Berkeley Claims Fifth Victory in National Marketing Competition

For the fifth time since 2005, a Berkeley MBA team has won the Elite Eight Brand Management Case Competition at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

The Berkeley-Haas team that brought home the gold at this year's competition Nov. 3 consisted of Alison Brock, Shana Horak Hawley, and Krishna Shah, all MBA 13; and Stephanie Curran and Ellen Vanderwilt, both MBA 14.

Berkeley-Haas bested Kellogg, Wharton, and Fuqua in a challenge to identify and rationalize the consumer target for Best Buy Mobile, smaller stand-alone storefronts that sell mobile devices and accessories and are typically located in high-traffic malls.

The Haas team built a story around a consumer target or “protagonist”: a woman in the “sandwich” generation considering smart-phone purchases both for her teenaged children and her older parents.

“Rather than forming hypotheses about Best Buy Mobile and then backing insights in to support those hypotheses, we used tools we learned in our PFPS (Problem Finding, Problem Solving) class to diverge for the first half of our allotted time,” says Horak Hawley, referring to an idea-generation practice called "diverging" in PFPS parlance. “Then, when we started to converge on Friday morning, our solution and recommendation couldn't have been more clear or unanimous.”

Shah adds that the team brought the story to life by describing its protagonist’s decision and purchase cycle and offering recommendations focused on the target consumer's specific needs.

Not having time to conduct a field visit, the team reached out on Facebook during their diverging period to gather insights. “We asked friends and family to describe how they purchase new cell phones,” says Shah. “We also conducted a considerable amount of research on how people within our target consumer market go about making new technology decisions.”

Not only did the team cram thorough research into the 24 hours they had to meet the challenge, they prepared before ever leaving Haas, working through a sample case before boarding the plane to Minneapolis later the same day.

The students credit their success to the team dynamic, “particularly the all-female nature of the group,” says Horak Hawley. The Haas curriculum also played a role in “coming together to give us a competitive advantage.”

"Tools from Problem Finding, Problem Solving allowed us to approach the question, reframe it, and think about it differently than other schools," Horak Hawley adds  "Of course, our team’s ability to question the status quo–and provide a recommendation that differed from Best Buy’s current strategy–helped us stand apart.”

The team also extends its thanks to faculty advisors Bill Pearce, a Haas lecturer and former chief marketing officer for Del Monte, and David Riemer, Haas executive-in-residence and former Yahoo marketing VP.

Elite Eight winners Krishna Shah, Alison Brock, Stephanie Curran, Ellen Vanderwilt, and Shana Horak Hawley.