The MA/MSc Marketing Management Compulsory Residential Weekend School took place from the 1st to the 3rd of March this year. Students from both the September 2018 and the January 2019 intakes combined and travelled together to the Beaumont Estate Conference Centre, near Windsor Castle.

The Beaumont Estate is a popular professional location for business conferences and has a unique and enchanting character. The purpose of the weekend was to strengthen our teamwork skills and to apply marketing planning skills and techniques on a real case study from Cole Haan, in a competitive environment and in a very compressed timeframe.

We all gathered outside Madame Tussaud’s at 11am to board our coaches. After arriving at the hotel, we received “goodie bags” each containing a fleece jacket with the University of Westminster logo, candies, souvenirs, and information about our team members. The team members list and the fleece jacket played a role to encourage interaction among the students, as the size of their fleece might be too big or too small to fit, and the students needed to talk to each other in order to exchange for the proper size they needed. This broke the ice and helped students get to know each other a bit more, and some of them even met all of the team members during the process. In order to strengthen cooperation and team building skills, students had been allocated to teams by our Course Leader, Dr Donna Mai, who purposely mixed students from different cohorts and nationalities. After we checked in, everyone was excited about the hotel environment and their private rooms. We were full of anticipation about the coming events.

After a buffet lunch, we had a little free time to explore the Beaumont Estate. Many of us found an interesting part of the hotel. Some recommended the nice gym for exercise, some enjoyed a nice walk close to the river Thames, some found a cosy pub for night activities; everyone found a nice place for taking selfies and other pictures.

The coming days proved that we had an intensive but enjoyable professional work schedule for the weekend. When we met at 2:30pm for the introduction we exchanged our pre-prepared findings with new team members whilst anticipating the real case study from Cole Haan.

At first, in order to warm up and create team cooperation, we were given a puzzle that had to be solved as quickly as possible. The puzzle took the form of a deck of several cards; we quickly realised that everyone had to work together because the information was fragmented, and each card only held a partial clue to the answer. The task made all group members combine into a team naturally, and although some took longer than others all of the teams eventually worked out the right answer – but after this exercise, every team was full of fighting spirit and determined to win the competition!

The brief gave basic information about the Cole Haan brand and products, and the marketing objective to be achieved: this was a genuine task faced by the company, and reflected their actual corporate objectives with regard to the UK market – a seven-fold increase in turnover by the end of 2022, i.e. in just over three years! Dr. Jaafar El-Murad helped us review the marketing planning process, asking us to apply it to the real case study about Cole Haan’s entry into the UK market.

We followed the intensive schedule and continuously submitted the tasks one by one until Saturday at 15:00. These included:

  • Marketing Research & Situation Analysis
  • Brand Positioning
  • Marketing Plan
  • Product/Brand Awareness Ad
  • Presentation

Friday evening was the hardest part of the whole weekend, as we needed to submit the last task by 23:00. It was the longest and fastest day of the whole event as we all had to work intensively and cooperatively to finish the task. In addition, we were given an extra task – to post a press release for PR purposes. We also had to take part in a social media competition, which gave all of the students a perfect excuse to take selfies and to interact with each other to make funny pictures to post on their social media accounts. That was the most enjoyable part of the intense hard work of Friday.

On Saturday, we submitted the final task of the whole plan. All of the teams gave great presentations, each with its unique strengths, from different positioning perspectives, and different professional angles and skills. During the marketing plan development process we were given tips and guidance from the tutors, which helped us to improve and modify the marketing plan. The very creative ideas and professional execution of the brand awareness ads all won warm and sincere applause from all of the students and the tutors; given the very little time available it was a great achievement by all.

After two days of hard work and presentations, we had 1.5 hours to relax, shower and dress up for the prize-giving ceremony and the formal dinner: the climax of the whole weekend! Each student dressed professionally and some of them got the prize for different competitions – the prize for best advertisement pitching ideas, for the highest engagement on social media, and for the best marketing plan. Every member of the team that won the best marketing plan award received a gold medal, and their names were later engraved on the commemorative plaque, as is the tradition of all of the former champion teams. The prize-giving was subsequently followed by the individual certificate awarding ceremony. We were each awarded a certificate of attendance at the Residential Weekend by Dr Donna Mai, in a formal ceremony with pictures with her. Every student felt this was like a rehearsal for the graduation ceremony, and all were really happy for the certificate they earned.

Special thanks to our course leader Dr. Donna Mai who organised the event, and the other facilitators (Dr Jaafar El-Murad, Kanyanee Ingsa, Aizhan Konysbayeva, Dr Pinar Demir, Dr Ejindu Morah and Clive Helm) who helped to run it. The Residential Weekend enabled us to apply our skills and knowledge in a professional environment, especially the real-life case study from Cole Haan. It was a precious experience and is a good memory of our time at the University of Westminster. The live case study will help us to apply what we have learned on the course in our future careers as marketing managers.

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We would like to credit and thank the author Zheyu Liu, Current MA/MSc Marketing Management student for contributing this blog piece. 

Edited by Karolina Lubian and Joseph Coote-Cowling.

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