Texas State’s American Marketing Association chapter finished second in the 2008 Collegiate Case Competition. Leading the group are chapter president Whitney Senters and faculty advisors Dr. Jeremy Sierra and Dr. Gail Zank.
Marketing Students Gain Real-world Experience
A well-known textbook publisher needed to stem declining sales by developing an e-commerce portal that would allow students to buy textbooks and study aids directly from the company. The publisher called on a team of marketing experts, who conducted extensive research and then presented a detailed plan to drive customers to the publisher’s e-commerce portal.
Only the marketing experts weren’t from a New York City firm or a West Coast agency. They were teams of college students from across the country participating in the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) 2008 Collegiate Case Competition. Texas State University’s AMA case submission was so good that the team finished second out of 56 entries at the 30th Annual AMA International Conference in New Orleans.
Making a Case
Every year, the AMA’s Collegiate Division recognizes the top college chapters that excel in writing marketing plans for the sponsor company. The 2008 sponsor was McGraw-Hill Higher Education, and their need for a marketing plan for their e-commerce portal was real. The case was designed to bring together two important issues: the development and delivery of new sources of learning content across a spectrum of media, and the Internet as part of an organization’s business model.
The Texas State team conducted extensive research and prepared a 42-page presentation for McGraw-Hill. As part of their research they conducted focus groups and in-depth interviews. They created fun online quizzes that actually were questionnaires, and targeted MySpace and Facebook users. They developed a positioning strategy and created a marketing plan that included branding, a logo, a tagline, Web site design and content, promotional events and advertising.
“This was our third year to participate, and for the third year in a row we were one of the eight finalists,” says Dr. Gail Zank, associate professor of marketing in the McCoy College of Business Administration at Texas State and a faculty advisor for the university’s AMA student chapter. Each finalist made a presentation to the client, who determined the final rankings that put Texas State second to only the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Sweeping the Competition
Texas State AMAers came home from the New Orleans conference with more awards, too: third place in the Web site competition and recognition as an Outstanding Chapter, one of the top 16 chapters in the world.
The Outstanding Chapter recognition came from work completed during the course of the academic year. “The students submit a chapter plan outlining their goals for the year,” says Zank, “and later they do an annual report telling about how they accomplished those goals.”
The annual report contains specifics about meetings, guest speakers, professional development activities, community service, budgets and fundraising. “We have a very good track record,” Zank says. “We have been in the top 16 for five of the past six years. The previous two years we were a Superior Chapter, which made us one of the top four.”
Marketing for a Good Cause
The Texas State AMA also received a $1,000 community service grant from the AMA Foundation, which partners with the collegiate chapters to encourage marketing work with nonprofit organizations.
“It’s a very competitive process,” says Zank. “Fifteen schools received grants this past year, and our chapter has received a grant for the last three years.”
For the previous two years the Texas State students worked on marketing projects for Bobcat Build and Habitat for Humanity. “This year we teamed up with the United Way Capital Area in Austin,” she says. “The students did surveys to understand why students volunteer or don’t volunteer and put together promotional materials to promote the United Way Capital Area.”
Groundwork for the Future
Zank says the work the students put into the AMA chapter, and in the Case Competition in particular, can pay off with more than just awards. “A lot of graduates take their Case book to interviews,” she says. “It can make a big difference.”
However, networking opportunities are the draw for many of the students who join AMA. “We have speakers from different industries so the students can understand what’s really involved in marketing,” says Zank. “Speakers from the health care industry, online marketing, sports, retail and others expose students to different industries and different career paths.”
Recent graduate and former chapter president Brett Neu says that was a valuable experience for him. “In getting to hear so many speakers from different industries, I was able to get a better idea of what kind of jobs and careers were out there while deciding which career paths would be most suitable for me,” he says. “And I was fortunate to work and learn with so many talented and enthusiastic students.”
Zank sees students develop leadership skills through AMA. “Being in charge of a project helps a student develop their communication skills and their self-assurance,” she says. “They also learn about managing people. Sometimes you have to be tough; sometimes you have to be positive. They learn that everyone is different, and what works with one person won’t work with another.”
Chapter president Whitney Senters agrees. “Being a part of AMA has helped me gain confidence and good experience to prepare me for a career,” she says. “I have had the opportunity to network with successful business people and learn good management skills.”
One of Senters’ favorite events is the annual etiquette dinner. “It prepares students for a lunch or dinner interview,” she says. “The speaker goes over tips such as the proper way to pass the salt and pepper, the correct way to enter and exit the table, and usage of all the dishes and silverware.”
The annual AMA Collegiate Conference in New Orleans is a highlight for both Senters and Neu. “I was able to network with so many professionals and students from across the nation,” Neu says. “It was such a blast to explore New Orleans and meet so many new people.”
“The conference is a great way to network with companies and other universities from across the country,” says Senters. “Not many students get the chance to experience such a large conference during their college years.”