The three Charlotte-based entities united to give students hands-on experience while gleaning valuable insights from Gen Z market

Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), a historically black university in Charlotte, this spring teamed up with chicken and biscuits chain Bojangles, and its PR agency of record, Luquire, in an innovative two-fold collaboration to offer students hands-on experience developing marketing campaigns for real menu items, while at the same time securing coveted Gen Z insights for Bojangles’ future marketing campaigns.

Students from adjunct professor Dr. Fortune Taylor’s Principles of Marketing class formed teams to launch and promote two new Bojangles menu items: Sausage Bo-Berry Biscuits, which appeared on menus this month, and Bojangles’ new wings, which were tested in Columbia last year. The teams were tasked with creating integrated marketing plans, supplemented by tactics including creative execution, digital media, public relations and more. The semester culminated in presentations to Bojangles’ marketing team, including Bojangles Chief Marketing Officer Tom Boland, on April 24. Some ideas and tactics may be brought to life as the brand continues to evolve its marketing strategy.

“When we were asked to participate in this project, it was an immediate ‘yes.’ The opportunity to hear a fresh perspective from an emerging generation of consumers was a no-brainer,” said Boland. “The students brought so much passion and enthusiasm to the project, and their insights, particularly around the ever-changing media landscape, will be incredibly valuable as we look to speak to Gen-Z, who will have such an enormous impact on Bojangles and other brands in the future.”

The partnership was facilitated by Luquire, an independent, full-service marketing agency based in Charlotte, who has served as Bojangles’ public relations agency of record for nearly a decade. Throughout the semester, a cross-disciplinary group of professionals representing copywriting, creative direction, public relations, digital media, content marketing and more held “office hours” with students, answering their questions and offering guidance and insights as the presentations evolved. Along the way, students also participated in a menu tasting led by Chef Marshall Scarborough, Bojangles’ vice President of Menu and Culinary Innovation.

“Showing students the real-world application of their course material is so impactful as they begin to think about the first professional steps they’ll take,” said Dr. Taylor. “This is an opportunity that many professionals might not experience until a couple of years into their careers, and it was so gratifying to watch how much the students learned as the semester progressed.”

The collaboration is an extension of Luquire’s FUSE internship program, an immersive talent development program for curious and creative students designed to shape the next generation of marketers with hands-on experiences that simulate the professional work experience. Recognizing the significant lack of diverse talent in the marketing industry, Luquire seeks to begin bridging that gap by holding one position each summer for a JCSU student.

“It simply isn’t enough to say that we want to hire a more diverse workforce. We feel strongly that nurturing talent from a variety of backgrounds and experiences before they are in the market for a job is crucial,” said Brooks Luquire, CEO of Luquire. “With this partnership with JSCU, we’re able to meet emerging professionals where they are, and we hope to encourage them to apply their fresh talent to the marketing industry. We’ll all be better off from their inclusion and expertise.”

The agency plans to continue this partnership annually with JCSU and looks to tap varying clients from its roster to participate going forward, giving students experience across a multitude of industries and giving clients exposure to the forward-thinking opportunity.