In recent weeks, Boston College has been subject to an electronic marketing onslaught for the Teecil, a combination golf tee and pencil designed by Providence College alumnus Stephen Squillante. Students in Edward Gonsalves’ three sections of Marketing Principles were pitted against each other this semester in a marketing competition to obtain the most views on online uploads, including images of the Teecil in unique places and YouTube videos.
Gonsalves, in his first year teaching at BC, was surprised to have opened a Pandora’s Box of intense competition among CSOM students that he said prompted changes to the curriculum.
“There is a breaking-in period at a new institution, where you learn the characteristics of the students and how they are wired,” Gonsalves said in an email. “I quickly learned a few lessons that have required real-time adjustments to our current project efforts and will necessitate changes moving forward.”
Gonsalves, who came from teaching at Providence College, spoke highly of the effort BC students have put in on the project, but said it caught him by surprise.
“BC students are engaged in their education and take it seriously,” Gonsalves said. “They are not afraid to question anything, and are also not afraid to work very hard. BC students are uber-competitive in everything they do. When you give them a project that has at its core a competitive component, they will respond competitively.”
Some of that competition took the Teecil to another level. Different student marketing groups uploaded photos of the Teecil of questionable appropriateness, including images of the Teecil between both a woman’s breasts and a man’s buttocks. Although Gonsalves encouraged students to be aggressive and creative in marketing the product, he acknowledged that some students took the assignment too far.
“What happened with some student groups was an effort to push the envelope to drive traffic to their content without really thinking through the consequences on the brand,” Gonsalves said. “I take responsibility for not anticipating that their competiveness might cloud their judgment regarding the appropriateness of social media postings.”
In addition, Gonsalves said students learned an important lesson about real life marketing-not pushing the envelope too far.
“Teecil was clearly a brand that would not support some of the content that has been posted,” Gonsalves said. “When I was made aware of the content, I opened up my class the following day with clear guidance on what was appropriate and what was not. Whatever they posted in support of their efforts not only reflected on the Teecil brand, but also on them, the Carroll School of Management and BC.”
Gonsalves took his first experience assigning a competitive group project to BC students as a learning one.
“My lesson learned is to be as detailed as possible to better channel the creative, engaged and competitive BC student,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves, who spent 30 years in the high-technology industry before turning to teaching, had an integral role in the start of the Teecil. While a professor at Providence College, Gonsalves was approached by his student, Squillante, who had the idea of a combination golf tee and pencil. Gonsalves, who had experience in design, applications, sales, and marketing, mentored Squillante and assisted him in bringing the product from theory to market.
“Professor Gonsalves is an engineer and he helped me figure out how to actually build the product,” Squillante said in an email. “I did not even know who to contact about this type of thing and Professor Gonsalves was a big help in figuring out the design and the building of the product.”
As a result, Gonsalves’ name appears on the patent for the Teecil, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. Gonsalves was quick to note, however, that he does not necessarily stand to benefit financially from sales of the product simply because his name appears on the patent.
“Stephen was nice enough to ask me to be co-inventor and I accepted,” Gonsalves said. “The patent is assigned to his company, so just like my other seven patents that I have secured over the course of my career, all the money goes to someone else. I have no financial interest in Teecil, and will not benefit by its promotion.”
Squillante agreed. “Professor Gonsalves will not have any financial gain if my business makes any money,” Squillante said. “He has been a big help but financially he is not involved and will not make money from this company.”
When choosing a product for his students to market, Gonsalves looked for an option that would help out a former student starting up a business, and would relate well to current students.
“He liked the story about me being a young entrepreneur and thought it would be a good idea for his students to hear from someone young who was in their exact seat a year ago (literally) and who started their own business,” Squillante said.
Squillante said that the marketing from BC students has been a huge help to his business, increasing web traffic and even sales.
“I have already seen a huge increase in business from the results of the BC marketing,” Squillante said. “The BC students basically were able to get the Teecil name out to more people in a shorter period of time than I could ever imagine or have done myself. When I Google ‘Teecil’ now I see more stuff come up all because of the BC students.
“I appreciate all of their hard work, I cannot actually believe how many views some of their YouTube videos or pictures have. I am sure some of the BC community is sick of seeing Teecil stuff, but if they knew how big of a help it has been to me I hope that makes it a little bit better for them.”
Because the assignment is a student project, Gonsalves said that all of the content produced by students will be removed after the project is completed.
Although he admitted he ran into stumbling blocks he did not foresee, overall, Gonsalves said he hoped the project would give students a good introduction to what real-life marketing was like.
“There is no better way to lock in learning than through a practical learning experience,” Gonsalves said. “Given some basic guidance and goals, students need to learn and adapt quickly to the ebbs and flows of a live project. The lessons learned and skills obtained during the process make them more prepared, skilled and therefore more valuable and marketable to their future employers. They exit BC with a degree that has more rigor and is worth more in the marketplace.”