Accounting and Finance; Indianapolis
Team ForeTech Consulting stood before a group of Target executives in their matching white shirts and dark suits, hearts pounding. As they awaited the verdict on how they placed in Kelley’s annual Target Case Competition, a feeling of collective euphoria began to wash over them.
The judges—all high-ranking Target employees, including a campus recruiter for Target—started by talking through the pros and cons of the fourth-place team’s presentation. ForeTech members immediately detected a theme that continued as the judges addressed the third-place and second-place teams: “The executives would say to a group, ‘You could have done this better,’ or ‘There were typos in your report,’ and we would be like, ‘We did that well,’ or ‘We didn’t have any typos!’” says Eric Hetland.
Hetland and his teammates Nick Banich, Nick Bradley, Allison Cohen, Courtney Pranger, and Molly Shaffer ultimately took home first prize in the 2008 Target Case Competition, the culmination of their C104 and C204 Business Communication courses.
Each year, C204 students work in teams to present a creative solution to a marketing challenge posed by Target. Four finalist teams present their ideas to Target executives and win individual scholarships ranging from $100 for fourth place to $750 for first place. In this competition, students were asked to come up with a creative plan for Target stores that would increase in-store sales through the use of digital media.
“The plan was supposed to offer guests something they can’t get anywhere else,” says Hetland.
“To talk to someone who does marketing for Target is a big deal,” says Molly Shaffer, one of Eric Hetland’s teammates. "When I go to interview there and they see that I’ve won the case competition, it’s a leg up.”
Like the majority of teams in the class, ForeTech initially tried to create a music promotion, but dropped the idea when they couldn’t find a way to make it unique. The group continued brainstorming until they came up with something unexpected and seemingly ideal for the intended demographic, the “Target mom”: educational e-books for children.
“Then someone came up with the idea of partnering with Scholastic, and the ideas just started flowing from there,” says Hetland. The group’s preliminary research led to an existing Scholastic program, BookFlix, which packages an educational book with information about related online games, coloring pages, music, quizzes, and more. The program is currently only marketed to schools. Hetland and his group called their idea “E-Adventure.”
“I’m extremely proud of my students who proposed the E-Adventure program,” says Michele Kelmer, the winning team’s C204 instructor. “They analyzed Target’s overall strategy and brand image and developed a creative solution that logically and emotionally fit the company’s goals. In addition to impressing the Target representatives, they won the admiration and respect of their classmates.”
Hetland says the experience was an excellent lead-in to I-Core, in which students take part in two major case competitions. I-Core is composed of four courses taken together in a block: finance, marketing, operations, and strategy; students work together in teams and develop an integrative team project.
“We ended up doing most of the project in one day,” says Molly Shaffer. “We worked on it for about 17 hours.” Hetland says the group spent so long working that day because they kept coming up with ideas and rewriting the report.
Although C204 instructors cannot comment on the quality of the idea for this project, they can edit layout, formatting, and grammar, and ask questions about unclear aspects of the report. “Michele said to think about when children read books—for example, is this beneficial to bedtime reading? She also did a really good job of expanding our knowledge of Target by letting us watch product development videos,” says Shaffer.
After revising the report, ForeTech Consulting gave a 13-minute oral presentation to the other 14 groups in their class. The next day, Kelmer notified the group that they’d been chosen as semifinalists. After a Kelley panel reviewed video footage of the 12 groups of semifinalists, ForeTech Consulting was chosen as one of four finalist groups that would present to Target executives.
ForeTech members then watched the tape of their presentation—and sent it to their parents to watch—and spent about two hours providing feedback for one another on where they could improve. “The presentation got 100 percent better,” Shaffer says, adding that they changed the language so it was a direct sales pitch to Target.
The team received a trophy and a $750 scholarship for each team member. (Each member of the second-, third-, and fourth-place teams received $500, $300, and $100 scholarships, respectively.)
More important, they had the opportunity to network with Target executives. “I’m a marketing major, so to talk to someone who does marketing for Target is a big deal,” says Shaffer. “When I go to interview there and they see that I’ve won the case competition, it’s a leg up.”