Creating the Belfast Brand Case Study
MBA students work to create a new image for this once war-torn city
When Rutgers Business School Professor Elizabeth Hirschman
touched down in the Northern Ireland
capital of Belfast
to attend a conference in September, she couldn’t believe she was in the same
city she had visited just four years earlier.
Gone were the crumbling facades of a deserted downtown riverfront, desolate dining options, and drab hotels. In its place was a brand new city, reconstructed, shiny and new with bustling cafes, beautifully restored buildings, and a vibrant city atmosphere.
“The transformation was stunning,” said Hirschman, a professor of marketing at Rutgers Business School, who came back to New Jersey inspired to use her experience in Belfast in the classroom. “Here’s this incredible city in Europe re-emerging from a troubled past that nobody knows about,” she said. “This is a classic question of how to promote tourism and create a new brand for the city. So I created a ‘Promoting the Belfast Brand’ case study for my class.”
The final 15 minutes of every class, Hirschman takes the concepts learned from that day’s lecture and asks the students to apply it to the Belfast case study. The part time MBA students in her advertising and promotions class have enthusiastically taken on the project.
The students feel part of something special. Katie Howard enjoys being able to apply her growing knowledge of advertising and marketing to benefit another culture that she’d never have been part of otherwise.
“We have an exciting
opportunity to apply our classroom learning to a real life situation,” said April
Belfast was the scene of horrendous sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants for most of the 20th century. Nearly 1,500 people died in clashes in Belfast since 1969. But since 1998 when the “Good Friday Agreement” was signed as a roadmap for peace, the people of Belfast have steadily worked together on major redevelopment projects to rebuild the city’s landmarks.
Two of Hirschman’s colleagues in the United Kingdom and natives of Belfast, Lorna Stevens, professor of marketing, University of Ulster, and Pauline Maclaran, professor of marketing and consumer research, University of London, are advising her on the “Promoting the Belfast Brand” project.
“We are intending to create a new brand image for the city that overcomes its conflict-filled past and embraces the new spirit of peace and cooperation among the city's residents,” Hirschman said. The three professors will present the class findings to the Belfast City Council in June 2010.
Hirschman believes this project can help Rutgers Business School play a role on the world stage to help stimulate economic growth.