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competition

School of Business, marketing students

Southern’s Student Marketing Club (SUMA Marketing) recently placed among the semi-finalists at the prestigious International Collegiate Case Study competition after developing a comprehensive campaign for an ecommerce giant.

Each fall, the American Marketing Association hosts the Collegiate Case Competition for its 370 student chapters around the world. Every year, a different company sponsor provides the chapters with a marketing problem that they are prompted to solve through a comprehensive 40-page marketing plan.

“This was the first time that an ecommerce company (eBay) was used as a case study, so for our students, this was great experience in digital marketing,” said Randye Spina, assistant professor of marketing and faculty advisor to SUMA.

The challenge was to increase eBay’s participation in the online trading marketplace by Millennial and Generation Z non-users. Listed as one of the most valuable brands in the world with more than $8 billion in revenue in 2015 and with an estimated 164 million active buyers as of the second quarter of 2016, eBay is facing an increasingly crowded and competitive market with competition from rivals such as Amazon, Alibaba, craigslist, and Etsy.

To address the challenge, SUMA collected primary and secondary market research, devised a marketing strategy, and created an integrated marketing communication plan with creative marketing tactics — all within the sponsor’s provided budget.

From data collected through 186 completed surveys of commuter and resident students “we learned that many young adults think of eBay as their parents’ website, while theirs is Amazon,” said SUMA Marketing President Julia Rotella.

“To overcome this, our recommendations included tapping into their existing business assets including Shyp (their trucking company) and StubHub (the world’s largest ticket site),” Rotella said. “In addition we recommended using several demographically-relevant social media influencers as spokespeople and we recommended simplifications to their website to make the user experience easier for younger audiences who don’t want to ‘bid’ but would rather buy.”

The resulting annual plan for July 2017 through August 2018 saw Southern’s team placed among the top 20 competing colleges, when results were announced in January.

“The students were thrilled, this is a major accomplishment for them,” Spina said. “They deserve a lot of credit for finishing in a group of finalists that included representation from some very prestigious schools.”

This year, for the first time, due to the complexity and difficulty of the project, the AMA Case Study was run as a three-credit course (MKT 398). Past Southern entries were based solely on club activities, Spina said.

About SUMA Marketing

SUMA (SCSU Undergraduate Marketing Association) is Southern’s collegiate chapter of the American Marketing Association. SUMA provides members with marketing and professional experience through national competitions, fundraising, community service, and much more. For more information visit: owlconnect.southernct.edu/organization/sumamarketing.

About the American Marketing Association

American Marketing Association student membership and AMA collegiate chapter affiliation offers many benefits, from career resources, platforms for professional development and experiential learning, execution of chapter events, leadership development, to taking part in the many AMA competitions offered annually. For more information visit: ama.org/collegiate.

Tyler Steskla

Sophomore Tyler Steskla of the Southern Connecticut State University men’s swimming and diving team is accustomed to dealing with adversity. At the same time, he is also well versed in the elements of perseverance and accomplishing goals.

He was all set to enter the pool and be a key contributor for the Owls’ in the pool last fall. Unfortunately, he was deemed ineligible by the NCAA to compete following a review of his high school coursework. Rather, he was able to practice with the team but could not compete in regular or post-season meets.

Part of the reason why he is able to shake off obstacles is the fact that he has overcome plenty of roadblocks since being diagnosed with autism at age 3. Tyler’s story was recently featured on NBC Connecticut and received national publicity as well across the NBC broadcasting platform.

“People that have this diagnosis know that it’s not easy for them, and they want to accomplish more than people think that they can,” Steskla said.

Accomplishing more has always been a part of Steskla’s nature. In the pool, he was an Age Group champion and Nationals qualifier as a part of the Cheshire Sea Dogs swim club. That prowess caught the eye of Owls’ coach Tim Quill. Steskla joined the program for the fall 2014 semester.

After receiving the unfortunate news from the NCAA, Steskla did what he always does – overcome the roadblock. He had a grade point average in excess of 3.0 in the spring of 2015.

“Personally, I was really worried about him because I know how passionate he was about it (swimming),” Quill said. “He was devastated, but instead what he did was embrace the situation, pull a 3.0 (grade point average) last semester.”

A Cheshire native, Steskla was one of the Owls’ stars of this year’s Northeast-10 Conference Championship, which took place in Worcester, Mass., in early February. He had three top-14 finishes, including a fourth place finish in the 1,650 yard freestyle – the equivalent of a mile swim. Southern Connecticut won its sixth straight NE-10 title and 14th in the last 15 years.

“He’s just a great example of that when you set your mind to something, anything’s possible,” Quill said. “People would look at Tyler in that he has a disability in some regards, but I look at it more as a strength.”

Watch the video about Steskla on NBC Connecticut

School of Business students

It was a simple suggestion that grabbed the attention of Modern Plastics President Bing Carbone: If he hired someone for just six hours a week to update social media accounts, brand recognition would rise and marketing costs would drop.

That nugget of advice – backed by solid market research – came not from a high-priced consultant, but from a group of five business-minded students at Southern Connecticut State University.

The hiring recommendation was part of a larger social media campaign to help the Shelton-based plastics distributor increase profits and boost sales of two older products, Plexiglas acrylic and COVESTRO MAKROLON® Polycarbonate. The proposal netted the students a $1,000 prize from the company.

“Wow, I’m blown away,” said Carbone after listening to the students’ pitch at the School of Business during the week of final exams. “I’ve been to other presentations and have been thoroughly disappointed. Here, I can’t say enough.”

The presentation was the culmination of a semester-long project aimed at giving students a real-life experience in the business world, says Robert Forbus, associate professor of marketing and assistant to the dean of the School of Business. The project was part of a marketing class he taught during the fall semester.

School of Business students

Forbus divided the class into six teams, asking each to research ways Modern Plastics could tap back into the Plexiglas and polycarbonate market. The company shifted its focus away from those products over the years, favoring the larger profit margins of high-end engineering and medical grade plastics, but other companies have found them profitable. Forbus then gave the teams 10 minutes each to pitch their ideas.

“Ideally, what they’ll leave this class with is a new skill that’s very much in demand in the workplace,” Forbus says. “Plus, they’ll have a deliverable – this plan – that they can actually show to a hiring manager.”

The winning team suggested numerous ways the company could increase sales by stepping up its online presence – using blogs, targeted ads, discounts and promotions and more frequent and engaging Facebook posts.

Carbone said just as he had hoped, the students approached the problem with fresh ideas and a youthful perspective.

While he intends to use some recommendations from each team’s presentation, he said the winners stood out by offering something he could implement immediately. Carbone said he’s thinking about offering the new social media position to a Southern student as an internship.

“I thought they hit it right on the nose with things I ought to be doing,” Carbone said. “I feel that I could implement their ideas tomorrow.”

School of Business student

The university-business partnership began after Carbone approached Judite Vamvakides, SCSU director of annual and leadership giving. Carbone’s two daughters attend Southern, and he said he wanted to give something back.

Vamvakides arranged for Forbus and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Durnin to tour the plastics company, and during their conversations, the contest was born.

Members of the winning group said the experience was nerve-wracking, especially since they had to start more than three weeks before the deadline after being told their first plan wouldn’t work.

“We initially wanted to do something with 3-D printing, but they didn’t have the manufacturing ability, so we had to start from scratch,” said senior Charlie Dunn.

Junior Chanelle Clarke said the presentation helped her overcome her fear of public speaking. “I was really shy and nervous about the whole process, but my teammates really encouraged me to go out there and kill it,” she said.

Senior Brielle Grestini said the most valuable lesson was learning how to work together as a team. Other winning team members were seniors Ashley Tomanio and Melanie Sivo.

Durnin said the students’ role in the project should give them an edge in job interviews, and she commended Forbus and Carbone for providing the opportunity. “This is a real focus of what we do in this school,” Durnin said. “We want students to feel as if when they leave here, they have the skill set they need to succeed.”