“If you were to pick an icon representing the essence of the Auburn Creed, you would
find Tara Jones.”
Those are the words of Auburn University College of Business Marketing Professor Dr. Daniel Butler.
Jones didn’t rely on politics to win Miss Auburn. Instead, the College of Business
junior from Kennesaw, Ga., proved that marketing, targeting voters -- and a few lessons
learned inside Lowder Hall -- can go a long way.
“A lot of people don’t realize that campaigns are straight marketing,” said Jones,
who won the title by virtue of a campus-wide election on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
“How effective are gimmicks?” she asked. “Do people really vote on chocolate chip
cookies passed out by candidates? If everyone gives out chocolate chip cookies how
is that going to help anything?”
No cookies. But there was dancing … and a video that drew thousands of web hits.
Jones, who ran on a platform for clean water for third-world nations, is the feature
performer of a spur-of-the-moment Harlem Shake video.
“It was literally the day before (filming) I called a friend and said, ‘Wouldn’t it
be weird if we did a Harlem Shake video?’ They were like, ‘yeah.’ Then they called
me back and said, ‘no, let’s do it.’” Jones said.
Jones boldly danced alone – then was joined by a host of others – for the camera outside
“It’s an internet phenomenon that hit about two weeks ago,” she said. “I knew that
internet phenomenons, if you can catch on quickly, are golden. That one had just caught
Jones, an independent, said she learned a valuable lesson from Butler.
“Dr. Butler asked, ‘Who’s your target audience going to be?’” Jones said. “My target
audience was going to be the engineering school, so we put our stuff in front of Shelby
(Center) and geared everything toward the engineers. We scheduled our visits based
on independents and engineers that don’t vote over Greeks. It was cool to come into
it with that perspective.”
Jones’ relationship with engineering students stems from her work with the Innovative
Humanitarian Products Organization, an Auburn-based group designed to create innovative
products to help those less fortunate. The IHPO’s origin comes from one engineering
student’s creation of a water purification system designed to clean systems around
the globe. Jones said the purifier has been sent to Guatemala, India, Kenya, Uganda,
“About one billion people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water,”
said Jones, the organization’s Chief Marketing Officer. “It was crazy to look at the
photos and see the muddy water that people were drinking, and then reading all the
stats that said about 80 percent of all disease in third-world countries exist because
they are drinking bad water. All of these problems that a lot of people are trying
to solve are originating because they are getting their water from filthy swamps and
they’re not walking to the nearest well because the well is too far.”
Partnering with three non-profit agencies, Jones’ campaign team raised more than $7,500
to build wells and send water purifiers to nations in need.
“We gave them (non-profit organizations) options for students to give $5, give $10,”
Jones said. “People gave $100s on the concourse. It was incredible. Now people are
like, ‘oh, wow, it’s easy for me to get involved in a world issue.”
Already interested in the water issue as a student at North Cobb Christian High in
2010, Jones wasn’t sure what she would do about it on the Plains.
“I thought I’d get a degree and go work, eventually, for a non-profit that deals with
the water crisis and long way down the road,” she said. “My sophomore year one night
the Lord just hit me with it. I was praying about it one night and I was burdened
about this and I wanted to do something about it. I didn’t know what that meant. I
was like, ‘God do you want me to start a club, or a non-profit here at Auburn.’? The
next day I went to a statistics class and my friend Bryce walked in and he was like,
‘Aren’t you passionate about the water crisis?’ I said, ‘Yeah, why.’ Then he said,
‘Well, my friend Grant, over in the College of Engineering, he made a water purifier and he started a non-profit where they are giving out water
all over the world and he needs some new leadership. They are having a meeting today.’
I was like, ‘Wow, a direct answer to a prayer.’”
Jones, who plans to graduate in 2014, isn’t sure which academic road to follow: marketing
“I can’t really do both,” she laughed. “They are kind of the opposites in the business
school. I think my ultimate dream job would be to do marketing for a non-profit that
works with the water crisis.”
She credits professors in each for cultivating her love for each.
“Jeff Jones (accounting professor) … he’s so passionate about accounting that it makes
me love it,” Jones said. “He comes into the class every day prepared and ready to
go. He cares about his students. You can tell that he’s doing what he loves. Being
in his class, it taught me ‘don’t be miserable and don’t do something that you don’t
love.’ Pursue what you love, because that’s where you are going to find true joy in
“Dr. Butler really goes above and beyond teaching through slides and power points
and taught us real-life lessons through his own stories. He has so many stories because
he has been all over this world. He was good at taking principles out of the book
and stretching them and analyzing them with us and applying them to real life. He
did a great job of laying the ground work for how I think about marketing now. I can
tell that after taking his class, going into campaigns, I thought about it in an entirely
For now, Jones is happy to put the taxing weeks of campaigning aside and focus on
“I’m still trying to catch up on sleep,” she said, noting the week as “been a whirlwind.”
“Classes are still going strong. Doing media interviews too. Answering a lot of congratulations
emails and texts actually took several hours. The amount of texts I had on my phone
for the past two days has been insane. I’ll have to look at the number later. It’s
kind of funny, but also comforting to know how many family and friends I have behind