The Bloomsburg Fair is Pennsylvania’s largest agricultural fair, attracting more than 400,000 people on average each year. This year, the fair is going digital with a new mobile app in the hope of attracting a largely untapped local population: Bloomsburg University students.
The idea for the app came from students. James E. Tomlinson, professor of communication studies, teaches Issue/Image Campaign, an upper-level course. Tomlinson worked with students from this course on a project, the goal of which was to develop new marketing strategies to increase the number of BU students attending the fair. The app was one such strategy.
“This is the first time the fair has had anything like this,” says Tomlinson. Available for iPhone and Android, the app can be used to share fair experiences with friends via social media, to view maps and locate favorite vendors, to view concert schedules and information about the acts, and more.
“Part of it is saving money,” says Tomlinson, noting that the fair could print fewer print maps and therefore save on cleanup. “But a bigger part is marketing to a new, younger audience.”
For two years, Tomlinson’s students attended the fair and observed its online presence. They gathered data and conducted on-campus surveys of BU students. A 2012 survey revealed that only 50 percent of BU students had ever attended the fair. After research and development of marketing strategies, Tomlinson and his students presented their suggestions to the fair’s board of directors.
“We suggested campus-community involvement, things that will bring them into the 21st century,” says Nick Diak, a senior communications studies major from Catawissa. “They’ve taken some of that and run with it.”
Tomlinson and Diak believe one reason for low student attendance may have been a weak social media presence. “They had an ad on YouTube that, in four years, had only received 297 views,” says Tomlinson. “They had a Facebook page, and the students looked at it, but there was no reason to go back to it.”
The board offered an internship to Diak, primarily to make better use of the Internet. “They needed someone to help market to BU students,” Diak says. “The goal was to have an ongoing relationship with the fair.”
Using his and his classmates’ on-campus connections, other improvements were also made, such as $5 student tickets.
The app will be advertised at the fair and promoted through social media. It has already been downloaded by thousands of users.
–By Nick Cellucci ’16