More than Coffee: The Corp

The Challenge

The Corp has provided coffee shop, grocery, catering, and summer storage services to Georgetown University students since 1972. With over a million dollars in annual revenue, The Corp has grown to become the largest fully student-run nonprofit in the world. The organization gives over 40 thousand dollars back to the Georgetown community each year through event sponsorships, scholarships, and green initiatives, but very few students are aware of this contribution. Recent periods showed declining profits due to a weakened economy, escalating costs, and increased competition by a chain coffee shop newly opened on campus.

Response

To improve profitability and re-establish their edge on campus, REaction Strategy Group (RSG) worked with The Corp to re-emphasize their social impact at Georgetown and their mantra of "students serving students." The plan was simple: ensure students that they were the main benefactors of The Corp's revenues, with the expectation that this would encourage them to choose the home-grown Corp over its competitors and utilize Corp services more often.

To better understand Corp customers and their motivations, RSG conducted a series of focus groups and launched a 250-person survey of the student body. The research helped RSG identify that a physical brick-and-mortar presence was the Corp's biggest strength, that Twitter was not as prevalent on campus as the Corp's marketing managers had originally thought, and that there was a surprisingly strong interest in environmental initiatives. RSG's found that many students were unaware that the Corp sponsored organizations they were involved with on campus. Over 70% of respondents said that, had they known this, they would be more inclined to buy from the Corp.

Results

RSG worked closely with The Corp to develop ideas to better convey their social impact, which would ultimately improve sales. Based on the research, these ideas centered around point-of-sale (utilizing the stores), online, and event sponsorship strategies.

The centerpiece of the strategy was a token box to be placed at every cash register: upon each purchase, the student would receive a token used to vote for one of three eligible causes to be funded by the Corp. This way, students would always be reminded of the Corp's social impact and take an active role in it. The token box serves allows the Corp to publicly display its impact in a way that has the potential to increase their revenue in both the short and long term. In the short term, organizations eligible to receive the donations will encourage their members to buy from the Corp. In the long term, the token box idea directly conveys the Corp's social involvement, encouraging students to buy and participate in the contest and maintain a higher level of loyalty to the non-profit that is supporting them.

Furthermore, after working with the marketing manager to analyze the past decade of Corp marketing material, RSG designed a poster template to empasize its sponsorship of many campus organizations.

Other strategies included utilizing in-store napkins, trifolds, cups, and announcement boards to communicate impact to customers, adding stickers to fridges to spotlight green initiatives, and revamping the sponsorship package so that the students at each sponsored event would be more aware of the Corp's contribution.

This project is currently being implemented.