Tackling the Marketing Case

Marketing 101
Tackling the Marketing Case
Michelle Antonio, Columbia Career Coach
Loren Margolis, Associate Director, MBA Career Education and Advising
October 29, 2010
• Share the employer perspective on interviews
• Overview of what to expect in the case portion of the
marketing interviews
• Review the most common types of Marketing
cases & constructs for answering
• Highlight Key Resources/Next Steps to prepare for
Employer Perspective
• Hiring is a time intensive process for employers and
candidates. Mistakes are costly.
• Employers look to hire candidates who demonstrate:
1. Passion for the function, industry & company
2. Cultural Fit
3. Skills, knowledge & initiative to succeed
Project management
High-Level Communication Skills
Strategic thinking
Analytical thinking
Knowledge of marketing concepts
Assessed in
case interview
Interview Structure
• 1st round: 30-45 minutes
• Final round(s): Varies by company
• Format includes some or all of the following:
– “Walk Me Through Your Resume” or “Tell Me About
Yourself” (Pitch Questions)
– Baseline questions:
• Why Columbia?
• Why marketing/brand management?
• Why this industry?
• Why this company?
– Behavioral questions (“Tell me about a time…”)
– Marketing cases
Why Ask Marketing Case Questions?
Great method for evaluating:
• Knowledge of marketing concepts
• Critical skills for the job
− Strategic Thinking
− Analytical Skills
− Communication Skills
• Ability to think on your feet
What do marketing firms expect from you?
• Demonstration of strong understanding of, and ability
to apply, key marketing concepts – not previous
• Opportunity to understand how you think is more
important than the “right” answer
How to handle Marketing Case questions
• Approach each question with a logical structure/
marketing framework (3 Cs, 4 Ps, STP)
• Start strategic (broad), then get tactical (narrow)
• Apply the “other” 3 Cs (Clarity, Conciseness &
1. Clarity – articulate your roadmap upfront and your
rationale throughout so they can see how you think
2. Conciseness – ask focused, relevant questions
3. Confidence – make reasonable assumptions, draw
conclusions, assert your opinions, deliver
Typical Marketing Case Types
• General Marketing Knowledge case
• New Product Launch case
• Business Case (declining sales, declining share,
defending against a new competitor, etc.)
• Advertising Critique
• Creativity/Innovation case
General Marketing Knowledge Cases
Questions that assess your general marketing and
industry knowledge.. can easily turn in to another case:
• What are the main consumer trends that you see in the
marketplace for Category X?…If you had to launch a
product to capitalize on one of these trends, what would
it be and why? How would you market it?
• What is your favorite advertising campaign today?..If you
had to launch a counter ad campaign, what would it be
and why?
Approaching General Marketing Knowledge Cases
• Requires you to tap in to your knowledge of current
trends, current events; so prepare by doing research,
research, research!
• Recognize that these cases can be similar to other
ones – assessing a new product launch, advertising
critique, so use frameworks where appropriate
• Demonstrate your passion by asserting your opinion
New Product Launch cases
These cases test your ability to apply strategic and
tactical marketing concepts as it relates to a new
product launch
• Example: You are in charge of all new products at General
Mills and are charged with assessing all new product ideas.
One of the managers who works for you has decided that
GM should enter the frozen yogurt market. She is very
excited about the product potential and is considering
leveraging one of two brands for the new product: Pillsbury
or Yoplait. How would you go about evaluating this new
product idea and which brand, if any, would you leverage
and why?
Approaching New Product Launch cases
• Strategic (3 Cs, STP) and tactical (4 Ps) frameworks
will be needed
• Always start with the consumer/customer – do
consumers want/need this product?
• Assess the company opportunity & competition
− Competitive threats/response
− Cost/Ease of entry (capital investment, branding, distribution)
− Size of the market – estimate your market share
• Determine Segment/Target/Positioning – what is your
singular benefit that you intend to deliver to your
target customers. How will your positioning be
differentiated from competition?
Approaching New Product Launch cases (cont’d)
• Determine marketing execution (4 Ps)
• Price – should reflect positioning and drive profit
• Product – which attributes to offer
• Promotion – how will you create awareness and trial for
• Placement – where will consumer buy it?
Business Case Questions
Can range from mini consulting case questions to realworld business scenarios
• Mini consulting case examples
− How many blue cars are there in the US?
− If everyone in China held hands how many times
would they circle the earth?
− At any one point in time, how many gallons of ice
cream are being sold around the world?
• Real world business scenarios
− Declining Sales
− Declining Share
− Defending against new competitor
Approaching Business Case Questions –
Declining Sales/Share
Start broad/strategic:
• Is decline driven by general category decline or
share decline in my brand only?
• Why is category/share declining? Answer will drive
decision to reverse decline or exit category
− Substitutes vs. change in consumer habits
− Change in own product vs. competitor product
Approaching Business Case Questions –
Declining Sales/Share (cont’d)
Once root causes are identified, determine strategy and
tactics to address:
• If category is declining, develop strategy to increase
category usage or exit
• If share is declining, determine why (explore 4 Ps)
and develop appropriate strategic response
• Price: has my price changed relative to competition?
• Product: has the quality of my product changed or has
competition upgraded/launched new products?
• Promotion – have promotions changed?
• Placement – have I lost distribution relative to competition?
Approaching Business Case Questions –
Defending Against New Competitor
• Assess the threat to determine whether or not you
need to defend
− Does the new product meet an untapped consumer need?
− How strong is the competitor? Will they spend to support the
launch? Do they have track record of being smart marketers?
− Where will they take volume from? Are they targeting you or
your competitors?
• If you need to defend, strategies to consider:
− Reinforce brand/product equity with advertising – remind
consumers why your product is superior to discourage them
from trying new product
− Upgrade your product to provide new benefit
Approaching Business Case Questions –
Defending Against New Competitor (cont’d)
• If you need to defend, strategies to consider (cont’d):
− Load consumers with your product so they will be stocked
during competitor launch by using price incentives
− If issue is private label entrant, determine how much of a price
premium you can charge before your brand starts to lose
volume; also, consider introducing a value brand
• Track new competitor’s performance after launch
Advertising Critique Case
These cases assess your ability to critically analyze the
effectiveness of a current or potential advertising
campaign, using a consumer and brand focused
• What is the most innovative advertising campaign you’ve
seen in the last year and why?
• Give an example of an advertising campaign that you think
was misguided or a failure and why?
Approaching the Advertising Critique Case
Assess the advertising on the following dimensions:
• Consumer
− Who is the Ad targeting?
− Will This Ad get the Target Consumer’s attention and be recalled?
− Is it being seen/heard in the optimal print/media channels?
• Benefit
− What is the Benefit being communicated in the Ad?
− Is the Benefit being communicated clearly? Is it compelling?
• Brand
− Does the Ad link the Brand to the Benefit?
− Is the Brand portrayed positively?
• Impact
− Would this Ad compel the Target Consumer to purchase the
− Is the Ad “ownable” by the brand (i.e., could any other brand
deliver this message)?
Creativity/Innovation Case Questions
These questions are opportunities to:
• Demonstrate you can think creatively on your feet
• Convey your passion for marketing
• Prove you can link creativity to strategy… So, think
• Express your personality
• If you could be a snack food, which one would you be and why?
• What are 10 things you can do with an empty pint of HaagenDazs ice cream?
• What are 5 ways you can improve a cereal box?
Approach: While there are no stock frameworks for these
creativity questions, you can and should use structure and
frameworks to generate ideas
New Product Case Example in Action
You are charged with marketing in the U.S. a candy
bar that has been very successful in England.
• What things should you consider in bringing the
product to the U.S.?
• After hearing the candidate’s response, what
do you think worked well?
• What could have been improved in her response?
Resources & Next Steps
Career Management Center:
• Advisors, Columbia Coaches, Career Fellows for mock interviews
• CML: Job Juice Cards, Resume Books, Business Card Binders
• COIN: Industry Research>Marketing>Interview Qs, Interview Stream, First
• Your Mentor
• The MAC website, Company Events and presentations
• Mock Madness (12/3): Stay tuned for more details!
• Go shopping, research company websites, blogs, trade
publications (AdAge, BrandWeek, AdCritic)
• Watch and analyze TV commercials (Super Bowl)
• Meet insiders (alumni, company reps, classmates)
Closing Thoughts
There are 3 things you need to prove in the interview:
• Translate your resume into marketing language
• Know how your experience is relevant and sell your skills!
• Know why you want to work for that company
• Know why you want to work in marketing
• Do your homework on the industry and company
• Get excited and show it!
Good luck and let us know
how we can help!

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