Case Study Marketing Plan

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9B12A003
CAMP WAHANOWIN
Eric L. Silverberg wrote this case under the supervision of Elizabeth M. A. Grasby solely to provide material for class discussion.
The authors do not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a managerial situation. The authors may have
disguised certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality.
Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation prohibits any form of reproduction, storage or transmittal without its written permission.
Reproduction of this material is not covered under authorization by any reproduction rights organization. To order copies or request
permission to reproduce materials, contact Ivey Publishing, Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation, c/o Richard Ivey School of
Business, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 3K7; phone (519) 661-3208; fax (519) 661-3882; email cases@ivey.uwo.ca.
Copyright © 2012, Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation
Version: 2012-03-08
It was early September 2010, and Bruce Nashman, owner of Orillia’s Camp Wahanowin in Ontario,
Canada, sat down and reflected on the past summer’s activities at his summer camp for children. Although
the summer had been a success overall, Nashman wanted to increase the number of campers for next
summer. Early registration for next summer’s July and August sessions was approaching quickly; in fact,
by the end of October, over half of Wahanowin’s total applications for the upcoming season would be
processed. Nashman was eager to develop a marketing plan targeting campers for the entire summer
season with a specific focus on the camp’s August session. He was prepared to consider a new session
focused on a specific target market and/or the development of new promotional techniques in order to
increase Wahanowin’s enrolment for summer 2011 and beyond.
CAMP WAHANOWIN
History
In 1955, Harold Nashman and his mother, Bubby Nash, established Camp Wahanowin in Orillia, Ontario,
as a residential summer camp for children (see Exhibit 1). Wahanowin began as a “junior camp,” catering
to campers between six and 11 years of age. While committed to never losing sight of its roots,
Wahanowin evolved into a camp offering programs for campers up to 16 years of age. Over the course of
the past 50 years, the camp had grown in nearly every aspect. Wahanowin had expanded in numbers of
campers, physical size of property and variety of facilities. It had become an accredited member of the
Ontario Camping Association (OCA)1 and was recognized as one of the premium camping facilities in
Ontario.
Wahanowin had enjoyed steady financial success over its history. Since its inception in the 1950s, it had
ended every fiscal year turning a profit. A significant portion of these profits was reinvested back into the
camp’s facilities and activities at the end of each season.
1
The Ontario Camping Association ensures that members adhere to the highest standards of safety, supervision and quality
programming. To achieve and maintain OCA accreditation, summer camps must follow a stringent set of rules and
regulations in health service, food care, transportation, facilities, equipment and management.
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Mission
Wahanowin had never strayed from its mission statement ? “providing an opportunity to create
friendships and memories to last a lifetime.” Camp owners and staff were committed to the tradition of
“giving children the opportunity to establish lifelong friendships, learn new skills, gain an appreciation for
the outdoors, achieve independence and be a contributing member of a camp community.”2
The Property
Wahanowin’s 150-acre campsite was located one-and-a-half hours (car drive) north of the city of Toronto,
Ontario, Canada’s largest city. Although not far from Toronto, the camp was secluded from urban noise
and pollution, creating a true cottage country atmosphere. The campsite included woodlots and spacious
open fields — an ideal environment for the numerous activities available to campers and staff members.
Located on the shore of Lake Couchiching, Wahanowin also provided an abundance of land and water
activities. Campsite facilities included a fully functioning theatre, numerous recreation halls, arts and
crafts studios, a flying trapeze, tennis courts, basketball courts, a nine-hole golf course and a complete
waterfront for water-skiing, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and swimming. Some activities, such
as scuba diving, trapeze flying and riflery, were unique in the Canadian residential camp category. The
number of activities offered made Wahanowin an industry leader.
All living quarters at Wahanowin were rustic cabins equipped with bunk beds, electricity and indoor
plumbing. Each cabin housed eight to 12 campers, in addition to four staff members, at one time. In total,
Wahanowin could accommodate up to 450 campers and 200 staff per session (see Exhibit 2 for age groups,
session dates and fees). Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) was paid on all fees listed in Exhibit 2. Nashman
intended to exclude HST from his analysis of all marketing options.
Camp Programs
Every day at camp was different but most days followed the same general format (see Exhibit 3). The
typical Wahanowin camp day gave children opportunities to participate in both assigned and choice-based
activities. Although each day was full of scheduled programming, campers were also given time to relax
and socialize with others around camp. Campers who registered for the full summer session (July and
August) were also given the option to participate in one of the camp’s weekly musical-theatre
performances.
Off-Season Usage
In order to combat some of the seasonality associated with running a summer camp during the months of
July and August, Nashman and his partner rented their property and facilities during the spring and fall
seasons. Wahanowin earned significant additional revenue from these rental groups (mainly schools). As
well, the National Music Camp, a two-week camping experience for music students, had rented
Wahanowin as its home for over 40 years.
2
www.wahanowin.com.
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9B12A003
THE MANAGEMENT TEAM
Bruce Nashman
Bruce Nashman, son of Wahanowin’s founder, Harold Nashman, grew up at Wahanowin. Wahanowin had
always been a Nashman tradition, and various members of the family had been involved in directing the
camp. Growing up as a part of a camp family, Nashman experienced all aspects of camp life as a camper,
staff member, head staff member and, most recently, as owner and full-time director.
After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree from Toronto’s York University, Nashman made the
commitment to continue the family tradition and chose a career with Wahanowin. Over the years,
Nashman held a vast array of positions at camp, giving him an in-depth understanding of every facet of
running a camp. Nashman’s own family continued the family-camp tradition. His wife, Patti, and their
three children called Wahanowin their home during the summer months and were immersed in the camp
year-round. Upon completion of his second degree, a master of science degree in leisure studies and
services at the University of Oregon, Nashman assumed the role of full-time camp director and had held
this position for over 25 years. Clientele valued Nashman’s experience and his ability to keep Wahanowin
a Nashman family tradition.
Patti Nashman
Patti Nashman had never been a camper or staff member at Wahanowin; however, she played a major role
in ensuring that every summer at camp was a success. Her experience and education in social work was a
valuable asset when dealing with issues of bullying, homesickness and parent-correspondence each
summer. Her position at the camp allowed to her act as a surrogate mother for all campers during their
stay at Wahanowin.
Peter Thistlethwaite
Peter Thistlethwaite was Wahanowin’s second director.3 Thistlethwaite started working at Wahanowin in
his 20s after earning his undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo. By the early 1990s,
Thistlethwaite had completed teacher’s college at Queen’s University, and he then accepted a teaching
position. Every summer, Thistlethwaite returned to Wahanowin as a member of the camp’s head staff
team. After more than a decade of dedicating his summers to Wahanowin, Thistlethwaite decided to join
Wahanowin as a full-time director in 2000. He had been an integral part of Wahanowin ever since.
Tan Robertson
Thistlethwaite’s wife, Tan Robertson, had also started her camp career as a staff member at Wahanowin.
In 1991, in the midst of completing her undergraduate degree at The University of Western Ontario,
Robertson joined Wahanowin to work in the camp office. In 1994, she joined the Wahanowin team on a
full-time basis. Over the years, her duties had expanded; she currently held the position of office manager
(year round) and also served as the off-season Programs and Food Services co-ordinator.
3
Thistlethwaite had decision-making power, and most staff members reported directly to him. He was second in command,
reporting only to Bruce Nashman.
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The couple lived on camp property for six months every year. While they were busiest during the hectic
summer session, they were also responsible for managing everything for all rental groups during the spring
and fall seasons.
THE STAFF
In addition to the team of full-time directors, Wahanowin employed roughly 200 staff members every
summer. Many of these people grew up as Wahanowin campers. Wahanowin strove to establish a blend
of both new and veteran staff each summer. Wahanowin’s counsellors4 and activity instructors had to be at
least 17 years old; however, many members of the team were in their mid- to late-20s.
While the majority of Wahanowin staff returned year after year, with more than 200 staff on site, turnover
was inevitable. All staff members were interviewed by a director during the off-season and were hired
based on their camping background and sincere interest in children. Activity instructors were either
qualified professionals or high school and university students with specific camp skills. The majority of
Wahanowin’s staff lived in cabins with the camper groups. On average, a total of four staff members (two
counsellors and two activity instructors) were assigned to each camper group.
CAMP CLIENTELE
The vast majority of Wahanowin’s campers were from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA); along with a
smaller number of international campers from the United States, Mexico, Israel, France and England.
While Wahanowin was not a religious camp, a significant portion of campers were Jewish, observing
several Jewish customs and traditions. Parents sending their children to a summer camp such as
Wahanowin earned above-average incomes. As a result, Wahanowin charged a premium price for its
camp offerings.
Consumers considered a number of factors when deciding which camp was the right one. These factors
included tangible factors such as location, quality of the facility and its equipment, and the extent of camp
programming. While these variables were highly important, there were other variables that were far less
measurable, such as a personal connection with a camp5 and social pressure to attend the camp with
friends. Many consumers were introduced to Wahanowin through traditional advertising, but the most
important determinant was the camp’s reputation. Word-of-mouth reputation was, by far, the most
important factor in the camping industry. Nashman had to consider how best to create positive brand
recognition in any future marketing plans. If the camp’s target market was spreading positive messages
about Wahanowin, he had no doubt he would meet his overall objective of increased enrolment for the
2011 summer and beyond.
Many of Wahanowin’s clientele were returning customers. It was Wahanowin’s goal that, once a camper
spent a summer at its camp, the camper would return every year and eventually move on to become a
member of Wahanowin’s staff team. Wahanowin’s marketing initiatives targeted primarily young campers
between the ages of six and nine years because these campers represented the most potential revenue since
they had many more summers to attend camp as paying customers rather than as paid staff members.
4
Counsellors lived with a designated cabin group of campers and travelled to various activities each day with their assigned
cabin group.
5
Many families chose summer camps based on their own family history and personal association. A notable percentage of
campers attended the same summer camp that their parents had attended as children.
Page 5
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Nashman wondered whether marketing plans should target the campers who physically spent (or would
spend) their summers at camp or their parents. Although the parents paid for their children to attend
summer camp, Nashman knew that the campers themselves often influenced how and where they spent
their summers. Parents could be easily influenced by their children’s preferences and often enrolled their
children in the summer program of their choice. Nashman planned to target the same consumers, but he
believed his marketing plan should cater either to parents or to their children rather than attempt to attract
both groups.
COMPETITION
Residential Summer Camps
Parents sending their children to residential summer camps had above-average incomes. There were
several direct competitors who charged a premium price for their camp offerings in Southern Ontario (see
Exhibit 4). Most competitors were located within a two-hour car drive of Wahanowin and were situated on
similar plots of land; all were located on lakes. Because the residential camping market in Ontario was
highly saturated, it was difficult to highlight each competitor’s unique advantages or disadvantages;
consequently, decisions were based on a camp’s reputation, how its offerings were perceived and, most
importantly, on word-of-mouth “advertising.” It was often hard for parents and children to distinguish
which camp was most suitable.
Day Camps
Day camps operated similarly to residential camps but without overnight stays (campers went home at the
end of each day). Day camps were approximately half the cost of residential camps. Transportation to and
from day camps was included in day camp fees. Day camps had increased in popularity due to a growing
number of “helicopter” parents6 who preferred spending some time with their children during the summer
months. Although many of these camps had excellent facilities and similar programming to their
residential counterparts, it was well known that stronger friendships and bonds were created when children
lived together at overnight camps.
Most day camps offered a wide range of activities and programs, while others, known as specialty camps,
focused on one main theme. While most day camps offered basic swimming as an activity, none were
located on a lake, limiting the ability to offer intense water-based activities. Sports camps, theatre camps,
arts camps and science camps were becoming increasingly popular across Canada.
Partnerships
In recent years, many residential summer camps had developed partnerships with day camps. In general,
day camps catered to younger campers (typically, between two and eight years of age), while overnight
camps were more attractive to slightly older children. For this reason, Wahanowin maintained a close
relationship with its “sister camp,” Green Acres Day Camp. Throughout each summer, campers from
Green Acres would travel to Wahanowin to get a “taste” of what it was like to spend the summer at a
residential camp.7 As these campers grew up, many decided to attend Wahanowin. This partnership was
6
The term “helicopter” parent was commonly used in the camping world to describe overly-protective parents who were
highly involved in every aspect of their children’s lives.
7
They would stay at Wahanowin overnight for the length of a work week.
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mutually beneficial because Green Acres was able to offer optional overnight camping experiences to its
campers, while Wahanowin received excellent exposure to many potential future customers.
Summer Travel
Other businesses offered travelling experiences to young teenagers during their summer school breaks.
Fees for these trips ranged from $4,000 for a two-week experience to $10,000 for seven-week adventures.
Trips ranged from camping in the wilderness across Canada and the United States to more upscale trips to
California, Europe and Australia. Highly priced, these trips catered to even more affluent customers than
the already upscale camping clientele.
Nashman knew that, although the above-mentioned competitors posed the most direct threat to
Wahanowin’s success, there were many other ways for children and their parents to spend their summer
vacations. Was he overlooking other key competitors? If so, how could Wahanowin combat any
advantages it might offer to customers?
THE AUGUST SESSION
Wahanowin’s August session had seen a slight decrease in numbers over the past two years. While
Wahanowin’s July session had operated at 95 per cent capacity this past summer season, August enrolment
had hovered roughly around 60 per cent. Nashman believed this drop was due to an increase in the number
of options for summer activities available to children (and their parents), the recent economic recession and
a growing number of helicopter parents who wanted to spend some time with their children over the
summer. Although enrolment might remedy itself in coming summers, Nashman wanted to take a
proactive approach, with the goal of bringing August’s enrolment level up to July’s enrolment level.
PROMOTION IDEAS
Website Overhaul
Wahanowin had a functioning website (see Exhibit 5), but it had been last updated 10 years ago. While
some aspects of the website were acceptable by today’s standards, overall, the site was outdated,
aesthetically unappealing and “juvenile” in nature. Online presence was quickly becoming an extremely
important tool for businesses and an equally important resource for their clientele. Nashman knew that
Wahanowin’s weak website and lack of social-networking presence was losing the battle online.
Nashman thought that making small changes to the already existing website was not the right decision;
instead, a complete overhaul would be the best option. After consulting with Wahanowin alumnus and
website designer Ryan Sax, Nashman learned that a brand new state-of-the-art website could be created for
$5,500 to $8,000.8 This new website would be highly interactive and aesthetically appealing. Photo
sharing and video sharing would be flawless, and blogging9 capabilities would be endless. Nashman
wanted the new website to make visitors feel as though they were experiencing camp from the comfort of
their own homes. The creation of this new website would be a long and tedious process, likely spanning
five to seven months. To ensure that the website would be completed prior to the opening of the 2011
summer season, work would have to begin immediately.
8
9
All future hosting, domain rental and site-maintenance fees would be identical to those associated with the current website.
Blogging referred to making entries in online journals, which would be accessible to all Internet users.
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Nashman knew the website project represented the most pressing decision at this time. He also had to
consider whether other marketing initiatives should be set up to encourage use of the website. He knew
that many parents would enjoy viewing photos of their children while they were at camp, but could he
“increase traffic” to the website even further? Would the word-of-mouth advertising be a sufficient means
for promoting the website? Or would additional tactics be needed …
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