College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Victory! Illinois Students Win MTVu Competition


12/20/2006

Microsoft picks Illinois student marketing plan over Indiana

Well past midnight, with an exam looming, a paper still to write, choir practice in the morning and two jobs on her plate, Antoinette Bordelon realized that the marketing plan she and her teammates had created needed more than just a little tweaking – it needed a completely new approach.

“The idea to abandon ship and change gears was a bit stressful at the time, but lucrative in the long run,” she said. 

Lucrative, indeed. Bordelon and fellow College of Business students Kareem Mohamednur, Efren Beltran, and Alexx Poston “out-marketed” a team from Indiana University to win Quad Squads, a reality television show featured on MTV’s college network, mtvU. The program showcases two rival colleges as they compete to develop a marketing plan for a ‘mystery’ company. This season, that company was Microsoft.
 
The two teams were charged with a straightforward task: develop a marketing plan to launch a new suite of communications software called Windows LiveLocal, a product that helps identify shops, restaurants, and others national venues.

The core of the Illinois team’s plan, called “Get Connected,” was to conduct primary research among college students to discover how they would use software. Once the team completed their research, they planned to develop a strategy that reflected those results. That strategy would then create buzz and drive the trial use of Windows LiveLocal among college students throughout the country.

“The campaign theme came not out of a glaring demand that was voiced in surveys,” explained Beltran, “but the fact that data showed us such a campaign would support a need that students didn’t even know they had. In short, we had to create a need for them, and ‘Get Connected’ was a natural fit.”

While the Indiana team was already executing their solution in episode two, the Illinois team was still processing, conducting focus groups and surveys to gather valuable customer data and feedback.

“I advised them not to get the solution first but to go through the problem-solving process,” said Tiffany White, an assistant professor of marketing and one of the team’s faculty advisors. “They took the time to test all their assumptions and make sure they had the data to back it up.”

“We originally came up with a different idea targeted toward incoming freshman,” said Bordelon. “But what we actually found was that this idea did not support the data. The research showed that it wasn’t just freshman who could benefit from the product, but students across the board from freshman to seniors.”

This consultant-like approach yielded solid data that would form a solid foundation for this major product launch.

“They engaged in a logical process and took a strategic approach,” added William Qualls, a professor of marketing who also counseled the students. “It was also a good starting point for getting creative, and even in the process of data collecting they created product buzz.”

About 50 students from disciplines across the College were recommended by faculty to interview for the four mtvU team slots. Mohamednur, a senior in marketing, Bordelon, a junior in accountancy, Beltran, a sophomore in accountancy, and Poston, a sophomore in marketing, credit their diverse academic and cultural backgrounds with giving them the edge in the competition. Beltran, Bordelon and Potson have also participated in the College’s Leadership and Development (LEAD) Program, designed to increase the number of African American, Hispanic, and Native American students who enroll as undergraduates in the College of Business. 

“We were a team of marketing and accounting perspectives, and that actually helped give us our edge – attention to careful planning and a plan that was data driven,” Mohamednur added.

For their efforts, the Illinois team earned a suite of Microsoft products and airline vouchers to interview for internships with Microsoft this summer.

“So now do you all know what marketing is?” Qualls queried after the victory.

To view all three Quad Squad episodes and to see additional background information about the players, visit:  www.mtvU.com

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