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Team Effort Key To Zaaha

Assoc. News Editor

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

College students have long represented a lucrative market for a variety of companies. There is much debate, however, about the most effective way in which to reach this target group. One company, edVenture Partners, was founded on the idea that the best way to reach college students is through other college students, and has spent the last 22 years matching up businesses looking to gain exposure among college students with college classes looking to gain marketing experience. This innovative company gave Boston College students enrolled in Maria Sannella’s Principles of Marketing Class the power to create a marketing campaign for Internet startup

“Zaahah is a collaborative search engine,” said Dmitry Larionov, CSOM ’14, one of the Principles of Marketing students planning the campaign. “It allows you to connect with other users who are searching for the same things. For example, if you searched for sunglasses, you could find and talk to other users who had searched for sunglasses and work together to find the cheapest prices for them.”

Though the collaborative nature of the website has the potential to positively affect many areas of a user’s Internet experience, one of its biggest impacts could be on academics.

“The coolest feature, in my opinion, is for class projects,” Larionov said. “You can set up a project folder with other Zaahah members that shows which keywords each person searched and the results that they took information from. This could be really useful for group research.”

edVenture Partners states that its programs “blend academic theory with practical, hands-on application, creating a ‘real-world’ marketing and learning experience for students and educators.” BC students enrolled in the marketing class running the campaign describe the class as a positive blend of academics and hands-on marketing experience.

“The first week of class, my professor said, ‘Look, you’re going to have coursework, but you’re also going to be doing this project of marketing for a company for 25 percent of your grade,’” Larionov said. “I think it’s a really good way of doing hands-on what you would do in the field.”

BC students are competing against a number of other college classes across the U.S. that are also marketing Zaahah. Each class was given a $3,000 budget to use for their campaign, and a goal of gaining 75,000 registered users for the website. The college that attracts the largest number of users to the website will receive free iPads for each class member. Students are given free reign to come up with ideas for their marketing campaign, subject to the approval of Zaahah.

BC students came up with a very specific vision that they believe would have an impact on their peers.

“What we’ve tried to do is set up a brand image for Zaahah,” Larionov said. “What we have tried to latch onto with Zaahah is the fun, friendly, Internet vibe that a company like Google gives off.”

In order to accomplish this goal, BC students created Zaahah apparel, including sunglasses and ping pong balls, and have been giving it away for free. Their biggest event took place last week.

“We set up a booth in O’Neill Plaza with free food from Boloco and Dominoes and gave away free Zaahah merchandise, as well as held a raffle for those who registered as Zaahah users to win an iPad,” Larionov said. “We got between 700 to 900 people to sign up at the event.”

Larionov believes that the campaign has gone well, especially considering the challenges his class has faced.

“This project is challenging because we were assigned to market an Internet startup that no one has heard of,” Larionov said. “We not only have to get people to care about the campaign, but we also have to educate them.”

Larionov and his classmates will give their final campaign presentation to Zaahah next Friday. They will then conduct a research survey to test whether their campaign increased Zaahah’s exposure at BC.

Though Larionov will receive class credit for his efforts, he believes he has gained valuable knowledge from his experience—knowledge that may contradict current views about marketing to college students.

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