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UCLA Anderson MBA Students Win Elite Eight Brand Strategy Competition


LOS ANGELES, CA -- 11/19/2004 -- A team of MBA students from UCLA Anderson School of Management won the fourth annual Elite Eight Brand Strategy Competition held earlier this month at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. This is the second consecutive year that UCLA Anderson students have won this competition, which pits student teams from eight of the nation’s top MBA programs against each other in solving a major branding problem.

In addition to earning another year of bragging rights, the team won $10,000 and the respect of their peers across the country and their fellow MBA students here at UCLA Anderson. The winning team from UCLA Anderson was composed of second-year MBA students Alice Keh, Rosie O’Neill and Jeremy Vandervoet, and first-year MBA students Nicole Lewis and Jesse Ross. This win is especially sweet for both Keh and O’Neill, who both participated on last year’s Elite Eight winning team.

“Winning the Elite Eight competition two years in a row is an amazing experience,” said O’Neill. “Our team followed a strategy similar to the one we implemented last year, combining solid branding frameworks with primary research and plenty of creativity. But the real key to UCLA Anderson’s win was teamwork!”

“I loved our team dynamic,” added Vandervoet. “I feel we were all focused on the same page in terms of the direction our team was headed and what needed to get done in order to accomplish our goal.”

“We truly had a fun and focused group and each of us brought different skills to the table,” noted O’Neill.

The team from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management placed second and the team from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania took third place.

The Elite Eight, named for the eight participating schools -- UCLA Anderson School, UC Berkeley’s Haas School, Minnesota’s Carlson School, Duke’s Fuqua School, Indiana’s Kelley School, Northwestern’s Kellogg School, Michigan’s Ross School and UPenn’s Wharton School -- gives MBA student teams 30 hours to research, prepare and present their solution to a real branding problem.

Mark Bergen, Carlson School marketing professor and Elite Eight faculty advisor, compares the competition to the television show “The Apprentice.”

“Imagine presenting to a roomful of the Donald Trumps and Simon Cowells of the branding world,” said Prof. Bergen. “At the end, the judging panel chose the winning team, anointing them the best branding students in America.”

“The whole experience was tiring, but winning is always fun,” said UCLA Anderson’s Ross. “It feels great to show the world the skills and talents of UCLA Anderson students.”

Case Competition Specifics

This year, a Best Buy case asked students to determine the implications of customer centricity on its brand and how the giant retailer should manage its brand and its marketing communications to best leverage this initiative. Below are some specifics on the case:

-- Best Buy management presented the company’s Customer Centricity program, a part of its new strategy in identifying and optimizing high profit potential customer segments. Under this program, customers are segmented into five distinct groups based on psychographic/lifestyle information.

-- Using the Customer Centricity program, Best Buy plans to create a store environment driven by customer experiences and needs. Rather than pushing the product, Best Buy wants to sell the benefit of what products do -- a long-term vision of growing loyalty and profitability.

“The case was not just about generating great ideas; it’s about problem-solving,” said repeat Elite Eight champ Keh. “It’s about helping Best Buy management look at a unique challenge with a fresh perspective -- an insightful way that may help them make better future decisions.”
A Recruiter’s Dream

Barry Judge, vice president of marketing for customer centricity at Best Buy, said the company views the competition as a unique opportunity.

“Not only does Best Buy get a fresh perspective from bright MBAs on a real-world marketing challenge we’re facing right now,” said Judge, "but the recruiting opportunity is second to none.

“We get rare visibility to students’ assessment of a meaty assignment in a pressure-cooker setting, and it allows us to show prospective candidates the kind of work they might expect to handle if they were to come work for Best Buy. No interview can replicate that.”

“It was a great opportunity for me because I learned a lot working with such talented second-year students,” said UCLA Anderson first-year MBA student Nicole Lewis. “UCLA Anderson is certainly producing the next generation of marketing talent and it’s great to be a part of such a talented community of individuals.”

In addition to Best Buy, other corporate sponsors included Carlson Companies, ConAgra, Fallon Worldwide, General Mills, Land O’Lakes, Philip Morris and Target Corporation. Marketing and brand executives from these companies served as judges for the Elite Eight competition. Minnesota’s Carlson School MBA students managed the event.

About UCLA Anderson School of Management

UCLA Anderson School of Management is perennially ranked among the top-tier business schools in the world. Award-winning faculty renowned for their research and teaching, highly selective admissions, successful alumni and world-class facilities combine to provide an extraordinary learning environment. UCLA Anderson students are part of a culture that values individual vision, intellectual discipline and a sense of teamwork and collegiality.

Established in 1935, UCLA Anderson School of Management provides management education to more than 1,400 students enrolled in MBA and doctoral programs, and some 2,000 executives and managers enrolled annually in executive education programs. Recognizing that the school offers unparalleled expertise in management education, the world’s business community turns to UCLA Anderson School of Management as a center of influence for the ideas, innovations, strategies and talent that will shape the future.


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