The strip of shops along Route 59 through Naperville and Aurora should be rebranded as Crosstown Corridor -- at least in the eyes of a team of students from Waubonsie Valley High School.
The students renamed the 2.4-mile stretch of the state highway from Jefferson Avenue/Liberty Street to 75th Street as Crosstown Corridor during a project in their marketing class, which also put them up against peers from other high schools in Indian Prairie Unit District 204.
On Tuesday, a panel of Naperville and Aurora city officials and business people judged the Waubonsie students as the best overall marketing team in the annual competition, designed to give students experience with a real-world project.
Waubonsie team members Harper Cole, Kate Johanns, Maddy Reidy, Campbell Taylor and Alycia Wylie topped peers from Metea and Neuqua Valley high schools in developing what judges decided was the best way to market the commercial corridor.
"You guys crushed it," Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said after the students concluded a half-hour presentation. "I just loved everything."
Students were given a fictitious $500,000 budget and asked to develop a branding, marketing and advertising campaign to promote the shops and restaurants along Route 59. The ideas won't necessarily become reality, but could help inform city officials who make economic development decisions.
Using a demographic study conducted by Brixmor Property Group, students chose primary and secondary target markets, then devised ways to reach those people and entice them to shop along Route 59.
Judges liked the Waubonsie presentation for its catchy slogan and the collaboration it fostered between the cities of Naperville and Aurora.
"How did you come up with 'Shop, Wine and Dine on Route 59'? That's amazing," Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said about the motto the students devised. "Can we use that?"
Students said they would further define the area as what Johanns called "the perfect destination, created by Naperville and Aurora for you,"
"We're trying to unify two communities to make it one destination," she said.
The marketing plan would include hosting monthly events; offering a storefront improvement grant; advertising to consumers with direct-mail brochures, TV ads on Comcast, radio ads on The River and newspaper ads in the Daily Herald; and using social media advertising and social media influencers to reach an online audience.
The Waubonsie team chose to target "your average Naperville mom, who's 30 to 55 years old" as its top market, Reidy said, with a secondary market of people more in the students' own age group.
While the Waubonsie students were recognized as the best marketing team, the Metea team was awarded best use of data-driven decisions and research, and the Neuqua team was honored for best execution of tactics.
Metea's students would have rebranded Route 59 as Fox Valley Marketplace, based on an online survey of roughly 100 people, which found that to be a more familiar and professional name than their other idea, Shops on 59. Their proposal also focused on promoting the experience of shopping at physical stores instead of online.
Neuqua's team would have called the corridor Fox Valley Shopping District, using a simple logo of a fox that could be customized for the season with a Santa hat for Christmas or fireworks for the Fourth of July. Their plan also would have planted trees and installed signs to create more of a community feel.