May 09, 2005

LOS ANGELES – Only in its second running year, the annual Marketing Association Case Competition managed to draw an impressive number of first- and second-year UCLA Anderson MBA and FEMBA students looking to present solutions to marketing issues faced by sponsor Farmers Insurance Group.  Over 50 students in teams of four to five competed in the 36-hour competition, which began Wednesday afternoon, March 2 and ended Thursday, March 3 at midnight.  The only resources the teams were given were the case itself and a Q&A session on Thursday, leaving the rest up to their own research and insight.  The twelve teams each gave a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation followed by a 10-minute Q&A session to various panels of judges the following morning at UCLA Anderson.

This year’s case focused on the real problems faced by Farmers Insurance Group as it continues to adapt to an ever-changing and complex industry, noted as “one of the most competitive in the country, with plenty of challenges and opportunities.”

A leading provider of auto and homeowners’ insurance, Farmers is based in Los Angeles and operates in 41 states.  Farmers has always prided itself for being one of the few insurance companies offering personalized customer service and subsequently, sets premium prices in contrast to most of its competitors.  Significant changes in the industry, however, have resulted in a decline in market share and returns for the company.  Over the past several years, the insurance industry has shifted from a highly tailored financial service to one that is focused more on a consumeristic, low-cost product.  Competition from insurance providers such as GEICO and Progressive has left Farmers looking for innovative ideas for change.

“The marketing case competition represented an opportunity to get an external opinion on current issues, and from talented people,” said Jorge Cisternas, a product manager at Farmers Insurance Group and a 2002 UCLA Anderson MBA alumnus.  “We chose a topic that will allow the students enough room for creative suggestions, but also with plenty of data to make informed decisions.”

The teams were expected to successfully address and analyze specific key points in the case:

  • How Farmers could increase productivity in California
  • How Farmers could encourage its agents to shift their culture from a purely price-based position
  • How agents should target customers in order to maximize effectiveness
  • Whether consumers value full service providers such as Farmers or discount brokerage companies

After the first round of presentations on Friday morning in various classrooms, the twelve teams were narrowed down to four finalist teams.  The finalists were then asked to present their respective solutions in Korn Hall to an audience that included the Farmers Insurance Division President, all participating judges and other students and faculty.  Preliminary and final round judges included Farmers executives and staff, UCLA Anderson faculty and staff members and executives from outside companies, as listed below:

Farmers Insurance Group staff:
Deb Brusseau, Product Manager
Jorge Cisternas, Product Manager
Jennifer Darrell, Staffing Manager
Doris Dunn, Marketing Consultant
Randy Leiker, Marketing Consultant
Gina Magee, Marketing Manager
Bill Martin, Director, Personal Lines
Pat Nangle, Staffing Consultant
Deb Settle, Vice President, Fire Product Management
Debbie Sullivan, Financial Services

UCLA Anderson faculty and staff:
Mike Hanssens, Marketing Faculty
Don Morrison, Marketing Faculty
Sanjay Sood, Marketing Faculty
Sara Tucker, Director, Applied Management Research Program
Shi Zhang, Marketing Faculty

Outside judges:
John Carmichael (MBA ’95), Director of Marketing, Nestle
Alan Tseng (MBA ’03), Brand Manager, Paramount Farms
Michael Winterburn (EMBA ’05), Director of Marketing and Communications, Creditel, Inc.

Evaluations of the presentations were based on the following criteria:

  • Quality of case analysis
  • Extent to which recommendations address questions posed in the case
  • Actionability and relevance of recommendations
  • Creativity/originality of recommendations
  • Quality of presentation

The judges selected Team 2 Logit 2 Quit as the winners of the competition.  They received a $1,500 prize.  The team included the following members, all students in the MBA class of 2006:

Greg Powell
Sara Varni
Amity Wall
Ohad Zeira

“I think the key was that we had a consistent and clear story to tell throughout the presentation.  The judges seemed to respond to that," said Powell.

Cisternas agrees and is very pleased with the results of the competition.  “We were very impressed with the students’ presentations and ideas,” he said.  “The insurance industry is particularly complex, and most of the student teams did an excellent job in understanding the facts, Farmers’ position and the competitive environment, and with only 36 hours to prepare the analysis!

“The quality of the presentations was also very good,” Cisternas added.  “There were a number of ideas and proposals that are worthy to be considered, and some others in which the company have already been working – even though they were not disclosed in the case.”

This year’s MA Case Competition utilized a case written by UCLA Anderson first-year students Wenhsin Lee and Douglas Martin, and faculty member Professor Sanjay Sood.  A team of student volunteers including Scott Champagne, Amy Chen, Lana Goldenberg, Evelyn Icarro, Curtis Kadohama, Kim Mariash, Ruben Pranata, Lisa Quon, Jesse Ross, Greg Samarge, Linda Shih, Evelyn Wah and Kevin Yuann organized the competition.

The case competition was a success for both the Marketing Association and Farmers.  Cisternas notes that there is certainly a promising future ahead for his company and Anderson. 

“It is clear that UCLA is a great source of talent for organizations like Farmers,” he said.  “With the insurance world becoming a rare place where a graduate can help others and still enjoy the adventure of high finance and consumer marketing, we hope that students and graduates consider becoming interns and making a career at Farmers.  We look forward to expanding this relationship and cooperation between Farmers and the UCLA Anderson School in the future.”

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.

Media Relations