George Washington University, Washington, DC – Marking the end of their MBA programs, George Washington University students are given the opportunity to use a capstone project that transitions them from text book to the real world. The assignment was to develop a marketing platform for a real world business sponsor. On May 3rd, they will make formal 'pitches' to a juried panel who will select the winner.<p>Dr. Lynda Maddox, Professor of Marketing and Advertising at the George Washington University designed the course to prepare student for the 'real' world. It pushes them beyond traditional classroom thinking and makes them apply what they have learned", states Dr. Maddox. "I designed this program to push students, in a sense temper them for what lies ahead."<p>This semester's client is Prestige Volvo, a 25 year authorized Volvo retailer East Hanover, NJ. Having successfully turned around their Service Department, they were looking for fresh ideas on helping create the same kind of renaissance they achieved in their Sales operation. "When Dr. Maddox approached us to sponsor her MBA Ad competition', it was a "no brainier." according to Matthew Haiken, Prestige's General Manager.<p>Matthew Haiken participated in a similar program when he was a student at GWU. "Clearly this kind of transitional class is an extremely powerful concept. My experience led to a fuller understanding of real business needs and objectives. While similar to academic curriculum, having this kind of experience is even more rewarding."<p>Prestige Volvo established specific objectives for project. According to Haiken, "My intention was to treat this as I would when looking for a consulting company. Clear outlining of my expectations, along with mentoring as they went along, and with final group pitching not only helps Dr. Maddox's students to refine and polish their concepts, it brings to me fresh ideas that we can implement."<p>"Our project brief primarily focused on communications methodologies." states Haiken. Matthew and Lenny Haiken, founder of Prestige Volvo, challenged the students with the following questions:<p>•What is the best marketing communication mix for creating customer awareness of our facility?<p>•How can we distinguish ourselves from the competition?<p>•How can we position Volvo above the competitive brands being cross shopped by customers?<p>•How can we use marketing communications to reduce our cost of new customer accusation?<p>•How can we use marketing communications to acquire new Service Department customers?<p>•How do we create a higher degree of sales staff loyalty to our company?<p>•What is the optimal mix of traditional and non-traditional media we should use?<p>•How will you measure success of your campaign objective?<p>They were given targeted annual budget of $136,000 of which $36,000 would be assigned to internet communications.<p>Students spent hours conducting both traditional and non-traditional research: interviewed hundreds of Prestige's loyal customers, first time customers, employees, and even some buyers they lost to other dealerships. They held focus groups, in person and online, and spent many hours doing "marketing espionage", where they visited competitive car dealerships, went on test drives with sales people, negotiated deals, sent Internet leads, and asked for quotes.<p>"Students benefit through this program by learning to "think marketing" instead of simply memorizing text book case studies. Experiential learning helps students to think strategically and creatively. They also learn to manage large amounts of information and present it professionally." according to Dr. Maddox.<p>Prestige's Matthew Haiken was charged with selecting judges. "Not an easy task. I had to decide between a forum of my industry colleagues or go completely outside our business segment. In the end, selecting peers was most logical selection criterion; they know what makes this business tick and are able to step back from their traditional perspective to judge the merit and feasibility of each proposal."<p>The judges are:<p>David Karp<br>President of Karp Automotive Group Buick Saab Volvo Rockville Center, N.Y.<br>50 Year dealer, Attorney at Law<p>David Allan<br>National Automobile Dealer Association "20 Group" Leader and Moderator,<br>Mercedes-Benz, Volvo<p>John Maloney<br>Executive Vice President Marketing Communication for Volvo Cars of North<br>America<p>Matthew Haiken<br>General Manager<br>Prestige Volvo<p>Teresa Collins<br>Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Prestige Volvo<p>"Our entire dealership has really embraced the competition and we have enjoyed establishing relationships with the students over the past semester. The students were in constant communication with our management team as well as full staff. Our employees enjoyed working with the students and worked together to help them get the best possible research. The students had a very impressive organized approach to solving the challenges we were facing." according to Matthew Haiken.