Fairfield University's Dolan School of Business students make it to the finals of national contest and will pitch marketing campaign for Chevrolet


Students of Fairfield University's Charles F. Dolan School of Business will get a lesson in marketing that they won't forget, unveiling an advertising campaign they dreamed up for General Motors.

A team of Dolan School graduate students was chosen as one of five finalists in the Chevrolet Case Study Competition, a contest in which business students nationwide are vying to create a marketing campaign for the car company. The students, who are M.B.A. candidates in a marketing class taught by Assistant Professor Christy Ashley, Ph.D., made the final cut from a pool of 64 colleges and universities throughout the country. Those competing have included individual undergraduate and graduate students as well as student teams. A marketing plan submitted by undergraduate Catherine Forsa, '09, an English major/Marketing minor at Fairfield, made it into the top 10 of finalists.

The Fairfield team will travel this week to Detroit, where they will present their campaign to executives from General Motors, Chevrolet's parent company; Campbell-Ewald, the advertising agency behind Chevy's 'Like a Rock' and 'The Heartbeat of America' campaigns; and McGinn MS&L, a corporate communications firm for Fortune 500 companies. The companies will consider whether to use the students' marketing plan to implement future regional and national campaigns. "They also will get to meet with top management at the high-profile firms they study," Dr. Ashley said.

Competing in the contest is part of the Dolan School's efforts to find innovative ways to bring real-world business experience to students. Students were asked to design a solution to help Chevrolet promote its line of fuel-efficient vehicles aimed at drivers between the ages of 18 to 30.

At stake for students are scholarships and internships with the companies. The Dolan student team members, who all work full-time and attend classes on a part-time basis, are Michael Mondin, of Milford; Megan Mones, of Trumbull; Robert Reh, of Westport; Andrew Raffellini, of Fairfield, and Kimberly Thalmann, of New Jersey. Classmate Chien-Ling Kuo, of Taiwan, also provided valuable support for the team.

Raffellini, who works for Unilever in supply chain management, said, "The marketing plan that we created is to encourage Generation Y to purchase Chevrolet eco-friendly vehicles and eliminate the stigma of Chevrolet being perceived as a 'gas guzzler.'"

Mones, who works for Fairfield University, said the team hopes to show that Chevy will continue to transform its vehicles to the fuel efficient, socially responsible vehicles necessary for the future. "I think the most vital point to highlight about our marketing plan is that we provide Chevrolet with a very honest campaign that allows the company to communicate and prove their commitment to pursuing innovation and alternative fuel options."

Mondin, a Vishay Americas sales analyst, said he and his teammates got an opportunity to step back and explore their generation and what they value. "I think this is what Chevy was looking to harness: a deeper understanding of 18 to 30 age demographic. From a marketing standpoint, this information is so valuable for Chevy to have when making strategic decisions in regard to product, placement, price, and promotion."

Dr. Ashley feels the competition is teaching her students lessons far beyond those taught in the traditional classroom. "It allows students the unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience with a challenge being faced by a real company in real time. This is unique because most marketing case studies available to study are set in the past."

Raffellini said, "It was very beneficial to work on a real-live project and apply the theories that we learned in the classroom."

Reh and Thalmann brought to the project experience working for newsstand magazines. Reh works for Golf Digest. Thalmann, who works as Sports Illustrated's manager of Strategic Partnerships, said, "I learned that you can really develop a great end product through compiling many ideas and a lot of brainstorming."

Dana A. Wilkie, Ed. D., the Dolan School's assistant dean and director of Graduate Programs, believes the contest presents a win-win situation. "Our students gain valuable experience to use on their resume toward career advancement, and Chevrolet gains a highly prepared marketing plan."

The other teams in contention are from Drexel University, the University of West Florida, King's College, and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Last year, a team of Dolan graduate students placed in the top five of the competition. The client was Cadillac. EdVenture Partners, a California-based organization bringing together business students and major corporations, helps oversee the competition. For students, it's an avenue to gain practical marketing lessons that can have positive implications for companies. For a corporation, the competition provides a sneak peak into what the younger generation is thinking about their products and image. EdVenture asked students to design a campaign around a real company's needs and objectives in respect to their demographics, image and products. Students work within the framework of a real budget that is provided by the client. Students devise their marketing plan considering corporate research, brand positioning, public relations, advertising, sales and event marketing.

At Fairfield, Marketing majors examine the exchange processes by which consumers and organizations satisfy their needs and wants. Courses require students to understand consumer behavior, the motivation of sales personnel, the impact of advertising and communication of the potential consumer.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 10, 2007

Vol. 40, No. 132