MBA’s Got Talent

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Yesterday I got to judge the annual marketing strategy competition at my alma mater, Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

I participated in this competition 10 years ago when I was a MBA student.  I have to say that I didn’t have the best experience. I just remember it being a huge amount of work and we didn’t end up winning.   So, it’s much more fun to be a judge than a participant.

It was a great event.  They kicked off with guest speaker J. Walker Smith from the Futures Group taking about the state of the consumer.  It was an interesting presentation.  Here are a few of the key points he made:

  • Consumers today are less aspirational.  It’s more about preventing the loss of what they have.
  • The deluge of data and information has made daily life overwhelming for consumers.
  • Today, advertisers need to spend significantly more than they did in the 1990s to make the same impact.
  • You are kidding yourself if you think a “Like” on Facebook constitutes a relationship with your brand.
  • Successful brands today focus on giving consumers “social currency” rather than trying to build a superficial relationship.

Next we started the judging presentations.  I sat in on two of the sessions.  Both teams did a great job dissecting the business problem and developing solutions that had a sound financial rationale.

Emory MBAs make their presentations.

Emory MBAs make their presentations.

The presentations were real projects for real brands.  In the spirit of confidentiality, I’m not going to disclose the names of the companies.  Here’s a brief recap of the projects:

Presentation #1:  Large hotel chain struggling with how to handle social media and customer reviews.

The team recommended pushing the social media management down to the individual hotels so the manager could provide a more personal interaction with the customer.  This is an approach I totally agree with.  Check out my previous post about this topic: Online Reputations: Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

The team stated that the ROI on a social media initiative would be about 700%.  That seemed crazy, but when you actually looked at the numbers it made sense and really brought to light the power of social media in the hotel industry.  The lesson: If you’re not managing your reputation online, other people will do it for you and you’ll end up losing business.

I just wish the team talked a bit more about how to get the local hotels, which are independently owned franchises, to really embrace social media as part of their local marketing program.  They did a survey that showed that about 53% of the hotel managers had average to low usage of social media.  So, adoption of a social media program would have significant challenges.

Presentation #2: Fast food restaurant restaurant looking to expand into China.

To start, this team brought in snacks from the restaurant for all the judges.  Great way to start the presentation!  Several members of this team actually got to travel to China for 10 days to do research on the market.  Lucky MBA students.  They had a great presentation that really showed how this fast food chain could be successful in the China market.

They pointed out several product changes needed to better appeal to Chinese consumers.  They also had some strong marketing ideas to connect with the local community.

What I really liked about the presentation was that the team had solid data to backup every recommendation they made.  It was very well done.

I had a great time at the event and look forward to next year.  Congratulations to all the GMSC participants and big thanks to all the organizers.  It’s always fun to go back to school.

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