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 Management Studies - Apprentice Style

Student Teams Compete for the Best Marketing Plan


"Mainstream" Team One the night of the presentation with John Kratz, instructor, (far left) and one of the Mainstream Fashions for Men store owners, Doug Melander (far right). Shown are students (l-r) Mike Dahlheimer, Lindsey Pratt, Amanda Turanski, and Jill O'Brien.

They look less like college students and more like nervous corporate executives. Dressed in suits and formal business wear, students in John Kratz's Advertising and Marketing Communications class are about to present their final project... "Apprentice" style. There are no essays or multiple choice. The final project, worth 40 percent of their semester grade, like the competition in Donald Trump's reality show "The Apprentice," is a presentation to real clients with real business concerns.

John L Kratz, an instructor in the UMD Management Studies department, says giving practical experience in solving real problems is the best way to learn. "This fall I had seven clients: Mainstream Fashions for Men, the City of Proctor, Living Waters Music, Sunramp Solutions, Northern PCS, Webb Ellis USA, Inc and Stickit2theU, LLC. I divided each of the two sections of the Advertising and Marketing Communications class into seven teams. Each client had two teams, one from each section, competing to prepare the best plan." Throughout the semester the students, all senior marketing majors, prepared an integrated marketing communications plan, complete with creative concepts, an ad campaign, focus groups, a communication plan, brand imaging, positioning, and competitive analysis. They had to work within a budget.

Lindsey Pratt, the Team One leader for the Mainstream Fashions for Men account, said that the difference between the UMD class and "The Apprentice" TV show is that the project lasts for 15 weeks, not one. "We also have to do all the work ourselves. In the TV show, they are given corporate resources and staff. When our team did a focus group, we had to design the questions, conduct the interviews, and compile the data by ourselves."


"Mainstream" Team Two was working hard on their strategy the week before their presentation: (l-r) Martin Larsson, Jake Vogt, David Dorau and Jason Miller

Team Two identified their market by conducting a survey. Jason Miller, the Team Two leader for the Mainstream Fashions for Men account, said the team learned a lot. "We got good information from UMD faculty and staff but when we conducted a sidewalk survey in downtown Duluth, only a few people had time to stop and answer questions." Team Two also visited a similar men's clothing store in Minneapolis to determine marketing strategies used in other cities.

Like the TV show, the teams guarded their research and plans from each other. Unlike the TV show, because individuals weren't pitted against each other, the teams worked together without personality conflicts and infighting.

The project brought the Center for Economic Development in as a partner to the marketing department. Both the academic program and the center are part of the UMD Labovitz School of Business and Economics. Elaine Hansen, director of the Center for Economic Development, helped bring the clients and the students together. "The class helps bridge the gap between the theories of the classroom and the experiences of the real world. In addition, Center for Economic Development clients get a fresh look and new approaches to their business situations."

Kratz agreed, "It's great to see our students confident, professional and able to put their sales promotion, publicity, and personal selling knowledge to work."

Posted Dec 15, 2004

 

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