By Guest Blogger: Austin Li Coon
As a former economic consultant looking to break into brand management, I can say that the Kilts Center’s Marketing Case Competition was the most meaningful and insightful professional experience of my Fall Quarter. This fast-paced, 10-day competition provides teams the opportunity to sink their teeth into real issues and obstacles faced by brand managers and marketing professionals. Working as external consultants, teams this year were tasked with understanding Ferrara Candy’s Now and Later candy brand to craft short- and long-term marketing strategies to refresh their brand while also growing their customer base.
Inside the team
A few weeks before the start of the competition, a team sign-up sheet was posted. Through this, the SOUR bias squad was formed: Ishani Desai, Brinda Doshi, Sanjana Puri, and myself.
After the Friday night case competition kick-off, we met over the weekend to formulate a plan of attack. November was a very busy month for us all, so we did not have the luxury of multi-hour meetings during the week. However, the case presentations were due the following Monday, so we decided to split up the initial research by the 3 C’s and 4 P’s (the quintessential marketing framework that structures analysis into Customer/Consumer, Company, Competition, Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion). During the week, we conducted a couple of efficient meetings to get everyone on the same page, address concerns, and bounce ideas off each other.
The team was able to block off several hours of working time during the weekend before our Monday morning case deadline and presentation. By then, we had our underlying research completed, so all that was left was to assess our various recommendations, create a cohesive slide deck, and prepare our parts of the presentation. Thankfully for us, Brinda is a PowerPoint wizard and whipped up a gorgeous slide deck that we spent much of Saturday building upon. On Sunday, the team met up to practice our presentation. We stayed up rehearsing together past midnight until we felt comfortable enough to submit our slides and head to bed. (During our first presentation run-through, we ended up about 10 minutes over the time limit.)
Presenting our solutions
The following morning, the team met an hour before the presentation to do a final practice and calm each other’s nerves. We were only over the time limit by about 30 seconds this time. We figured that with all the adrenaline that comes from delivering a final presentation to live judges, we were bound to speak a little quicker or skip over a point or two to bring us below the time limit.
At our assigned time slot, we presented to Jenny Chen, Brand Manager for Laffy Taffy and Now and Later; Dave Foldes, Director for Trolli and Taffy; and Andrea Millender, Brand Analyst for Now and Later at Ferrara. From the Booth side, Art Middlebrooks, Clinical Professor of Marketing and Executive Director of the Kilts Center; and Katie Claussen Bell, Senior Director and COO of the Kilts Center rounded out the judges panel.
We presented each of the 3 C’s and 4 P’s; however, our recommendation focused primarily on the consumer, product, promotion, and placement. We ended up finishing our presentation exactly as the timer went off. I guess sometimes things just work out.
Takeaways and looking forward
Winning the case competition was an incredibly proud moment for the entire SOUR bias team. We were awarded a massive (like 20 pounds!) box crammed with Ferrara Candy products as well as a nice dinner with the Now and Later brand team.
More importantly for myself, the Kilts Center’s Marketing Case Competition gave me my first hands-on taste of what a career in brand management may look like, and confirmed my aspirations to pursue those opportunities for my summer internship. The competition has given me more credibility to recruiters, as well as extra talking points during interviews and coffee chats. Finally, if there’s one piece of advice I can give to future students who are either interested in marketing or looking to compete in the competition, it’s to focus on your story. Your team can have the greatest solution in the world, but without a cohesive and engaging story that leads the audience to that recommendation, it isn’t likely to stick. A common way to do this is by starting with a deep dive on the consumer and their needs, and then building off of those takeaways when analyzing the other C’s and addressing the P’s. Our team spent a lot of time storyboarding the slide deck and practicing our presentation flow, and I honestly believe that was what ultimately impressed the judges.