Burger Jones teams with Burnsville High School business students in building and marketing a hamburger.
Students from DECA, a business club at Burnsville High School, designed an edgy burger called the Blaze Burger to be sold at the local Burger Jones restaurant. The young marketers are, from left, Shelby Hamblin, Adam Saba, Sam Dimmen, Mayowa Lekuti, Taylor Smith and Andrew Suel.
Create a bold new marketing campaign as hot as the burger it's selling. Pair social media with old-fashioned word-of-mouth to build a buzz around the spicy new Blaze Burger.
Sounds like a job for the big dogs in the marketing department.
Instead, Burger Jones executives offered the assignment to a group of Burnsville High school students and agreed to share their profits.
They named the burger after the school's mascot and gave the students enough leash to learn the business.
"Burger Jones is such a playful brand. We love the snarkiness of the brand. We love the idea that high school students love to be a little bad, and this is a pretty harmless way to do it," said Kip Clayton, vice president of marketing for Burger Jones' parent company, Parasole Restaurant Holdings.
Marketing students, hungry for some real-world experience, collaborated with the Burnsville burger joint on a selling strategy that matched the restaurant's edgy, brash style. Burger Jones is home to the "Happy Pooch," a deep-fried, bacon-wrapped hot dog, and the "White Trash Burger," available in "single- or double-wide."
"It's kind of cool how they like to push the envelope," marketing student Andrew Suel said.
After some healthy back and forth, the students and Burger Jones' execs agreed on the Blaze Burger tag line, "Can You Beat the Heat?"
Like many of Burger Jones' offerings, the Blaze Burger isn't for the meek eater. It's a 7-ounce patty of fresh ground beef topped with a fried egg, bacon, hot sauce, fresh jalapeños, pepper jack cheese and peanut butter.
Snarkiness aside, Clayton said the Blaze Burger partnership is also about investing in education -- and realizing that great ideas don't just come from on high.
"So many traditional teaching methods fail because it's a one-sided, one-dimensional event," Clayton said. "What kids really like is to be more connected."
It's a rare opportunity for high school students to test their skills in the marketplace, Burnsville High business and marketing teacher Meggan Malone said. Her advanced marketing class is spearheading the campaign along with DECA, the school's marketing club.
"They are figuring out what's working and what's not working," said Malone, who was a marketing executive for nearly two decades before teaching. Malone, who worked on the Minnesota Vikings marketing team for nine seasons, reestablished DECA at the high school in 2011 after a 20-year absence.
The students' goal is to sell 15 Blaze Burgers a day for the month of October. DECA will earn $1 for each burger sold. After the first week, the students were within striking distance of the goal.
The DECA-Burger Jones partnership was a year in the making. Malone recruited Burger Jones' Burnsville general manager Sumiyah LaBathe to serve as a judge at a DECA competition. Impressed by the students, LaBathe and Malone started toying with the idea of a marketing collaboration.
"I was amazed. They are so smart, and it's great to see they went right for it. You would be surprised the research they do," LaBathe said.
Last spring, students taste-tested a Blaze Burger prototype. Students made some recipe suggestions, met with Parasole executives and marketing staff and immersed themselves in the brand.
Students designed table tents featured in the restaurants. At school, they've designed and hung posters, given announcements, handed out fliers at football games. They talk up the Blaze Burger wherever they go.
Relying on their own observations about social media, the student marketers decided to focus on a Twitter campaign rather than Facebook.
"It's spread like wildfire," Malone said. "Teachers are talking about it. Students are talking about it. There's a kind of a buzz."
Playing on all the election headlines, the students designed a poster resembling an election ballot that reads, "Blaze Burger, the only for sure vote this election season."
Burnsville senior Shelby Hamblin said she has dived right into the campaign. She and a friend ate at Burger Jones on homecoming.
"It think it's really cool. Most classes start with, 'Here's a book. Read the first chapter.' This is hands-on. It's a lot better than all the other classes I've had so far," Hamblin said.
Shannon Prather is a Twin Cities freelance writer.