February 25, 2008

By Roey Gilberg

Willy Wonka himself would have been proud.
Winning team in the 2008 Nestle Case CompetitionThe notorious chocolatier of fiction was the center of attention on Saturday, February 9th, as 14 teams competed in the Nestle Case Competition at UCLA Anderson; a competition slightly different than other case competitions held at Anderson. 

Whereas the cases assigned to students are often fictional, this time the task was to offer proposals as to how Nestle might expand the market position of their Wonka brand of candies such as Nerds and Laffy Taffy. This angle highlighted another major difference between this competition and others - its focus on marketing as opposed to finance.  Although there was certainly quantitative analysis involved, the nature of the task had students largely exercising their creative juices.

Mission in hand, teams of three-to-five Anderson students set about their project on Thursday evening, and had until Saturday morning to prepare presentations outlining their ideas.  Each team then had 20 minutes to pitch their initiatives, followed by a 10 minute session in which they fielded questions from the panel of judges observing their presentations.

Although there were many recurring ideas and themes, teams also came up with a wide array of imaginative proposals, as can be expected given the innovative nature of the case.  Some common suggestions included utilizing social networking outlets such as Facebook and MySpace, and expanding into the production of chocolate and gum.  Many teams attempted to capture the famous traits of Willy Wonka himself, -- his whimsy, mysteriousness, and deviousness -- and integrate them into their ideas. The approaches varied, however, as teams offered a fascinating variety of clever advertising schemes, viral campaigns and slogans.

Third place team in the 2008 Nestle Case CompetitionBy Saturday afternoon, the 14 hopeful teams had been replaced by three finalists.  These three teams then presented again in front of a larger jury, and when the judges were through deliberating, Team 4, captained by Adam Rodgers ('09), was announced as the victors. "We felt really good about our idea," said Rodgers, "so the win was definitely exciting.

"Our presentation did a good job of coming up with a campaign that allowed the brand to be in the spotlight, and it was doable across all of their products," said Rodgers. Completing all the necessary preparations in such a short amount of time inevitably has its ups and downs, but students appreciate the value of the entire experience. "I enjoyed trying to come up with a solution to a real world problem," said Rodgers.  "The challenge of coming up with a marketing plan that was doable was definitely exciting."

With such a plethora of ideas to scrutinize, judges were most impressed with teams that made sure to not only keep in mind the Wonka brand, but also embrace and incorporate it into their marketing campaigns, regardless of which direction they went.  Conversely, judges were less convinced by teams that ignored or drastically altered the existing brand in their pursuit of market expansion. Steve Pratt, Director of Marketing Development at Nestle and a judge for the competition, offered his perspective as to why the Nestle case works so well at Anderson. "The culture at the school is similar to the culture at Nestle - competitive but collaborative at the same time," he said.

First Prize
Team #4 
Adam Rodgers, (captain)
Matt Brutocao,
Katie Dye
Joseph Pulido

Second Prize
Team #10
David Church, (captain)
Kristen August
Carol Chi
Sameer Karim
Shawn Manimtim

Third Prize
Team #12
Michael Prohias, (captain)
Matt Peak
Alex Rabiee
Dahlia Reinkopf
Brian Younglove

Nestle Marketing Associates
Ritu Mathur, ('07)
Rachel Wall ('07)
Gilbert Gutierrez
Pricilla Stanton
Alan Tseng ('03)

Nestle Judges
Elizabeth Vanemburg, Marketing Manager. 
Al Multari, VP Marketing
Scott Remy, Senior VP Communications
Steve Pratt, ('98) Directory of Marketing
Kristen Mandel, ('05) Customer Development Manager
Daniel Jhung, Marketing Manager in Confections

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