Ooltewah High School students got a unique, hands-on learning experience at the Thunder Creek Harley-Davidson outlet on Thursday morning.
A group of 12 seniors and their marketing teacher, Heather McIntyre, dropped by to tour the Lee Highway facility and get an insider's look at the motorcycle company's marketing strategies.
They even got to try on one of the bikes for size.
But they weren't there just to listen: the students pitched their own marketing campaigns to the sales staff.
"The goal is to get them to understand how marketing is utilized," McIntyre said, "whether it's to get publicity or to advertise products or whatever."
She wanted to give the students real experience in the marketing world.
"A real-world application is a biggie," McIntyre said. "I want them to get comfortable talking to adults and asking questions."
The students have spent the last several weeks creating fliers for an upcoming Harley "boot camp" that aims to reach a younger audience. Most Harley-Davidson customers are in their 50s and 60s, and the company is on a campaign to reach the 18- to 24-year-old crowd. The students spent nearly a week researching the company, its products and what a younger audience would look for.
The students presented advertisements they created to Kari Hoisington, the store's motor clothes manager.
Hoisington offered feedback on the students' projects, and was pleased with what they came up with.
"I'm really thrilled with what they brought, and there are definitely some we will be using," she said.
Carlos Rodriguez said seeing textbook principles used in real situations is helpful.
"To me, it feels as high school students that we don't get out that much and we don't get to experience real life," he said. "It's a really good experience. It definitely made me think about little ways to appeal to other groups."
And that's what marketing's all about, according to McIntyre.
"You have to know as much as you can about your target audience and your product," she said.
Rodriguez and a number of his fellow students plan on pursuing marketing as a career.
"I like the way [marketing] works," said Gabby Long. "It's not easy because it's always changing."
But for Chelsea Freeman, that's the appeal.
"It's exciting. You notice things you never would have before. This class has made me think in new ways."