Teams proposed growth strategies for a pet food brand

Over fall break, Master of Marketing students and MBA candidates with an interest in marketing and/or brand management participate in BrandWeek, a three-day series of marketing challenges issued by clients. Teams are given a challenge and have anywhere between a few hours or days to come up with a plan and presentation for their client. A recap of Wednesday’s challenge follows.

The Client: Mars Petcare is the multi-billion dollar petcare unit of Mars, Inc. Headquartered in nearby Franklin, TN, Mars Petcare encapsulates popular brands like PEDIGREE®, IAMS™, SHEBA®, and TEMPTATIONS™ and operates several pet hospital chains.

Mars Petcare judges discuss which team should win

The Project: Students were asked to put themselves in the shoes of a brand manager and figure out how to grow one of Mars Petcare’s brands as well as the overall category. The Mars Petcare team told Owen students to consider factors such as profitability, premiumization, product innovation, advertising channels, messaging, and shopping channels as they put together their presentations. Mars representatives also encouraged teams to visit stores where Mars products were sold, interview consumers to gain insights, and examine other similar categories to draw parallels.

The Presentations: Teams proposed a variety of tactics, including maximizing e-commerce relationships with Amazon and Chewy.com and exploring partnerships with subscription services such as BarkBox. As for brick-and-mortar purchases, teams emphasized the importance of in-store displays and the appearance and usability of packaging. Moving onto advertising campaigns, teams recommended appealing to owners’ desire to treat pets like members of the family through social media, television commercials, and event marketing.

The Winner: Team #1 went first by random drawing, and took home first place in the final competition based on their detailed marketing plan. “You guys set the pace really strong out of the gate…I thought you all probably did the best of being comprehensive and attacking every element of (the challenge),” said Brian Douglas (MBA’05), Brand Planning and Operations Manager – Marketing at Mars Petcare.

Douglas especially liked the team’s focus on product innovation and their suggestion to introduce new flavors and variations. “I don’t know if that’s exactly the way we’ll go about doing it, but…I thought that the analysis that led you there was so sound,” he said. “That in particular was a golden nugget, because it’s hard to speculate on innovation.”

However, the Mars Petcare team praised all the teams for their hard work, and said it was a close decision. “I was amazed by the level of depth that the teams provided today…in every presentation today we saw something that would be interesting or important for us to take away, which definitely adds value for us,” said Andy Van Ark (MBA’11), Brand Manager at Mars Petcare.

Team #1 snaps a photo with the Mars Petcare judges

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