Marketing and Selling Real CPG Products to Fellow Students: Johnson’s Annual Battle of the Brands

by Liz Riley, MBA ’13

Liz Riley, MBA '13

As the Vice President of Marketing Competitions for Johnson’s Marketing Association, I am lucky to be in charge of one of the most exciting events at Johnson: our Annual Marketing Competition, the Battle of the Brands. Battle of the Brands (BoB) is a two week-long competition sponsored by top Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies recruiting at Johnson. This year’s sponsors include Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Reckitt Benckiser, and Unilever. Students are broken up into teams of five plus a second-year student coach, assigned to one of the sponsoring companies, and given a product to market to the Johnson community.

This year’s Battle kicked off on October 18 with a presentation from Professor Manoj Thomas, who leads the Strategic Marketing Immersion. Professor Thomas discussed the evolution of the Battle of the Brands since its inception in 2010, and gave students insight on the benefits of this unique competition.

Professor Thomas discussed the importance of critical marketing components: Segmentation (segmenting the target market), Targeting (selecting groups to which you will sell), and Positioning (determining the marketing mix most appropriate for the target segments). He also reminded our marketing students of the importance of fully understanding your target consumer. Students then received their company and product assignments, and the Battle began!

Over the past two weeks the teams developed their marketing plans and executed campaigns within Sage Hall using their $250 marketing budgets. Everything is fair game, and creativity is encouraged so it has been a fun two weeks at Johnson. Students have created viral videos, sampling opportunities, contests, and unique advertising featuring classmates and professors, among other creative marketing initiatives.

This all leads up to today, November 1, when the entire School comes together for the “Johnson Marketplace,” as teams try to sell their products to the Johnson community. Every attendee is given a certain number of tickets that can be used to “purchase” the teams’ products from each of their assigned booths. Teams control their pricing and try to maximize their profits during the Marketplace. And attendees leave with handfuls of great CPG products.

Tomorrow, the teams will give their final presentations to a panel of judges comprised of industry experts, company sponsors, marketing faculty, and second-year students. Teams are judged on their application of core marketing concepts including STP and 4P analysis, creativity, financials including profitability, and presentation skills. Each team is ranked on these factors, and the highest ranking team wins the Battle and receives $1,000 in gift cards sponsored by American Express.

Battle of the Brands is not only one of the most fun events for first-year marketers, but also it is another example of performance learning at Johnson. The hands-on aspect of the competition and the real-world marketing parities make BoB a fantastic learning opportunity for anyone interested in marketing. Students have the chance to take a real product and give their best shot at marketing it to a specific target market, the Johnson community. All in all it is a fantastic experience, and we are excited to see who wins this year’s competition.