The Secret of Success
What does it take for two students to lead a group and tackle real world challenges that result in national recognition? Ask Mervin Medina and Analisa Luning. As president and vice president respectively of the Texas State American Marketing Association (AMA) chapter, Medina and Luning found themselves with demanding leadership responsibilities, which were unlike anything they have ever faced in college. Their roles expanded their horizons about business and marketing, and carried them to unexpected territory.
"During the 2013-14 academic year, members of our AMA chapter wholeheartedly committed to work together to vie for two highly coveted awards that would recognize the chapter's work and accomplishments as well as our ability as marketers," says Medina. The group spent many months preparing to enter these two competitions to show how well their chapter was organized across major areas and to deliver an innovative marketing plan to a major national company.
"We dug deep and gave it everything we had during the entire process, and then when it was out of our hands, we simply hoped for the best," adds Luning.
Setting A New Record
While attending the AMA's 36th annual International Collegiate Conference in New Orleans in April 2014, members of the chapter were stunned and elated when they heard the announcement that Texas State swept these two awards as first place winners. It was only the second time in the history of the AMA collegiate competitions that one university won both the International Chapter of the Year as well as the Case Competition. Texas State now shares this honor with the University of Pennsylvania.
"The chapter showed they could excel at all levels and stand apart from extremely tough competition" explains Dr. Gail Zank, associate professor of marketing in the McCoy College of Business Administration at Texas State and a faculty advisor for the AMA chapter. "We have been tied for second place for Chapter of the Year for the previous four years. And we have been among the finalists in the Case Competition for seven of the eight years that we entered it. This is a wonderful honor to be recognized as the best. I am so proud of the students in this chapter."
Uncovering The Formula for Success
What made the big difference this year? Medina and Luning say they didn't take anything for granted.
"A well organized chapter that can turn big ideas into action while recommending relevant strategies to take to the marketplace definitely is essential. However, we discovered that the real key to our success was the combination of teamwork, passion and dedication," says Luning. "Our team has a great work ethic. And our perseverance and attention to detail paid off, especially when we had to put in long hours to meet critical deadlines."
Demonstrating What It Takes to Be the International Chapter of the Year
The International Chapter of the Year 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 how they accomplished these goals." The annual report contains specifics about meetings, guest speakers, professional development activities, community service, budgets and fundraising. The award was based on the high quality of the presentation found in both the chapter plan and annual report that were submitted.
Putting Marketing Skills to The Test in the Case Competition
Every year, the AMA's Collegiate Division recognizes the top college chapters that excel in developing marketing plans for the sponsor company. The 2014 sponsor was Hershey Company. Hershey's challenge to these AMA chapters was to re-launch its Take 5 candy bar to increase its sales and brand awareness in the U.S. market. In re-launching the candy bar, chapters had to identify target markets, present primary and secondary research, propose strategic positioning and recommend how best to promote Take 5 in a crowded candy market.
"The Case Competition let us, as students, go through all of the paces that marketing practitioners take to solve an actual business problem, and then to experience first-hand what goes into creating a comprehensive marketing plan that delivers solutions," describes Medina. "It was really cool being able to put the skills we've learned in the classroom into practice in such a cohesive way."
Based on the written submissions from 129 universities who participated in the competition, 10 teams were chosen as finalists. The 10 finalists then presented their results directly to Hershey's judges in New Orleans. Some of the schools competing in the finals included the University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, University of Arizona and British Columbia Institute of Technology. "Texas State was chosen as the winner due to our positioning, strategy and marketing tactics," says Medina. "In fact the judges thought our positioning was exceptional. They indicated that we offered very realistic, doable ideas."
Learning to Think About Candy Bars in New Ways
The Texas State chapter immersed itself in the world of candy bars for this competition. They identified the primary target audience for the Take 5 re-launch as millennial adult candy bar-eaters. Their overall strategy offered a humorous and fun image for the brand that raised awareness and trial of Take 5 and ultimately increased brand loyalty and sales. They created a slogan, "Don't Settle for 1. Take 5," that reinforced the idea of not settling with the minimum when one can have more.
"Since millennials are always looking for things out of the ordinary, crave instant gratification and never want to settle for the bare minimum, we decided this message represents the philosophy in which this target market truly lives, " explains Medina. "The message identifies consumer needs for wanting more out of life and the things that surround them, including the things they eat. Why should they settle for just one layer, when they can take 5?"
Experiencing a Large National Conference
"It was wonderful to compete on the national stage, especially against top universities," says Luning. "The competition was rigorous but we were definitely up to the challenge. It's a good feeling to bring back these two national titles to San Marcos."
Beyond the awards program, the annual AMA Collegiate Conference provided three days of learning and networking. It brought together more than 1,400 students and faculty advisors. "Twenty-eight members of our chapter went to the conference in New Orleans," says Medina. It was an amazing experience to be able to meet with professionals and students from across the country and other parts of the world. It made me appreciate the leadership and life skills that I gained at Texas State even more."