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Students Win $40,000 Marketing Prize

2/18/2008 --

A team of Ross MBAs claim top honors in Procter & Gamble's "Create a Buzz for Braun" campaign.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The subject of male grooming had never really been top of mind for Karima Holland, a first-year MBA candidate at the Ross School of Business. Especially the topic of male grooming below the neck. That all changed when she and three Ross classmates entered the "Create a Buzz for Braun" campaign, sponsored by Procter & Gamble.

The challenge was to create a marketing plan around a Braun body shaver targeted to college-aged men. The quest was to win the $40,000 grand prize in the national case study competition. The results exceeded expectations as the Ross team did, in fact, walk away with that prize—and a whole lot more.

"I know way too much about some of my [male] classmates now," says Holland, who, with fellow female MBA students Emily Hoffman, Mihira Patel, and Holly Sharp, earned top honors over nearly 300 student teams from the country's top-ranked MBA programs. In addition, Sarah Doak, who received her Ross MBA in December, tied for second place in the competition and received $5,000.

"Manscaping America, One College Campus at a Time," the marketing campaign by Hoffman, Holland, Patel, and Sharp, suggested online contests and promotions and a "Manscaping" campus comedy tour. The team developed its plan after talking to some 150 college males about battling unwanted body hair. Research revealed that grooming "really does matter" to this younger demographic, yet no tool exists to meet their specific needs. Consumer focus groups and interviews often devolved into hilarious sessions in which participants detailed their creative tactics and innovative methods of "manscaping."

"We discovered that pretty much all men 'do it,' in some form or another," says Holland of male grooming. "And they are not shy to talk about it. In doing our research we found that most of the touch points had humor around them, and we decided the best way to reach this audience was to create an integrated approach using that humor.

"We also gained a lot of insight into how best to reach male college students," Holland continues. "And we found the most important thing is just to get the conversation started. So we are being very pointed in how we're reaching out to them in our campaign."

The team discerned young male consumers wanted a single tool with various features capable of handling different lengths of body hair. In addition, the body groomer should be safe, easy to use, and easy to clean, according to the subjects.

The all-woman team had just started their first year at Ross when the "Buzz for Braun" competition launched in October. They bonded quickly over their shared interest in marketing and soon discovered a plethora of resources available to them at the school. Several male classmates sought them out on discovering the focus groups, and professors were supportive in helping them hone their final presentation.

The depth of research and hours of practice paid off as the team presented to the chief marketing officer at Procter & Gamble and various brand managers for Braun.

"Having them drill you and really knowing your subject was pretty amazing," says Holland. "They're thinking directly on the business and how to apply your plan to their product, which took it to a level beyond a class project. It was super fun, especially for the four of us who are really into marketing."

"We are all extremely excited and honored to have won the competition," adds teammate Hoffman. "It was a tremendous learning experience to have created a marketing plan for a great brand like Braun, and a terrific way to put our MBA school experience to work."

Bracken Darrell, global president of Braun, says the judges of the competition were impressed with the Ross School team's clever messaging strategy derived from keen observations of the competitive landscape.

"We were very excited about all of the finalists' presentations and felt they each offered great insight into reaching our target consumer," he says. "Ultimately, though, Michigan's plan rose to the top."

In addition to the prize money, Holland and her teammates hope to net the added bonus of seeing their tag line (and other elements of their proposal) in the product's promotional rollout.

"It will be so incredible if they choose to use some of our materials in the actual campaign," says Holland. "This was one of the best experiences I've ever had. You just never know what you can create."

Emily Hoffman: Prior to joining Ross, Emily worked as Associate Manager, Renewals Marketing for the American Diabetes Association in Alexandria, Virginia

Karima Holland: Prior to joining Ross, Karima worked a Senior Associate at PricewaterhouseCooper LLP in Washington, D.C.

Mihira Patel: Prior to joining Ross, Mihira worked as a Consultant at BearingPoint Inc. in McLean, Virginia

Holly Sharp: Prior to joining Ross, Holly worked as a Marketing Analyst consulting at PepsiCo for Information Resources, Inc. in Chicago

For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847,