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Booth team wins $75,000 first prize in Wake Forest University Marketing Summit

March 14, 2012

Team members cite diverse backgrounds, data-driven approach, as key to their success

“Just wait’ll we get our Hanes on you”—the catchy jingle from the popular television commercials over the past thirty years—is just one small part of Hanesbrands, Inc.’s marketing strategy, to which Booth students recently had the opportunity to contribute.

On February 18, 2012, six Chicago Booth students walked away with the top prize at the Wake Forest University Marketing Summit in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which was sponsored in part by Hanesbrands. In addition to helping her team win the $75,000 award, second-year Full-Time MBA Program student Christina Maria DesVaux received the newly created MVP award.

This year’s summit was an intense three-day competition designed to let students apply their business educations to real-world marketing problems. Teams representing eight business schools from the US and Europe were challenged to create a strategic marketing plan for Hanes in just 36 hours, competing for a total of $106,000 in prize money.

Booth’s team members, all full-time second-year students, were Tom Batten, Christina Maria DesVaux, Sinem Guzelce, AB ’07, Sohee Lacey, Anna Liu, and Gina Pee.

“We started off with a diverse team,” says Pee, “and that really set us apart from the other schools. Even though it was a marketing competition, only a few of us had marketing backgrounds.”

Team members’ backgrounds included finance and banking, consulting, economics, and even a master’s degree in philosophy. These varied experiences contributed to the Booth group’s success in the face of more marketing-focused teams from other business schools.

“The ability to challenge each other was essential to our collaboration,” says Pee.

At one point, the team recalls, the group spent several hours working through an idea, only to realize that it didn’t have everyone’s full support. They scrapped the idea and picked a new thread. “Not all teams would have the courage to do something like that,” Guzelce says.

True to Booth’s curriculum, the team—self-described “quant jocks” in the application video—maintained a data-driven approach, which allowed the group to stay objective and not let personal experiences with the brand color the insights they reached together.

Says DesVaux, “It was helpful that our entire team actually went to every event. We tried to delegate”—sending different team members to sessions on online sales or in-store experiences—“but we realized we were getting nowhere.

“We came back together and did everything together. It meant that we were all on the same page during the entire process. No one was relaying information about company culture, since we all went to those sessions together.”

The team’s cohesive approach went as far as agreeing to make time to sleep the first night—which also distinguished them from the other, sleep-starved teams that worked around the clock—so that they could start day two with a slightly fresher perspective.

The team also credits several Booth professors with helping them achieve success. Art Middlebrooks, clinical professor of marketing and executive director of the Kilts Center for Marketing, suggested the team examine consumer trends and how those aligned with Hanes’ strategies. Pee says, “Professor Middlebrooks encouraged us to look at consumer insights, innovation pipelines, and trends within the innovation.”

Many of the team members had also taken a course with George Wu, professor of behavioral science, which helped the students formalize their brainstorming processes. “That was a skill we didn’t have before Booth,” says DesVaux.

This was Booth’s first year at the summit, and the team agrees on at least one other point: “We’d love to see Booth continue to participate,” says Lacey.

Laura M. Browning