Looking for a Fresh Perspective? GMSC Offers Consultancy and MorePublished: November 08, 2006 in Knowledge@Emory
Earlier this year when The Coca-Cola Company wanted to explore ways to increase sales of its serve-yourself fountain beverages at convenience stores, the firm turned to a student team from Emory University’s Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy (GMSC) for ideas.
“Driving the purchase of fountain products in a convenience store setting can be challenging,” says Robert Drew, director of channel strategy at the Atlanta, Georgia-based beverage company. “Our can and bottle products easily stand out on shelf displays, but the fountain dispensers are typically placed at the back of the store, where they’re not as noticeable. We engaged the team from GMSC as a way to tap into fresh new ideas from an outside source.”
As global competition drives businesses to get more done in less time, a growing number of enterprises are turning to consulting firms to bring in new outlooks. One study by marketing and advising firm IDC suggests that business consulting spending, which generated some $25.8 billion of activity in 2005, will grow to $31.2 billion in 2010.
The Goizueta team suggested integrating a fountain dispenser into the stores’ checkout counter, reasoning that such a high-profile placement would be likely to capture customers’ attention and drive impulse purchases. Drew agreed, and a limited test marketing run was implemented this summer.
“Initial results were positive, and we’re expanding the marketing test,” says Drew. “It’s also being supplemented with trade advertising.”
Drew says his company, which previously engaged GMSC for an assignment focused on product flow at casino and other gaming facilities, gets a lot of value from the efforts of the Goizueta teams.
“Goizueta students provide a fresh look at old problems,” he notes. “They offer innovative ideas and represent a pipeline of talent for our company.”
The students also benefit, says Reshma Shah, an assistant professor in the practice of marketing at Emory’s Goizueta Business School who has served as faculty advisor to the marketing strategy organization since 1997.
“The GMSC projects give business students an opportunity to work in a team environment for nearly four months with Fortune 500 and other high caliber enterprises,” explains Shah. “They get real-life experience in topics such as product positioning, channel management and resource allocation, in addition to earning course credits at the Goizueta Business School. Also, at the end of the project it’s not unusual for a company to extend an internship offer to students, giving them further valuable experience.”
Deloitte Consulting functions as an advisor to the college’s marketing strategy consultancy, offering high-level guidance.
“We decided to get involved because of our strategic relationship with the school,” says Bob Ruprecht, a principal with Deloitte Consulting and a Goizueta alum. “We invest the time, efforts, and insights of our consultants into the school's most important programs - which clearly includes GMSC.”
He says the “return on Deloitte’s investment comes in many ways, particularly when his firm eventually matches up with recruits that it “knows better and vice versa.” He adds that the GMSC students represent the values of the school well in serving real clients and competing with other teams.
“They put a great deal into the effort and challenge themselves to a high standard of excellence,” Ruprecht adds. “The experience also gives the students an edge in the workplace. It’s like a ‘team internship,’ as close to simulating the workplace as possible. If our behind-the-scenes advisors have helped to make the effort a little better, then it’s been a great win for all involved.”
About 15 years ago the program was launched as the Marketing Competition, a non-credit learning initiative that gave first-year marketing students from Goizueta some informal experience.
“Along the way the program evolved from a no-credit course to a valuable business opportunity that gives students course credit while providing high-level analytical and other decision-making information to global companies,” reports Shah. “Last year the name of the program was changed to the Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy (GMSC) in recognition of the fact that we had an actual business on our hands. We also entered into a formal alliance with Deloitte Consulting, under which their professionals work with our students, providing an extra injection of guidance and expertise.”
For four months a year, about 50 students are divided into eight teams that will work some 10 hours each week—three hours in a classroom and the rest engaged in research and client meetings—on a project. Whenever possible, students are matched with teams and assignments that reflect their particular focus, such as product development, promotion, or pricing. Project deliverables include a written report and a formal presentation that are judged at the end of the term by more than 150 executives from Atlanta-area companies.
“The final report is a comprehensive document that typically includes a situational overview, an industry and competitor analysis, findings from secondary and primary research, strategic and tactical recommendations, financial justifications and implementation plans,” says Shah.
Although the GMSC program bills out at rates that are less-expensive than big-name consultancies, companies can still pay $30,000 or more for the services. All client fees for the program go toward research costs, academic advising, presentation day events, and monetary stipends that are awarded to top teams.
“One recent assignment for the global consumer products company Kimberly-Clark involved drawing up plans to enter an overseas market,” says Deepa Nair, a recent MBA graduate who headed public relations for the GMSC. Six other MBA students serve as directors in such areas as client relations, finance and operations, and academics and technology. “As part of the process, the students actually flew out to the local market and spent about a week there gathering on-site information. It’s the kind of fieldwork that’s a valuable complement to their university class studies.”
Mandana Varahrami, a current MBA student, says the GMSC program gave her team a “unique opportunity” to identify a market strategy aimed at increasing a U.S. feminine consumer product’s sales in India.
“My colleague Karen Soberg and I traveled to India to become more familiar with the feminine care market and female consumers,” explains Varahrami. “My participation in the Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy offered an invaluable opportunity to learn first-hand about marketing a consumer product and to become better acquainted with the Indian culture. In addition, I was very fortunate to work among a talented group of peers who contributed to the rewarding educational experience.”
Apparently, companies are also impressed by the Goizueta program. Last year nearly one-third of the teams were offered internships by the client firms. For some, such work-study programs lead to full-time positions after they graduate.
The GMSC program began in 1992 under Professor Atul Parvatiyar, and today it is the largest student-run organization in the Goizueta MBA program. More than half of the first-year marketing student body worked on last year's competition, and during its existence more than 100 different corporate and non-profit sponsors, including UPS, Turner, BellSouth Corporation (which recently merged with AT&T, Inc.), SunTrust Banks, Inc. and IBM have participated in the program. Many have returned to it multiple times.
“This is the kind of experience that can give students a competitive edge when they enter the job market,” says Shah. “I’ve spoken with a number of MBA candidates who have said the Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy was one of the main reasons they enrolled here. It’s a very valuable and unique program.”