Recently, my fellow MMSers and I were given the opportunity to participate in the MBA Marketing Club’s Brand Challenge. The annual event is a fun and collaborative competition where teams of students develop creative strategies to market an assigned product against its corresponding brands. Though it is a competition, it is not your average marketing competition. Teams get very creative and dress up in their product, have product tastings, and even conduct challenges like karaoke! Teams present their product and their respective creativity to fellow students at Fuqua Friday, and a team of judges (faculty) come around and decide who the winners will be for the different categories. Categories included an overall winner, execution, creativity, and popularity.

mms and mba students
My Brand Challenge team included MMS classmates and 2 Cross Continent MBA students.

In teams of 4 – 6 students, we were assigned to a product, which we had to market against a competitor product. My team specifically was a very special team. First off, we were a group of 4 MMSers, and in addition, we also had 2 Cross Continent MBA team members. The organizers of the Brand Challenge had extra students who were interested in joining teams, so we volunteered to have 2 Cross Continent students join our team for a chance to network and collaborate with them. Secondly, our product was the Old El Paso® Stand ‘n Stuff Taco Shells (or so we thought!). General Mills directly sponsored our product in the Brand Challenge and as such, we were also assigned to the competitor product — Mission taco shells.

As a team, we came up with a strategy to market our product strongly against the competitor’s. We came up with an activity for the Brand Challenge called “The One-Handed Taco Challenge: Mission Impossible.” We planned to have participants use one hand to stuff their taco with lettuce, salsa, and beef, and then eat it as fast as they could. In addition, we decided to also have a taste testing with taco shell pieces. We were well prepared and anticipated the execution of our strategy to run smoothly.

However, the night before the Brand Challenge, we received our actual product, which ended up being the Old El Paso® Stand ‘n Stuff Soft Taco Tortillas! Well, there went our taste testing idea! We had to come up with an alternative strategy, and quickly. Our “Mission Impossible” challenge was still relevant so we continued with that, but we had to come up with something else as well to wow the judges. In the end, we decided to highlight the soft tortilla’s strength to withstand sogginess by floating the tortilla in a bowl of water. This was a great portrayal of how the tortilla wouldn’t get soggy for a long period of time if there were wet ingredients, such as salsa, in it.

We dodged a bullet! Our strategy ended up being extremely successful, and all of our participants in the “Mission Impossible” challenge were just as excited as we were. The judges were extremely impressed with our floating tortilla and one-handed taco challenge. My team won first place for execution! We won $150 for our team to enjoy a nice dinner, or outing of our choice.

The Brand Challenge was a great experience, and I definitely recommend it to any creative person, whether you’re interested in marketing or not. It is a great chance to get creative and come up with innovative ways to market a product. And who knows, you may end up winning!