Q&A with Marketing Institute Director Peggy Stover about the Role of Marketing and Community Sustainability

“Community identity” emerges as a common theme as University of Iowa students work on IISC projects, particularly as they tailor their work to serve the needs and expectations of our community partners.  Common values, public spaces, natural features, arts & culture, business & industry, demographics- these characteristics help define overarching identities that make each community unique. 

IISC projects often begin with an analysis of available data­ that helps establish a baseline for understanding community identity.  Many UI student groups also reach out to residents who inherently know more about their community’s identity than data might reveal.  Community identity also supports growth and development strategies by emphasizing competitive advantages.  Students in the Tippie College of Business Marketing Institute are helping rebrand and market the City of Maquoketa, particularly by highlighting the area’s unique attractions. 

Peggy Stover, Director of the Marketing Institute and IISC advisory board member, equates community identity and branding to traditional marketing principles- “What do they stand for? Just like a product, what does your brand stand for and promise?”  Through IISC and UI outreach efforts, Iowa communities explore opportunities to refine and communicate their identity to a broad audience. 

Read more about Peggy Stover and the Marketing Institute’s involvement with revitalizing the City of Maquoketa below: 


Tell me about your background. How did you get into marketing? When did you come to Tippie College of Business?  

I started my career in marketing right out of college. My background is in corporate America and I spent about 25 years working with companies such as Kraft, Coors Brewing, and Kellogg's. Three and a half years ago, I made the switch into higher education. I made the switch out of frustration because, as someone hiring a lot of young professionals, and I saw that necessary skills for new professionals were often lacking. It was a good marriage with my corporate background, and I have always wanted to teach. 

Could you explain the Marketing Institute and your role? 

As the director of the Marketing Institute, I have three primary roles.  First, I help develop skill sets of the Institute scholars that go beyond classroom theory.  We provide necessary skills these exceptionally talented students will need in the workplace.  I also cultivate relationships with outside business world.  The third main component of my role is to work closely with Marketing Institute advisory board. 

How does community branding and marketing fit into the Iowa Initiative Sustainability framework?

The IISC partnership came about when I first met Nick Benson (IISC director). He was one of our early clients when I came onboard with the Marketing Institute. We have completed numerous projects with IISC that have been fun for students and a great learning experience for them. 

One of the things I enjoy working with the IISC is to bring forth marketing principles, data analytics, and marketing into promoting small towns. Communities do not always see the benefits of marketing, which can be an effective strategy for generating tourism and appealing to attracting new residents. 

The Marketing Institute helps students develop and hone their skills with project management, meeting, negotiating, and making presentations to clients. In terms of working with IISC, the engaged-learning experiences provide the opportunity to think outside the box in terms of marketing. Traditionally, marketing has been for products, but other platforms also need marketing, such as communities. IISC offers tremendous opportunities for students who are interested in getting into marketing but want to go outside the traditional boundaries. 

How is branding & marketing for a community similar and/or different than for a business?  

There are more similarities than there are differences. You have a product- the community- and you have to make it enticing and attractive to appeal to the broad community. It is the same principles as selling a product. Instead of a product you are buying on a shelf, you are selling a city. 

The most important thing for a community to consider when developing their brand or marketing plan is to know what they stand for.  What does your community stand for and promise? From there you can start building your message and building your story around your brand.

Could you talk about the current project the Marketing Institute is doing in Maquoketa with the IISC?  

Maquoketa has been making a transformation, especially as they continue to improve their downtown infrastructure. Now, they want to attract tourism. They want to attract not just day-trippers, but people who want a weekend getaway within a reasonable driving distance.  The Marketing Institute students are helping to make Maquoketa a tourist destination by developing a marketing plan, which city leaders will later execute. Additionally, their work can give residents a greater sense of pride for their city.  

We have four students on that team, putting together a marketing study that will include an integrated community strategy that will involve branding and coming up with channels to communicate through social media and the general marketing social media. It is a game plan, but at the end of the day it will be up to city leaders to implement it. Overall, students like the project. It is forcing them to think creatively in terms of creating the branding for a community. What we do at the Institute is to develop skills outside of what they typically think about.