Strategy professors Caley and Kevin are always telling us to “get out of the building” and “talk to real humans.” It can be easy for strategists to put on their headphones and fall into an endless internet hole of research, but I’ve finally learned that interacting with the world is the best way for strategists to connect with people and do our jobs well.
Here are some of the stranger places where I’ve done research over the past 18 months:
The hydroponic gardening supplies store.
For an assignment in our Strategy & Design class, my team was designing a tool to help rebuild food sovereignty on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Our research led us to a bunch of interesting places, including a local high school’s biology classroom and a hydroponic gardening supplies store. I left the store with a giant catalog of supplies, which helped our team design a prototype for our CaterPILLAR vertical garden for kids.
A complete stranger’s house, to interview them about murder.
For our Cultural Impact class, every strategist made a documentary about a different subculture. I immersed myself in the world of Murderinos, and ended up interviewing five different women about their obsession with true crime. Almost every one of my interviewees told me they were relieved I didn’t turn out to be a creepy murderer.
Three different Bath & Body Works locations in one week.
My Brand Experiences team chose to reinvent the retail experience at this classic mall store, so the seven of us canvassed the greater Richmond area to observe customers and compare our experiences. The overwhelming fragrance inside the store led us to develop a new way for customers to test out scents. I also totally fell for the “6 hand soaps for $18” deal.
The banks of the James River.
I wanted to know what river-goers in Richmond thought about the James River, so I (politely) stopped some of them while they walked their dogs at Belle Isle. We found that the river holds a special place in many VCU students’ hearts, and is something they miss when they leave Richmond.
Going to new places and talking to new people is one of the most fun parts of being a strategist. There’s no need to stay in the Brandcenter basement with your headphones on– the best lessons come from the real world.
– Caroline Moyer-Kardos, Strategy class of 2019