Spending 36 hours straight with the same group of people would generally turn off most students, but a team of four undergraduates from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business enthusiastically did so in February 2013 as part of the Wake Forest Marketing Summit, a case competition held annually at WFU’s campus in Winston-Salem, NC. After nearly two days of intense competition that culminated in a final presentation to case sponsor FedEx, the students returned triumphantly to College Park with the first place trophy and $10,000 in prize winnings.
This is the sixth year in a row that Smith School undergraduates have applied to and been selected to attend the Marketing Summit, a competition that attracts top business programs from around the world. Among the finalists in the undergraduate competition were Northeastern University (2nd Place), the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (3rd Place), Boston College, and Wake Forest University. More than 60 teams competed for six MBA and five undergraduate spots this year, one of the highest numbers of applications in the history of the competition.
Following a guided facility tour, the 2013 Marketing Summit kicked off at the FedEx Ground Greensboro distribution center with team introductions, remarks from FedEx executives and WFU contributors, and even an exhibition of the FedEx NASCAR race car. Once the festivities were over, however, the teams returned to campus to receive the case, officially marking the beginning of the competition. Though the teams spent most of the weekend working in their respective study rooms, students had the opportunity to attend a Q&A session with FedEx representatives and also a panel of FedEx’s current customers, both of which proved invaluable to the team’s final recommendations.
It has become a Smith School tradition over the last six years to establish a diverse a team composition in order to create the perfect combination of talents, experiences, and backgrounds, and this year’s team evidently upheld that tradition. Team veterans Manas Kulkarni (senior, marketing and operations management) and Lauren Wittig (senior, marketing & supply chain management) returned to the team having placed second at last year’s Marketing Summit. The Smith School team won the competition in 2009 and placed third in both 2010 and 2011. New team members Lindsay Djuhadi (junior, marketing) and Jack Rupple (sophomore, intended marketing), provided a fresh new perspective that was integral to the team’s innovative spirit.
“Our team’s success was largely attributed to how well we complemented each other,” explains team co-captain Manas Kulkarni. “Each person was encouraged to leverage both their strengths and interests to work on the most appropriate part of the case, but we never hesitated to lend each other a hand when necessary. And of course, it helps to have three other functioning minds when you inevitably face the consequences of sleep deprivation!”
Many Marketing Summit volunteers noted that the team’s energy and optimism was contagious. Co-captain Lauren Wittig, states, “We went into the competition extremely excited and honored to be there and our high spirits and love for one another continued throughout the entire competition!”
This year’s team was fortunate to have previously worked together in multiple capacities as heavily involved members of terpAMA, the Smith School’s collegiate chapter of the American Marketing Association.
Though the content of the case as well as the team recommendations are unavailable to the general public under FedEx’s non-disclosure agreement, Marketing Manager Sandy Jones made a concerted effort to note that the team “blew [them] away with its overall presentation, quality of materials and attention to design.” Jones approached the team after the awards ceremony to reiterate that she was excited to bring back the recommendations to her team at FedEx in hopes of implementing them in the near future.
As the winner, the Smith School automatically has an invitation to return to the Summit next year. Though most details are still unknown, one thing is certain. In 2014, the Terps have a title to defend.
For more information on the Wake Forest Marketing Summit – including competing teams, videos, photos, blogs and news feeds – visit: marketingsummitlive.com.