My spring 2014 students at James Madison University participated in the *Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge as part of the Integrated Marketing Communications (MKTG 384) course. Each team developed marketing plans, using direct and interactive channels, with a goal of increasing the number of orders driven through a Domino’s Mobile App. They also created a visual summary presentation and an online video ad. In the end, five JMU teams made it to the semi-finals and one of those teams emerged as the winner of the 3rd Place Bronze Award.
I asked our winning team to share their thoughts about the experience and provide tips to help future competitors. Here’s what they had to say…
Haley Svadeba – I learned to not be afraid to go with an idea that seems to be random or completely unrelated to the task at hand. These are the very kinds of ideas that end up being creative breakthroughs. It is very important in the beginning stages of the creative process to not discourage any idea that your team has because you never know what could catch the target audience’s attention. Once your team has decided on the “big idea” for the plan, I would recommend sticking with that one idea and building off of it. Be consistent with your overall theme. Even after deciding your main idea, your minds will continue to come up with additional ideas as you go through the semester but don’t try to make it more complicated by coming up with too many. Keep it simple and make sure to use the one big idea very well by expanding upon it and integrating it into the plan.
Shawn Misar – Consistency is king! Also, taking a few minutes of time out of each day, dedicated solely to thinking creatively is well worth it. I would highly, highly recommend talking about your ideas with your friends, family members, or anyone else who can give you some feedback. Go to your professor’s office hours. It’s great to be able to bounce ideas off someone who has had a vast amount of experience and who is so committed to helping you do well! Meet regularly with your team, set a schedule, and stick to that schedule. If all the team members meet every few days with real progress, you will have a lot of extra time near the end of the semester to “polish” the plan and give you the best chance of success.
Lauren Crain – I learned is it is very important to know and understand your target market and your client. Being very familiar with your target market will help in every aspect of the plan. You need to think like your target market, envision how they would interact with the client’s brand, and figure out what is the best way to effectively engage them. It is important to immerse yourself in the brand, know what they stand for, how they currently communicate with their audience, and understand how they interact with their customer. Some advice I can offer to other students is to get started on the project as early as you can because it contains many intricate components. The Challenge is a large undertaking as you have to learn about an industry, a client, the marketing environment, and the competitive landscape. With that information, you will be challenged to make recommendations, come up with a very creative big idea, a media plan, a budget, ROI projections, a video, a presentation, etc. Teams with the highest quality plans were started at the beginning of the semester. You want to put time and thought put into the process throughout the entire semester…not just pulled together quickly at the end. You really do get out as much as you put into the project and will learn so many skills that will be applicable in the future. Don’t waste this opportunity.
Dan Froehlich – Through the Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge, I understood more deeply how motivation directly correlates with success. The first day we were assigned this project, our group had our minds set on winning the competition. We spent more time than we needed to just get a good grade. We were dedicated to our client’s success and we truly wanted our ideas to make a real difference for the clients. The extra effort and time we spent on the plan paid off as it positioned us to place #3 overall in the competition out of nearly 200 competitors. One of the things we did that made the project so successful was our constant effort to improve our plan. We actively sought out our plan’s weaknesses, and built them into strengths. Your plan is only as strong as your weakest link, and this process helped us create a balanced and strong plan.
Thank you to Haley, Lauren, Shawn, and Dan for sharing their insights. I concur with the advice and will summarize their key points:
- Be open to all ideas during the creative process.
- Once you decide on the main creative theme, stay focused on that idea and integrate it consistently into the plan.
- Obtain feedback from other people outside of your team.
- Plan a schedule of regular meetings and strictly adhere to it.
- Learn everything you can about the market and your client.
- Don’t procrastinate.
- Set high goals and work hard for your client.
*The Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge is sponsored by Marketing EDGE, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to Educate, Develop, Grow, and Employ college students in the field of marketing.