Design Group to Market UCA to Minority Students

by Sam Eifling  on Monday, Nov. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

Myron Jackson owns a suit he bought out of some dude's trunk at his barber shop. "And it's one of my better-looking suits," he told Outtakes recently.

Jackson offered this tale to explain how differently he and his firm, the Design Group, view the commercial landscape as they market their clients to minorities - a job all the harder in rural Arkansas. A small town may have just one radio station, and chances are it plays more country music than hip-hop or ranchera. Jackson says one solution is to target "lifestyle meeting areas" such as churches, barber shops and beauty parlors. "Sometimes," said Mark Parker, another Design Group principal, "it's a Wal-Mart parking lot."

The University of Central Arkansas is counting on this pair to reach out to ... well, to wherever, in search of black and Latino students as part of the $753,000 renewable marketing contract the school signed with Little Rock's CJRW, which enlisted the Design Group to focus on minority recruiting.

The Design Group, a six-person shop that includes principal Telly Noel, has run campaigns for Energy Efficiency Arkansas, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services to reach, in Jackson's words, "communities most likely to be shut out."

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and two-year colleges tend to have strong marketing to Latinos, Jackson said, but the attention paid to them still doesn't match their potential numbers. Statewide, he said, minorities constitute about 21 percent of the overall market; in Pulaski County it's more like 40 percent. "The 2010 Census is going to blow the roof off of this," Jackson said.

In Outtakes' reading, the Design Group could hardly have gotten the contract at a better time. Lottery scholarship money will almost certainly make college seem realistic to many students who otherwise wouldn't have considered it. The lottery estimates that by the time its first year ends in September, net proceeds for scholarships will be upwards of $100 million.

"If we're not educating these ethnic and rural communities on how they're going to benefit, nothing's going to change," Jackson said. But he thinks he knows how to motivate kids from any wayward place. "When you're in a poor town," he said, "the first thing you think about is getting out."



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