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UTA marketing classes provide options for St. Alban’s growth

Monday, January 2, 2017 • Media Contact: Herb Booth

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Every semester, Narayan Janakiraman’s Marketing 4320 and 5320 students conduct market research studies for helping local businesses with their Product and Brand Strategy.

The students perform quantitative and qualitative surveys to typically answer some business’ question about how to take the next step, how to grow its clientele, how to get its message out.

This semester, the client, though, was a little different.

St. Alban’s Parish, an Anglican church and community that borders The University of Texas at Arlington, approached Janakiraman for his classes’ help.

Narayan Janakiraman

Narayan Janakiraman, UTA assistant professor of marketing, led two classes in a marketing study to help St. Alban's Parish, which is adjacent to the university, increase the church's congregation and outreach.

Church members wanted to tap into the potential for a UTA audience, a membership that could grow exponentially if the church discovered a way to access those possible members.

Janakiraman, an assistant professor in the UTA College of Business’ Department of Marketing, said his class’ challenge was how does a passionate, but small congregation connect with the millennial population at UTA.

“The students really had to get to know the people at St. Alban’s. They already knew the target group – the students. They go to classes with them,” Janakiraman said. “The ultimate question was how does the church become appealing to the possible new members without alienating existing members.”

Janakiraman said three teams in the undergraduate class and three teams in the graduate class started by talking extensively to five to 10 people at St. Alban’s in the qualitative phase of the survey using a technique called laddering, that does a deep dive into consumer drives and motives. He said the student teams then presented a mid-term report to determine how prevalent the issues brought up by the smaller group were.

The studies then expanded to more than 200 people in the second half of the semester in an attitude study that included a concept test and a brand positioning assessment test, which is the quantitative phase of the studies.

“It really digs down and surveys many, many more people,” Janakiraman said. “What comes from both the qualitative and quantitative studies is a brand strategy for the church.”

Janakiraman said if there was one prevalent strategy theme that emerged among the UTA teams studying St. Alban’s, it was that more and deeper community outreach was needed. He also cited other options for the church to grow, including becoming more visible and more available to the UTA community.

And according to many of St. Alban’s members, the exercise was fruitful, and confirmed a few of the issues they knew and others that were new and insightful.

Noni Ahlfinger, St. Alban’s communications chair, said the UTA marketing class study of the church will drive future marketing plans.

Steve Altman, who is on the St. Alban’s newcomers committee, said, “We understand this is a first and view this study of millennials by millennials to be expert data in our quest to interest more of this age group in our services. St. Alban’s and UTA share a property line yet only a few students are aware of the church.”

Ahlfinger said that church membership and leadership expect to shape how St. Alban’s reached out to millennials.

Laine Perry, St. Alban’s infrastructure committee chair, said, “It will help St. Alban’s understand what millennials think of us and how we can be more visible to them. The semester experience of being probed by students has been warm and positive, even professional with students handling some difficult subjects respectfully. Clearly the study has fostered a measure of pride in our neighbors. Already discussions are brewing of additional UTA-St. Alban’s cooperative programs.”

Janakiraman said the exercise is a wonderful endeavor for classes in that it gives students something tangible to take to future employers.

In the past, Janakiraman’s classes have worked on marketing plans for a software company, a food company and an after-school program. Next semester, his classes will take on another neighbor, Bombay Chopstix, a restaurant in the College Park District.

Chandra Subramaniam, interim dean of the College of Business, said Janakiraman’s classes are providing intricate, valuable and practical marketing knowledge that his students can use in the real business world.

“In Janakiraman’s classes’ case, it helps our neighboring entities, which helps the UTA community,” Subramaniam said. “It speaks to building sustainable urban communities, one of the tenets of UTA’s Strategic Plan.”

Local businesses interested in examining their product and/or brand strategy would benefit from having Professor Janakiraman’s classes address them as projects in their class. The email address to connect with Professor Janakiraman is

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution. With a projected global enrollment of close to 57,000 in AY 2016-17, UTA is the largest institution in The University of Texas System. Guided by its Strategic Plan Bold Solutions | Global Impact, UTA fosters interdisciplinary research within four broad themes: health and the human condition, sustainable urban communities, global environmental impact, and data-driven discovery. UTA was recently cited by U.S. News & World Report as having the second lowest average student debt among U.S. universities. U.S. News & World Report also ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2017 Best for Vets list.