2015 Minneapolis Study Trip Offers Students Unparalleled Learning Experiences

Olson marketing agencyStudents in the DMACC Marketing, Management and Fashion/Design programs take part in a two-day study trip every fall. Trips alternate between Kansas City and Minneapolis. These trips offer students an array of hands-on learning experiences and practical application of concepts discussed in classes. This year’s trip to Minneapolis included excellent stops at Olson, Mall of America, Saint Paul Saints and Cabela’s.

Integrated Marketing on Display at Olson

We typically include a visit to a marketing or advertising agency on our trips. These stops are often ranked among the favorites by students because of the creative, casual and upbeat nature of the agency culture. This year, we had a chance to visit Olson, the largest agency in Minneapolis and the largest we have been to on a study trip.

Students in our fashion and marketing programs are required to take Advertising, and many of our management students do as well. Whether a preview or a review, the practical learning that took place at Olson was an excellent add-on to in-class learning for students. Students had a chance to tour the facility and hear from leaders in agency branding and creative departments. Of particular value was emphasis on digital marketing areas, such as social media and CRM. Seeing how these elements fit into the agency structure was excellent for students completing our Digital Marketing Certificate.

Mall of America marketing presentation

The Lifestyle Approach to Marketing at Mall of America

Our students spend a lot of time at the malls in the Des Moines-area, but they don’t necessarily get the perspective on large malls becoming lifestyle centers. While listening to marketing experts from the mall, and the Nickelodeon Universe theme park, students really got a sense for how branding a mall as a lifestyle center is distinct from promoting a shopping outlet. The MoA relies on a complete mix of marketing strategies, including special events, traditional advertising and digital engagement with its shoppers. Students even heard about loyalty programs and upcoming plans to enhance the total customer experience.

St. Paul Saints Marketing

A Lesson on Earned Media with the Saint Paul Saints

Though not a component of every trip, we often incorporate a sports and entertainment presentation. This year, we made our first tour stop at the Saint Paul Saints. The Saints are an independent minor league baseball team. Many students were pleasantly surprised with the beautiful new facility (CHS Field) and the distinct, irreverent approach to marketing we heard about. Realizing they aren’t necessarily the “best game in town”, the Saints have to use clever events and promotional strategies to position themselves as affordable, family entertainment. We heard several compelling examples of special events conceived with an objective of not only entertaining game crowds, but also garnering local, regional or even national media coverage.

Cabela's Visual Display

Differentiation and Repositioning Themes Discussed at Cabela’s

Our visit to Cabela’s was eye-opening for students in a number of ways. First, their perspectives on outdoor recreation vary. Students were particularly curious about how Cabela’s differentiates itself with competitors (in Des Moines) such as Bass Pro Shop and Sportsman’s Warehouse. In addition to hearing responses to these types of questions, as well as insights on the company culture, we learned about pros and cons of corporate restructuring.


Study trips are routinely cited by our students as a highlight of their time in our Marketing, Management or Fashion/Design programs. These trip presentations and site visits give them a chance to see the concepts they learn about directly applied in business settings. For many, this “connect the dots” experience paints a more clear picture on how to use their education and knowledge in a future workplace.

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Neil Kokemuller

Neil Kokemuller has been a Professor of Marketing at Des Moines Area Community College since 2004. Prior to teaching, he worked as a marketing specialist and retail manager. He holds an MBA from Iowa State University

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