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A team from the Part-Time program bested four other Kellogg teams to win the Coca-Cola Channel Reinvention Case Competition. Left to right: Matthew Null, Varun Goyal, Amber Jacoby, Umut Tekin and Keith Maziarek.

A team from the Part-Time program bested four other Kellogg teams to win the Coca-Cola Channel Reinvention Case Competition. Left to right: Matthew Null, Varun Goyal, Amber Jacoby, Umut Tekin and Keith Maziarek.

Fresh thinking for a classic

Kellogg Part-Time students take top prize at Coca-Cola Channel Reinvention Case Competition

By Ed Finkel

2/25/2009 - When Coca-Cola executives meet with their bottlers next month, they’ll bring ideas shared by Kellogg students during the school’s recent Coca-Cola Channel Reinvention Case Competition.

Five teams of students offered their ideas on how the company’s largest bottling partner could increase its share of energy drinks sold to pubs and nightclubs in Australia. Team KAVUM from the Kellogg Part-Time program was deemed the winner, besting three teams from the Full-Time program and another team of Part-Timers in the contest finals.

“Each group did give us something to think about,” said John Hackett, vice president of global commercial leadership at Coca-Cola. “I’m able to take away a whole lot of good ideas and thinking. It’s clear to me, from the quality of the presentations, that this is an excellent program at Kellogg.”

The teams had one week to prepare their Feb. 18 presentations after reading a new Kellogg marketing channels case study developed by Kellogg lecturer Richard E. Wilson, who coordinated the competition.

The presentations covered branding, marketing, sales, packaging, distribution and other issues. The students conducted detailed strategic analyses that the Kellogg faculty judges and Coca-Cola executives praised for their breadth of focus.

“It was fascinating to see the diversity of opinions and insights. There was almost no overlap,” Wilson said. He lauded the “considerable originality in segmentation, product, new packaging, field force structure, channel structure optimization and creative interweaving of different strategy elements.”

“It was not easy for us to choose the winning entries,” Wilson added. “The best work was every bit as solid as our Coke executives expected from their own thought leaders.”

The company viewed the competition as a “learning lab to get fresh thinking,” said Marc Richards, vice president of commercial leadership capability at Coca-Cola. “We’re trying to recreate our entire approach for routes-to-market,” he said, adding that the students’ ideas will be discussed at a global route-to-market meeting in March in Mexico.

Members of Team KAVUM — Amber Jacoby, Umut Tekin, Matthew Null, Varun Goyal and Keith Maziarek — said the experience had proven valuable in a number of ways.

Jacoby said she appreciated the feedback from professors and executives. “Because we’re all professionals, working in a group of other professionals, we were able to leverage our diverse backgrounds,” she said.

Tekin enjoyed the breakneck pace. “I liked the thrill,” he said. “We had such limited time, being given the case a week ago.”

Added Null, “It was a great way to focus and take our classroom learning and apply it to something we don’t see on a daily basis. To be able to present this to Coke and have them say, ‘We’re going to take this to our executive summit in Mexico’ was very rewarding for us.”

For its winning efforts, Team KAVUM received a $10,000 prize. The second-place team, Team Down Underdogs, claimed $4,000, while third-place Team Caffeine Machine won $1,000.

Each team offered “valuable learning …for us to take back and apply,” Richards said. “In the spirit of always trying to be a learning organization, this allowed us to receive intelligent and fresh thinking from our targeted age group.”