Making marketing increasingly meaningful
Dr. Eric Li is taking a wholesome approach to marketing.
Four years ago, Li created the Healthy Living Project to challenge his students with non-traditional subject matter, which is now central to his Introduction to Marketing course. This term project allows students to apply marketing concepts that they learn in the classroom to real-life, health-related issues faced by community organizations specifically, and the Okanagan region more broadly.
In groups, students work closely with community partners to create feasible solutions in response to mental and physical health-related challenges. Li teaches the students basic marketing skills, such as branding, advertising, and communications strategies, which they then apply to their project to raise awareness of the issue and their proposed solution.
Li is an advocate for experiential learning and community engagement, and he is particularly interested in collaborating with a variety of organizations throughout the region to promote healthy lifestyles.
“Connecting with community partners is so important,” says Li. “The University of British Columbia is part of the community, and students build up knowledge that can be shared with many diverse organizations. Likewise, the community partners have knowledge that comes from their experiences, which can be shared with the students.”
The Village of Lumby has been a Healthy Living Project partner for the past four years. Previously, students have looked at sports and fitness initiatives, community kitchens, and alternative transportation. This year, students face the challenge of combatting physical inactivity within the community.
“We’re a small community, which can make it difficult to obtain resources and funding,” explains Tom Kadla, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Village of Lumby. “But we still have basic needs, and recreation is certainly one of them.”
One of the student groups working with the Village of Lumby is aiming to promote the community’s existing fitness facilities by encouraging both locals and tourists to use them. To do this, the group is proposing an app, LumbyFit, which would feature customizable fitness programs for users. LumbyFit would suggest workouts suitable for all age groups, from young families to seniors, and it would include a feature that allows users to share their fitness achievements, thus encouraging community engagement and participation.
The Healthy Living Project teaches students to work closely with their classmates and respect the diversity of ideas and opinions that arise from group discussions. LumbyFit team leaders Olivia Latendresse and Kim Pham faced the difficulty of reaching a group consensus for the idea of a community-based fitness app.
“We were given a broad topic, so we had to decide on a specific direction to move towards,” explains Latendresse. “Once we narrowed that down, we had to come up with one idea that the group agreed on – all while trying to work around everyone’s busy schedules.”
Despite the initial challenges they faced, Latendresse and Pham agree that the Healthy Living Project is more meaningful than a fictitious case study. Pham and two other members joined Li at an annual Lumby Economic Development Workshop, when they had the opportunity to speak with the Mayor, the council, representatives from the regions, and listen to ideas from residents.
“Being there in person and hearing all of the ideas that were shared was extremely useful for our team,” says Pham. “We felt comfortable being there because of Mr. Kadla, our connection to the council, and Professor Li, who has become both a mentor and friend in this process.”