‘Give A Skolarship’

GSU prof marks 30 years of work with Chick-fil-A through endowment

By Michelle Hiskey

Giv A Skolarship

Ken Bernhardt and Emily Kimbell stand beneath the Climb with Care and Confidence bronze arch near the Helen M. Aderhold Learning Center. The sculpture marked the 10,000 employee scholarships funded through $10 million from Chick-fil-A

Way before cows spelled poorly on billboards and other ads, Chick-fil-A sold almost exclusively through mall locations. To find out why sales were mixed, the Atlanta-based company turned to marketing expertise at Georgia State University.

Professor Ken Bernhardt, the marketing expert who answered that call 30 years ago, is now giving back to Chick-fil-A. In April, he awarded the first Chick-fil-A Outstanding Marketing Student Scholarship to rising GSU senior Emily Kimbell.

“How do you thank a company whose president, Truett Cathy, has given more than 25,000 scholarships?” said Bernhardt, the Taylor E. Little Jr. Professor of Marketing at GSU. “My answer was to endow one more to the number each year in perpetuity. It’s my very small part of saying thanks.”

When the company contacted him in 1980, Bernhardt said, it had 35 employees. Chick-fil-A had never done a marketing research study, and tasked Bernhardt with finding out why some mall stores were not successful.

Bernhardt found that the non-thriving stores just didn’t have enough new customers. The key was getting people to taste Chick-fil-A for the first time. The company used the findings to create the “Taste it. You’ll love it for good” campaign.

As Bernhardt continued to provide Chick-fil-A with consumer and operator research and studies of customer loyalty, advertising and new products, he used those examples in his classes at the J. Mack Robinson School of Business.

“Part of Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose is to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with their restaurants,” Bernhardt said. “This scholarship fits into that purpose.”