Queen Vic Market - Transforming an icon

A case study in consumer behaviour driving strategy
“You haven’t been sitting in our management meetings, have you”? asked an incredulous marketing director of the Queen Victoria Market.
Over five weeks, 50 MBA students in nine syndicate teams visited the iconic Queen Victoria Market as part of their real-life project in the Consumer Behaviour class.  In the final session, the syndicates presented their findings and recommendations to a panel of Queen Vic senior management and brand consultants, including CEO Jan Cochrane-Harry (SEMBA 1991).
Approaching its 140th anniversary in 2018, Queen Vic is in the early stages of a $250m redevelopment.  A historic landmark located in the inner city and classified by the National Trust, the Market is synonymous with Melbourne and heavily identified by tourists and locals alike.  But similar to most iconic sites, the Market is faced with a changing demographic, increasing competition, declining infrastructure and the challenge of retaining its heritage while meeting the needs of a modern and fluid environment.  Add to this stakeholders ranging from the City of Melbourne and over 500 traders and you have a demanding mix.
“It’s quite a task to create a market that goes across all the segments without breaking your promise,” says Associate Professor Jody Evans who teaches the subject in an intensive format over five Sundays. “What is the Market’s charter?  What is a public retail space?  How will the Market be affected by the major transformation that we are seeing now over an asset that is so valuable to so many stakeholders?  The brand question alone is so complex.  These are some of the issues that our students have considered in their projects.”
Ranging from product mix to the target consumer, the MBA students spent weekends researching the issues including interviewing visitors and traders and put forward a number of recommendations to revitalize the Market.  Using concepts learnt in the class from modal marketing to behavioural cues, their recommendations included extending trading hours, promoting the organics range, partnerships with food celebrities, and encouraging traders to be ambassadors of the market.
Among the best received ideas were those advocating for more event-based marketing and promoting String Bean Alley, a quirky corner of the Market that had the potential to evoke a distinctive Melburnian feel but was at present somewhat lost in the maze of the market.  At the end of these presentations, Queen Vic Marketing Director Mark Smith was convinced that the syndicate groups had attended his management meetings where precisely these ideas were raised.  
“We’re on a journey about change but as much as we need to change we also need to stay the same because the Market is so iconic.  And this means bringing the traders with us because a great market needs great content which includes our traders and events.”
From the classroom’s perspective, Philip Black, a senior consultant at rogenSi who is currently enrolled in the Master of Marketing having completed the SEMBA program, noted, “It was an outstanding learning experience to apply our knowledge and the concepts learnt in the classroom to a live consulting project. It challenged us to hear the voice of the customer before diving into marketing strategies and tactics.  This subject is a must for not only demand side specialists but all managers looking to understand what a true customer centric approach is.”
At the end of the morning, CEO Jan Cochrane-Harry congratulated the class on their work and asked to include their projects in the consultation documents which will contribute towards a new master plan for the market.
Jan also noted, “We’re embarking on a major transformation process which is the most complex project in Melbourne at this time.  This session has been so incredibly interesting and fantastic and I congratulate you all on the work that you’ve done.”
Following on from the session, Jan also expressed an interest in two internships for students next year.  The internships will enable students to see first hand the thinking and planning behind the master plan and be a part of the transformation of the Queen Victoria Market, an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.