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University Integrated Marketing Communications team places top 17 in nation

Hard work and creativity earned the University IMC team a spot as semi-finalists; next step, New Orleans

The University’s IMC team competed against nearly one hundred universities and placed in the top 17 of the nation. Left to right: Igor Makienko, Leah Johnson, Monica Zutter and Kim Vincent.

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2/21/2017 | By: Hannah Richardson |

eBay, "everything built around you." This was the slogan the University of Nevada, Reno's Integrated Marketing Communications team created when they were challenged with generating a marketing strategy for eBay as a part of the annual American Marketing Association Collegiate Case Competition in fall 2016. The team competed against 99 universities and placed in the top 17 of the nation, finishing as semi-finalists. Top teams defeated many colleges across the United States and Canada including Carnegie Mellon University, University of Washington, University of Texas at Austin, and others.

The IMC team, as a part of the American Marketing Association club at the University of Nevada, Reno, will be traveling to New Orleans, LA, for the 39th International Intercollegiate Conference, March 16-18, 2017, to receive their trophy. During the conference, they will be participating in several small competitions including a marketing strategy contest, AMA Club T-shirt design contest, and others.

The team captain of the University's IMC team, Leah Johnson, said the team put together an IMC marketing campaign based on the criteria that was provided by eBay, including the target market, millennials, and what new features the company wanted to promote to the target market.

"This year's goal was really challenging because millennials have a misperception of eBay and use Amazon far more in comparison, according to research," Igor Makienko, associate professor of marketing at the University and the AMA faculty adviser, said. "The goal was to show that eBay had changed to reach millennials and promote eBay's useful features."

The 11-person IMC team spent a majority of their time researching the target market, industry trends and competitive landscape, each collecting 15-20 pages of research. Every team member participated in areas such as research, media strategy and creative strategy. To help with research, Pat Ragains from University Libraries discussed the resources and tools available to students.

"Pat contributed a lot in terms of showing students where to find resources for secondary data," Makienko said. "Usually he comes to all my other classes and is very enthusiastic in showing students where they can get useful data."

In addition, students conducted primary research. Focus groups and online surveys were used to gain a deeper understanding of the target market's shopping preferences, spending behavior, most popular social media platforms and more. Students analyzed data and supported each element of their strategy with solid research findings.

Research was not the only difficult task when working on the project. Student Monica Zutter, vice president of AMA and IMC team member, said that working with so many people was a great experience, but it took a lot more effort to organize the project and know who was doing what task at what time. Kim Vincent, another student AMA member and IMC team member, said that the client's requirements for the project were very challenging.

"We couldn't make any price or product changes or reorganize eBay's website," Vincent said. "We had to be really creative with our solutions because we needed to reach the target market to promote the ‘new' eBay without suggesting other improvements like flash sales or extended free shipping offerings that could potentially drive more traffic to eBay."

Makienko said that creativity plays a really big role in business these days. It is in high demand, and the IMC team managed to combine a solid research-based plan with a very creative campaign. He commends the team on their creative solutions and the success of the slogan, as it was an outstanding creative element to the overall strategy.

Since Makienko became the faculty adviser of AMA in 2010, the IMC team has placed in the top of the nation two times prior, placing third in 2011 and top 20 in 2012. Makienko said that placing in the top 17 is encouraging because current IMC team members can share their experience with the team that will compete next fall.

In addition to Vincent, Zutter and Johnson, the IMC team included: Patrick Griego, Christopher Lombardo, Morgan Coleman, Jeremy Imlach, Sonia Lopez, Tamara Bandic, Christopher Baca and Victor Salazar-Perez.

Students who are studying marketing, or who are interested in marketing, are encouraged to join the AMA club. Students who join will be able to access networking opportunities, attend free professional luncheons, tour agencies in Reno and San Francisco, contribute to the local community, gain fundraising experience and benefit from valuable advice and insight from guest speakers.

The AMA Club is currently planning fundraising activities to pay for the trip to New Orleans. AMA club members who did not take part in the competition are welcome to travel to New Orleans with the IMC team. Therefore, the goal is to raise enough funds to send all interested student AMA members to the conference.

The club's general meeting dates and times are listed below. For more information about the club, to join or to learn about their fundraising efforts, email Matt Starrett, president of the AMA student chapter, or email Igor Makienko, AMA club faculty adviser.

The AMA club meets this spring at 6 p.m., Tuesdays, in the Graduate Student Lounge located in the Joe Crowley Student Union on the remaining dates of the 2017 semester: Feb. 21, March 7, April 4 and April 18.

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