Last weekend, between 4-6 March, our Marketing Management MA/MSc students enjoyed their annual Residential Weekend School at Latimer Place. At Westminster Business School we place emphasis on combining both the theoretical and the practical; as such I was curious to see what this entails for our Marketing students by seeing them in action first-hand at a residential workshop. Over seventy students participated with five course tutors present to facilitate the event including Dr Donna Mai (Course Leader) and Dr Jaafar El-Murad (Head of Department, Marketing and Business Strategy).
The setting: Latimer Place
Latimer Place is a De Vere Venues conference centre, set across a 30-acre estate, which historically belonged to the 16th-century mansion Latimer House. Located in the rolling Buckinghamshire countryside, known as “the Chilterns” it has beautiful scenery with vistas of the Chess Valley. With excellent facilities made available, the students had a conference suite (used as a main briefing room) and 10 syndicate rooms had been booked for the entire weekend of the residential. As Dr Mai made clear from the outset this environment would provide a business-like environment, simulate a corporate setting and thereby instill a professional ethos and business culture. Simply by being at a business conference centre the students got a flavour of the type of venue they may well be spending time at in their future business careers.
The challenge for the weekend was to develop a marketing plan based on a real-life case study. The students were randomly assigned to ten groups of between seven and eight members to bring the students outside of their comfort zones and collaborate with new people to really put their team-building abilities to the test. After an icebreaker challenge the teams adopted a name and appointed a project leader. Developing leadership and organisation skills was also a key learning outcome throughout the exercises. Equipment and logistics wise each group had a “private” syndicate room for the break-out sessions with a flip chart and pens. Students were asked to bring along laptops and USBs as the residential programme would culminate in all groups presenting their business cases before the panel of academics.
At the welcome talk, shortly after everyone had arrived on Friday, Dr Jaafar El-Murad outlined the task in front of them. Each team was given a £10m budget and told to develop a new product concept. The teams had to imagine themselves as working for MARS, Incorporated and so – as the product category was a straight choice between cat and dog food – the new product would be sold under either the Whiskas or the Pedigree brand. The first task was for each team to decide upon a product category, justify their reasoning and then go away to develop a marketing plan in their groups. The Marketing Planning challenge comprised several phases of development, with strict timelines attached to each successive task: time management and good team-work became essential. It was a hectic and demanding schedule designed to challenge our students, which is perfectly illustrated by the agenda:
- Choosing between cat and dog food, 5pm Friday
- Developing New Product and Creating New Product Concept, 11pm Friday
- Marketing Plan (including a Launch Ad), 1pm, Saturday
- Final Presentations 3:15pm, Sunday
Moreover groups had to submit their work on time via Blackboard, a key online learning resource used by the University of Westminster. In terms of academic course content, a key objective, as Dr Lorna Stevens explained, was to apply the methodologies and tools the students acquired on the core Marketing Strategy module for example perceptual mapping and psychographic analysis of intended market segment. Additionally the residential brought together postgraduate Marketing Management students from both the MA and MSc pathways. This meant that the quantitative, data-driven MSc students could join forces with the MA students and their creative skills, necessary for designing the product, packaging and concept for the new pet food range. Furthermore with the entire in-take for the 2015/16 academic year present, students who enrolled in September and January had the opportunity to work together. As intensive as the workshop was it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and all the students were motivated by the task at hand.
Shortly after 3pm on Saturday afternoon the time came for the ten entrants to put forward their marketing plans under the watchful eyes of the panel. After excellent presentations, the panel held a session in private to decide upon the winners. Inevitably tough decisions had to be made. Meanwhile the marketers went away to get changed for the evening with prize-giving scheduled at 8pm to be followed immediately after by a formal three-course dinner. As well as the overall winners there were several other prize categories to be won just to add to the competitive edge. Dr Spinder Dhaliwal, the Director of Postgraduate Studies kindly came along in the evening for the prize-giving ceremony and the dinner.
Announcing the winners!
Many congratulations to all of the winners and thanks to the Course Leaders for organising such a successful weekend. Here’s some photos of the winning teams, and if you would like to find out more about the course and what it involves, click here!
Garfield B were crowned Marketing Planning Champions. By tradition the team name was engraved on the shield and a medal awarded to each member of the team.
This blog was written by Postgraduate Applicant Officer, Joseph Coote-Cowling. For similar blogs you might like to read:
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