Building a Brand Beyond the Bunny

by Tim Fox

Helping to define and protect the brand of a global company whose assets grew by more than 40 percent in just two years might seem like a job for a team of seasoned marketing professionals. But that’s exactly what Maryville students Austin Davis, Jordyn McCulley and Madeline Miana did for St. Louis-based Energizer Holdings, Inc.

Davis and McCulley, communication students, and Miana, who studied graphic design, were part of an innovative hybrid program created by Energizer and Dustin York, EdD, director of undergraduate and graduate communication programs and associate professor of communication. The idea was born during the Communication Portfolio Defense.

“The portfolio defense is always a great opportunity for students to share the real-world projects they’ve completed with business professionals, but the Energizer staff in attendance were amazed by the projects and wanted to do more with Maryville,” York said. He recognized the opportunity immediately.

“I had worked full time following my own graduation from college, but when I tried to get a promotion, I discovered my degree was coming up short,” York said. “I wanted to do more, but they were looking for more real-world skills than I had.”

When he joined Maryville in 2013, York was determined to give students a better mix of real-world experience and professional skills so they could market themselves better. “My goal is to set students up for success at every stage of their careers,” he said.

So Maryville and Energizer joined forces. The students worked on projects for Energizer’s recent acquisition of battery and lighting company Spectrum Brands Holdings, Inc. The product line has two full-time communications professionals in its St. Louis headquarters, so it was easy to identify ways for the students to help out with the growing workload.

“We developed a large wish list of projects, and we weren’t sure at first how to prioritize them and get them done,” York said. “We ended up creating a new program that connects students’ passions to the tasks on the list. The students chose which projects to work on based off their interests and completed the tasks at their own pace. This project-based model is very similar to how work is structured in the professional world.”

Davis and McCulley endured a selective process among communication students before joining the inaugural Energizer program. They worked hand-in-hand on a project to share Energizer’s dynamic, century-plus history with 4,000 employees in 14 countries through multiple channels.

“Energizer is very proud of its story,” Davis explained. “Most people in the U.S. know them for batteries and the Energizer Bunny, but the company is so much more than that now. In fact, outside of the U.S., Energizer doesn’t even use the bunny mascot. Everywhere else it’s Mr. Energizer, and they manufacture everything from sunscreen to car fragrances.”

That kind of product diversity presents both risk and opportunity for the value of a company’s international brand — and that’s where Davis and McCulley found their niche.

“My job was to create a new corporate fact sheet representing all of the company’s businesses,” McCulley said. “But in the process, I collected and analyzed a lot of data that Austin used for the company’s new intranet site.”

Davis’ job was to research the best platform for that internal website, as well as meet with C-suite executives to discuss podcasts and other communication tools. “Jordyn built the common language so that employees around the world could understand Energizer’s diverse, global brand, and I built the platform to deliver that message,” he said.

The two are looking forward to what comes after graduation. Davis completed an earlier internship with Vidzu Media, which helped him narrow his focus in the social media marketing space, while McCulley interned with the U.S. Army in Fort Knox, Kentucky, learning about many aspects of journalism and communications. Both of them are grateful for the competitive edge they gained through their work with Energizer.

“I am happy to have been selected to participate in this program and to have the opportunity to work alongside industry leaders,” McCulley said. “I was able to gain experience that I know I will use in my professional career.”

Send this to a friend