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Unitec students spread the word (and sodas)

  • inu drink creation

When Unitec students work with industry professionals, it always proves valuable. But when four Bachelor of Creative Enterprise students were tasked with promoting Unitec itself, the outcome was also tasty and refreshing…

When Jess Cooke, Abhi Topiwala, Jessica Alison and Connaugh Grace were tasked with developing a promotional campaign for Unitec itself, they knew access to industry professionals would be available at some stage to help them. But the plan they came up with was so different, the range of disciplines involved turned out to be extraordinary. 

It would have been easy to view the brief as a conventional communications exercise: a few press ads, some posters and banners, that sort of thing. But Jess, Ahbi, Jessica and Connaugh raised that wouldn’t really convey the power of Unitec’s Think.Do ethos – they had a better idea in mind. They wanted to create a delicious craft soda and let people sample it, to prove that ‘Doing’ is very much part and parcel of a Unitec education. People could taste it for themselves, see the work that had gone into creating it and even meet and chat to the students responsible.

With many potential students hanging out at outdoor events over the summer, it made sense to take the soda to the people, rather than vice-versa. That meant part of the plan was for a ‘soda truck’, which in the end turned out to be a converted, retro Airstream caravan. 

Doing it all

The plan was certainly an appealing one, but the task list had become a series of quite different jobs – which is what tends to happen in creative endeavours, after all. The four would need to create a range of tempting sodas from scratch; develop a brand name and identity; design the packaging; find, restore then convert an Airstream caravan into a pop-up soda store, then take the whole show on the road during summer.

inu at Aotea Square

Fortunately, in typical Unitec fashion, the students had the assistance of top industry professionals every step of the way. David Bayliss, a Food Technology Consultant with Food Inc., helped them develop the beverages, resulting in three distinctively delicious flavours: Pear & Lime with Horopito, Feijoa with Kawakawa Leaf and Lemon & Ginger with Kawakawa Leaf. 

On the brand development and design side, Jess, Ahbi, Jessica and Connaugh had access to a range of experts from Unitec’s award-winning advertising agency, Republik. In turn, that brought involvement from leading brand experience agency, Spur, providing guidance on how to make the brand come alive, practically, at events. This included the design, build and branding of the Airstream ‘van – very much a hands-on job.

All-in-all, the group benefited from a massive range of experience. But it was the students themselves who put what they learned into practice, creating their own brand that played on the Unitec name: INU.

The students there embarked on their journey of showing their work to the public. This was done across the summer as the students took the caravan and INU soda to a number of public events where people sampled the drink and got involved in Unitec’s Think.Do approach to learning. Roughly 3,400 people visited these events and tried an INU drink. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with visitors impressed the students had worked with industry professionals to create the drink and design the caravan.

Wowing the crowds on Waitangi Day

inu at waitangi day

Unitec’s commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi is enshrined in a document titled Te Noho Kotahitanga. It outlines the spirit of partnership and mutual respect between tangata whenua and Unitec, mirroring the spirit and principles of the Treaty. With summer events as part of the students’ plan, it was thought a fitting symbol of that partnership would be attending the Waitangi Day celebrations at Orakei hosted by Ngāti Whātua. Connections via the on-campus Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae helped seek and gain approval, with the 6th of February becoming the date to celebrate and sample the range of INU flavours.

The event, and the students’ INU sodas, proved a great success. In operation from 10am to 3pm, around 900 people visited the caravan to sample a drink and chat with the students. Visitors loved the flavours and the use of indigenous ingredients, with the vast majority happy to donate koha by way of thanks. Many said how impressed they were, not just with the taste of the results but the way students had worked with industry pros to do everything. Encouragingly, awareness of Unitec’s Think.Do approach was high but this was many people’s first chance to see it in action.

The connection to Te Noho Kotahitanga didn’t escape visitors’ notice either. All the signage and collateral on the day was solely in Te Reo Māori, made possible by a collaboration between Unitec marketing and a group of staff who speak Te Reo. It helped tell the story of INU as a uniquely Unitec drink and product of the Think.Do ethos.

The response from Ngāti Whātua and other stallholders was also overwhelming positive. So much so that Ngāti Whātua’s CEO is now interested in stocking the drink, opening a door for another potential partnership with Unitec and more opportunities for the students’ INU soda.

It wasn't just about what happened on-the-day as well. The Airstream and drink creation was captured in a video series, showing all the thinking the students put in to this work. This journey that the students took was then shown online, around Auckland on buses and posters, and on radio. The connection with industry professional was an important part of this story, who shared their thoughts at various times as well. From these advertising efforts and showcasing the success students obtain through studying at Unitec, enrolment targets across Unitec's priority courses were exceeded.

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