During the first weekend of March (3rd– 5th), Westminster Business School MA/MSc Marketing Management 2016/2017 students took part in the Residential Weekend School, an official university off-campus event involving marketing planning. The task of the trip was to produce a marketing plan for a real-life UK company. The team members were randomly selected within each cohort, but all the activities had been kept confidential prior to the trip. In this year, the programme took place at Latimer Place, Buckinghamshire – a one-hour coach ride away from the University.
We assembled outside Madame Tussauds on Friday morning. When everybody was on board, the mission began! We all received goodie bags containing the programme and information about our team, a fleece jacket with University of Westminster logo, candies, souvenirs, and the activities timetable. Our teams had been pre-selected by our Course Leader, Dr Donna Mai, on the basis of our nationalities and personalities. My team included members from Thailand, the Netherlands, the UK, Greece, and Pakistan. It was a great mix and I was excited and looked forward to working with them!
After an hour, we arrived at the “Latimer Conference Centre” a little get-away place located in the British countryside, surrounded by historic buildings and natural scenery. We were welcomed by hotel staff who were eager to show us to our well-prepared rooms. As for the estate itself, it was fully equipped with stationery and conference rooms where we would be working for the next two days. Our rooms were amazing. Each was fully equipped, with TV and heating. What’s more – the views from some of my friends’ rooms were amazing. Unfortunately, the official walking activity in the Chess Valley we had planned had to be missed due to bad weather conditions. However, some of my friends and I decided to go outside for a walk to explore the area and take photos. We wanted to make most of the time available to us.
In the afternoon we all went back for lunch and it was in form of a buffet. I had fish and chips which was very tasty and I also liked the ice cream at dessert. After a wonderful meal, it was time to get down to business. We started off with ice-breaking activity – a mathematical challenge! It was a tough puzzle but one of the January cohort’s team won by being the first to work out the correct answer.
It was then followed by the main marketing planning task, which was focusing on a car dealership company, LOOKERS. It was a fun environment to work in, alongside with classmates I know and am friends with, putting ideas together to create a business plan. The briefing was given by Dr Jaafar El-Murad, Head of Marketing and Business Strategy Department. A hardcopy of the marketing planning brief was also given to us.
On the first day, each team got the same task of researching the market and external environment that would affect the company brand. We had to hand in two submissions; one for the market analysis and the other one for brand personality and positioning. The deadline was very challenging and most of us worked till late. However, we knew that this sort of situation would prepare us for the real workplace in the future.
Surprisingly, before heading to bed, every group received a flash news release assignment from Clive Helm, to be submitted the following day. It was a true challenge. Later on, some of my friends and I decided to spend the night playing card games like UNO and we were joined by one of the tutors-Kate Ingsa. We had some exciting moments and this made us feel relaxed after a challenging long day. Everybody went to bed happy.
All fresh and alert we started our Saturday with a lovely English breakfast and litres of caffeine. After the briefing on our third task and the final submission, the team went to work in the individual working room to design the plan and implement creative marketing strategies. The tutors Jaafar El-Murad, Donna Mai, Luca Cacciolatti, Kate Ingsa, Raffaella Paciolla, Clive Helm and Frances Ekwulugo looked after us as mentors, by visiting each team and giving good advice for the project.
All subjects that we learned from different taught modules on the course fell into place in the process of designing the marketing plan. The lessons we had at the university and the briefings helped us to get started. Time passed by, and we all felt relieved when we submitted our work. We had a bit of time to practice for the presentation, and I must say that all teams did a fantastic job! Miraculously almost all teams came up with similar solutions for the car dealer’s marketing problem.
The formal dinner was one of the highlights of the whole trip. All the students spent time dressing up and looking pretty. The guys suited up smartly and the girls wore their best dresses. The award ceremony was nerve-wracking because everyone hoped to win. I was so happy and proud when Dr Jaafar El-Murad announced that my team won the prize for the best press release. Our cohort won the most prizes in the end including the best marketing planning and runner-up and we were all happy for each other and I feel like this makes us closer together as a group.
We were served great food for dinner and eating together with my friends was fun. Chatter and laughter could be heard throughout the dining room and in between the courses. Everybody would stand up and take pictures with each other. I took a few pictures with my friends and other professors as well. The professors gave some very emotional and great speeches thanking everyone for participating and for making this event a success. We all had a great time!
Thanks to Sirada Kitwattanachai with support and contributions from her team members Maxime Renne, Vartan Mazloumian, Oluwatobi Ajayi, Antonia-Rita Farfarelou and Szu Teoh for this blog! If you would like to find out more about their course at Westminster (Marketing Management MA/Msc) please take a look at the course page.