple of years inside an agency to own their marketing skills as well.”

The winning campaign will be released as a soft launch at the 50th Anniversary of the Alumni Association on May 12.

The student’s work has not yet been copyrighted and is unable to be published by the Fourth Estate. The Fourth Estate is, however, allowed to publish the official label of Geo. Mason Wine.