When taking on a brand overhaul aimed to appeal to the next generation, why not research with them? That’s what Corvallis golf club general manager Randy Folk did when planning the revamp of the Corvallis Country Club, now called the Corvallis Club. Folk contacted the Center for Marketing and Consumer Insights (formerly named the Close to the Customer Marketing Lab) at the College of Business, and talked about the challenges he faced with the renovation and rebrand of a community icon and need to open up the facility to greater population.
Golf is growing steadily as a sport nationally, year over year. But, broadly, golf and golf clubs have not quite caught on with the millennials; golf clubs are not quite the business and social hub, or even status symbol, of generations past. Not unlike the national trends, the Corvallis Country Club had a similar conundrum — membership was declining and facilities needed updates, when Folk came on board in 2018.
Experienced with the situation Corvallis faced, Folk has managed and owned businesses related to restaurants and hospitality, with the Corvallis Club overhaul being his sixth golf-related project.
"When I came onto the property, the beauty of the golf course, clearly one-of-a-kind, was clearly a strength, and the weakness of the property was just the age of the facilities — and the business model," Folk said.
Folk saw the club operating under a more traditional style of country club, in a world where, increasingly, fewer find time and the desire to prioritize a round of golf, but many are embedding their life outlook and life goals into the healthy lifestyle.
"I saw the opportunity to come in with a new model, one that is not so not so golf centric, and a new branding that would attract a younger audience," he said. And, as a near neighbor to OSU, he also saw the opportunity to hear from our business students.
For the Center for Marketing and Consumer Insights, assistant professor of marketing Aimee Huff brought together MBA and undergraduate marketing teams from to help Folk with the rebranding efforts, and Folk agreed to structure his fees for the Center for Marketing and Consumer Insights services as prize money for the winning teams.
"My classes haven’t done a project like this in the past; this is a first. They were excited," said Huff. "The biggest takeaway for the students was balancing the needs of the current membership and their legacy of the club as an institution in the community, with the need to change, update and modify the club in order to make it financially viable for the future."
The project’s scope took into account the target audience within Corvallis and beyond, the physical offering, the pricing and new tactics and promotions to appeal to the expanding audience.
A couple of things stood out to Folk, first how quickly the student teams were able to identify and isolate challenges that were in parallel to his own insights and decision-making as an experienced manager in the business of revamping golf clubs.
The undergraduate team leader of one of the winning teams, Kasey Babcock focused on the trend they found with individuals placing increased importance intersection of being social and living a healthy lifestyle. "Our social issue for the club is to take on a healthier lifestyle and support clean living,” Babcock said. “The social issue of health is more prominent in people's mind. We now look for places that include a healthy amount of social connection, a place with healthy food, and workout options.”
Or as Folk calls it, the “perfect life balance,” and he wants to build it at the Corvallis Club, from the infrastructure and menu choices to the mood and mindset of the new members. Folk and the business teams identified a great value proposition in promoting a healthy lifestyle at the rebranded club through extensive renovations of the physical offering, such as the dining areas, upgrades to the swimming pool, expansion of outdoor facilities such as an outdoor pavilion for seating and entertainment.
As another example, students aligned their recommendations to account for water usage and conservation, as nationally golf clubs fall into disfavor with younger generations more in tune with environmental concerns.
"Our commitment to the environment is strong, there's a lot of things we do here that are environmentally friendly," Folk said, explaining the process and usage of captured rainwater for irrigation as well as efforts to protect and maintain the forests throughout the golf course, including species of protected oak. He’s called in for more expertise from OSU to help him analyze and put together plans protect the trees.
A second important goal for the club is maintaining its long tradition of community support through charity activities as well as maintaining the strong partnership with the university.
For example, the Corvallis Club is a sponsor of “Bard in the Quad” the summer Shakespeare play tradition featuring an open-air performance along the grand entrance of the Memorial Union, and maintains other community traditions of the legacy club.
The Corvallis Club, which will maintain its membership-based model, has already changed its name, and the extensive renovations are underway, section by section, with Folk looking forward to a “grand re-opening” in the spring of 2020.
Winning student teams for the Corvallis Club rebranding project
MBA team from BA 590 Marketing Management
Hailey Colangeli, Kelsey Herman, Chou-Ho Huang, Edimar Marques Jr., Monica Rogoz, Kegan Sims
Undergraduate teams from MRKT 390 Building & Managing Products, Services & Brands
Team "H": Ashley Arenz, Andrew Campbell, Rachel Graham, McKenzie Mulvaney, Jingbo Ren
Team "B": Kasey Babcock, Krishelle Christner, Zachery Jones, Randy Ulatowski