What do you get when you put a team of hardworking TU students from several majors, a creative alumnus, and a puppeteer in the same room? In the case of Studio Blue, that would be a stuffed animal handler character named Joey, a professional film crew, a live boa constrictor, and a level of learning and collaboration not often found even in a topnotch advertising agency.
Launched in 2008 and housed in the Collins College of Business, Studio Blue is an idea incubator that fosters innovation, a cross-disciplinary culture and a creative community. Directed by Charles Wood, Collins College of Business associate professor of marketing, this one-of-a-kind venue is home to classes, meetings, competitions and workshops for students in all majors.
In the past, student teams have tackled challenges such as the development and execution of petition drives for social causes, promotions to encourage food pantry donations, conceiving and delivering an interactive assembly program for children, and forging working mechanisms from pizza boxes.
Funded in part by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Studio Blue works in tandem with the TU marketing program in addition to exploring projects of its own. Each semester, the marketing faculty identifies several nonprofit organizations with a need. Once the partnership is established, the marketing department pulls together a crew of students from many majors who have the skills to tackle the task.
“This is an environment where students can think big,” Wood said.
In 2013, one of Studio Blue’s projects began with a request from the Tulsa Zoo. The identified need was to assist the nonprofit civic animal park with a way to market not only its destination but also its education efforts. Several of the Studio Blue team members were film majors, and Wood reached out to a few local creative professionals from the Tulsa area for strategic counsel. The idea that emerged was the design of a muppet-style spokescharacter, a junior zookeeper named Joey, who could help bring excitement to the zoo’s online educational materials.
After local freelancer Andrew Dale crafted the puppet, the team spent the summer months developing several trial videos that culminated with a presentation to the Zoo leadership. The pitch was a success, and Studio Blue continued the project in the fall of 2013 with the filming of three 2- to 3-minute educational videos with live animals for the Tulsa Zoo website. More are being recorded during the 2014-15 year.
“We are excited with the final product and pleased that we have a wonderful tool to reach kids with quality information about animals,” said Mika Yan, a marketing major.
The first video featured a boa constrictor, and Yan was on hand when additional footage was shot, simulating the concept of Joey’s clubhouse.
“I learned a lot from this practical marketing process, from assessment to research to strategy,” Yan said. “I enjoyed the whole experience including brainstorming ideas and watching the final product. And we got to work at the zoo!”