AMA Students take charge; help market TipWhip

Student members of the MBS chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) spent the spring semester promoting Tip Whip LLC, the Orono startup founded by University of Maine alumnus Spencer Wood ’13, ’15 (MS).

Tip Whip is a tips-only, ride-sharing service that aims to save lives by reducing drinking and driving.

More than 700 UMaine students have registered with the Tip Whip mobile app since it launched in February. The company has 35 student drivers who have provided more than 1,000 rides in their personal vehicles to safely transport more than 3,000 of their UMaine peers.

AMA students met regularly with Wood to discuss the best ways to market Tip Whip. The students designed and created fliers and posters that they distributed throughout the university and surrounding community, helped redesign the Tip Whip website, and provided suggestions for taglines and social media campaigns.

“We brainstormed and created glow-in-the-dark rearview mirror tags to identify Tip Whip drivers at night,” Wood says. “This was huge because I had been looking for cheap, effective ways to identify Tip Whip vehicles and really struggled to keep the price down.

“I gave students the freedom to decide which marketing plans would be the most effective and which they would enjoy working on. I wanted them to tell me what we should do to make Tip Whip better and to get excited about working on a real business that meant something to them. I advised them to pay attention to details and aim for the stars.”

Students say they enjoyed working with Wood, who made them feel like leaders and that their input mattered. They were impressed with his entrepreneurial energy and business acumen, and came away with important lessons about starting and growing a company.

AMA president Connor Allan ’17, an accounting and finance major, says Tip Whip’s mission resonates with students, and the group was motivated and excited to not only promote Tip Whip, but to help Wood succeed.

“He demonstrated how being enthusiastic, having a good idea, and believing in others as much as yourself is foundational to success. It’s important to inspire others, and I think that is one reason he has been so successful,” says Karen Lucky ’17, a marketing major.

Peter Wells ’16, a marketing major who is working toward starting a business, says Wood has influenced his own marketing strategies.

“He hasn’t had access to big money advertisements, but through word of mouth, guerrilla marketing and social media, he has been able to generate a fairly large customer base that is rapidly growing,” Wells says.

Collaborating with the AMA provided an opportunity to give back to the university while offering students “real-life, real-time work experience on a business they know and use,” Wood says.

“Having a group of students with different backgrounds and opinions only helps drive a company forward. I learned a lot about my business and target market while working with the AMA students,” he says.

Chevaughn Kacer ’16, a marketing major and vice president of the AMA who uses Tip Whip regularly, says it’s clear Wood understands his business and intended audience.

“I saw how well he knows his customers and what they want. I think that’s the most important lesson — you need to know your environment. Spencer knows it for sure and I can’t wait to see him expand his business,” she says.

Students made suggestions that Wood says he plans to incorporate in the fall, including working with apartment complexes to add Tip Whip gear in welcome baskets for new tenants, taping fliers on delivery pizza boxes, and informing students and their families about the service at orientations and move-in days.

“Once you engage students with a challenge and give them the freedom to be themselves, special things start to happen,” Wood says.