Students from Teesside University have showcased their marketing and entrepreneurial skills to one of the largest housing providers in the region.

Coast & Country, which will later this year merge with Yorkshire Coast Homes, is entering an exciting new phase and they tasked the Teesside students with identifying ways of expanding their reach, specifically attracting younger customers.

Over an eight-week period, students on the MSc International Management (Marketing Management) course worked in small groups on a practical process of analysis and modelling a marketing plan for the company.

Each group was asked to deliver a detailed assessment of the marketing plan, paying particular attention to branding and communication recommendations based on their analysis of market data and application of the theories, concepts and analytical techniques discussed in class and readings.

The finished projects focused on a wide range of concepts, from engaging the younger market through digital platforms, promotions and rewards schemes, to shared housing and supported living facilities.

Lesley Conroy, Head of Customer Sustainment, was full of praise for the student projects and Coast & Country are already putting some of the student ideas into practice.

“The students have brought a new perspective and completely fresh ideas. Some of their proposals have already been implemented in the short-term and we are looking to develop others for the medium-term,” Lesley said.

“Working with students on projects like this is a great way of looking at what we already provide and how we can target different audiences.”

Sharon Dalton, Compliance and Diversity Manager, added: “The students brought objectivity – they see things that we don’t because we are working so closely with it all the time. Some of the recommendations, such as changing images on our website for instance, we have been able to put in place straightaway.”

The students come from a diverse range of backgrounds, proving that prior business knowledge is not essential to be successful on the course.

Mel Smith, who started the course in January, previously studied design and she believes that this project with Coast & Country will benefit her in the long-term.

Mel said: “I definitely think it will help my future career. I’m from a design background but now I’m confident in setting up marketing plans for clients. It was a really good challenge applying theory to the sector.”

Meanwhile Karina Le Fevre, who is also a two-time Commonwealth Games athlete, said: “Projects like this help bridge the gap between university and work, and what we’re going to do next. Although I’m still considering my options, I’m passionate about sport so I might like to get into sport marketing once I graduate.”

Karina’s project looked at promotions and awards schemes to engage the younger audience, such as a referral scheme to get more people into the social housing community.

Another of the student projects proposed converting conventional homes to shared housing so that graduates have somewhere to stay if they want to remain in the Tees Valley area for work.

Femi Waters-Ajisafe, Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Corporate Programmes in Teesside University Business School, praised the diversity of the projects and is delighted that the students have gained real-world experience working with Coast & Country.

“Live projects like this allow students to gain real experience of what they will be expected to do as practitioners,” Femi explained.

“It joins the dots between theoretical concepts and practice and helps students build their own confidence.

“It is an exciting time for Coast & Country with their upcoming merger and it is an excellent opportunity for our students to be involved in this project at this time. I hope that as Coast & Country continue to evolve that we will continue to work with them.”