Design students partner with Caribou Coffee to craft new promo video

students watch a video presentation on a big screen at the front of a classroom

A collaboration with Minneapolis-based Caribou Coffee recently challenged U of M College of Design students to expand their skills and apply them in a real-world project. Graphic design students in Professor Sauman Chu’s “Identity and Symbols” course created a video to promote Caribou Coffee, which operates more than 700 coffeehouses worldwide, to potential franchisees at conferences and trade shows.

"We work hard in the graphic design program to connect our students with projects that will prepare them for their future careers,” says Chu. “Teaming up with Caribou Coffee was the perfect opportunity for students to grow and challenge themselves at both personal and professional levels. I think the partnership [also] provided the Caribou Coffee team with a refreshing perspective in promoting their brand."

At the beginning of the fall semester, students were sorted into groups of three or four. Each group was given footage shot by Caribou and asked to create a two-minute "sizzle reel" that the company could use to showcase the benefits of becoming a franchisee. A key learning goal was for students to understand Caribou’s brand and identity so that they could successfully represent both in their final videos.

Graphic design student Sarah Cohen’s group focused first on determining what emotion they wanted to inspire with their video. “For us, that drove a lot of the content decisions," says Cohen. "We wanted our video to be energetic, fun, playful, and exciting.” Cohen's group researched sizzle reels and promotional videos to learn what type of content to emphasize and worked out storyboards.

Across the different groups, the students made sure to center both Caribou’s audience and its goal for the video. "My group started by going through footage [provided to us by Caribou] and taking note of what could be used," says graphic design student Ruth Hoban. “We referred back to the goal, which was to get attention at a promotional fair, and thought about what people would be looking for in that situation. This included things like using non-grating music for presenters, making sure text was displayed long enough, as well as specific creative choices Caribou required."

For many students, the project introduced them to software they hadn’t worked with before and challenged them to shift their perspective to a group they were unfamiliar with. "Instead of putting ourselves in the position of potential customers, we had to think about what would attract future franchisees," says student Quynh Pham. "This is an audience I had never worked with before, so it was challenging. But we were able to create a representation of their company that would act like a conversation starter."

The project culminated with a final presentation and critique by Caribou Coffee executives who visited the students in class to watch them present their videos.

"It was a fantastic experience to see how each of the students told the story of Caribou Coffee,” says Theresa Vitale, Caribou’s director of business development and strategy. “We are so appreciative of the thoughtfulness they took, the professionalism, and the collaboration.”

“It was thrilling from start to finish,” says Hoban. “The possibility of our video being used by a big brand like Caribou is an ego boost and super exhilarating.”

This story was adapted from the original at the College of Design.