By Lacie Blankenship
Last month, The Owen Marketing Association (OMA) hosted its annual Marketing Madness case competition. Mars Petcare and E. & J. Gallo Winery provided prompts for 9 student teams to evaluate and design pitchable solutions for a panel of Vanderbilt Business professors and alumni.
Mars Petcare asked participants to create a strategy for PEDIGREE® DENTASTIX™ dog treats to deliver long-term eCommerce share growth, while E. & J. Gallo asked for new Barefoot-branded products that wouldn’t cannibalize their current product line.
“Partnering with Mars and E. & J. Gallo for the competition was such a great opportunity and experience for us,” said Jack Cogan (MBA’22), OMA President. “Vanderbilt Business has an existing relationship with the 2 brands, and this competition is a way to maintain that relationship and give students a chance to get in front of recruiters before they go through the interview process.”
“Our proposal involved better leveraging free resources on Amazon, such as their storefront options online, and then having a traveling “PawPup Shop” to bring sample Dentastix treats to dog parks in major metros,” says DiGiovanni. “The idea is to bring the product to the customer and leverage the social media brand awareness the PawPup would give.”
Slavin noted that he “was continually impressed by the talent and positivity of my teammates. Each brought a unique skill set to the challenge, but also was happy to go outside their comfort zone to contribute in interesting and inventive ways.”
Andereck mentioned that Marketing Madness was not the first case the team had worked together on. She noted that they “were able to take key learnings from [their] approach with the previous case to improve the plan this time around and that as Nashville residents, it was especially meaningful to work on a brand so close to home.”
Granberry credited some of the team’s success to their pitch’s strength of being “unique, but still within the wheelhouse of Barefoot. We pitched to repackage their current offerings into wine spritz cocktail kits called Barefoot Trios,” explained Granberry.
“The competition provided us with a chance to apply what we’re learning in our classes to a real-life problem and an opportunity to exercise our creativity,” said Degnan. “I personally found it enriching to work with a team that had such interesting and diverse backgrounds.”
The panel of judges consisted of Professors Briana Escoe, Steve Hoeffler, Steve S. Posavac, and Anthony Salerno; as well as Matt Reilly (MBA’19), Senior Associate Brand Manager at Mars; Zach Ely (MBA’19), Senior Associate Brand Manager at Mars; Rachel Wozniak (MBA’21), Associate Brand Manager for Barefoot at E. & J. Gallo; and Holly Hardisty (MBA’13), Senior Finance Manager of Customer Development at E. & J. Gallo.
The winning teams, which each earned $500, were announced 2 days after the competition at an OMA-sponsored Closing Bell.
Cogan described the event as “a great success,” with teams that “were competitive, delivered impressive work, and demonstrated incredible skills.” With prime recruiting and interview season in January and February, Marketing Madness serves as a final push to gain experience and familiarize students with true marketing work before they face recruiters.
“I was a career switcher with little marketing experience, and so I see a lot of value in events like Marketing Madness, because they help people like me to get familiar with marketing roles before interview season,” Cogan said. “Plus, working on a project that requires you to volunteer and dedicate your time can be very fulfilling.”