B&E Marketing students victorious
in national Taziki’s Marketing Challenge

November 22, 2013
Taziki's Team
The winning Taziki's Marketing Challenge team includes David Haak, Corey Zinn, Lizzy Howells, Danielle Ferreira and Ryan Gushue, pictured here with their advisor and marketing professor Mike Walsh (fourth from left).

A group of top-notch B&E student marketers were awarded a $5,000 prize for their strategic marketing campaign as part of the 2nd Annual Taziki's Marketing Challenge. The final competition, held between the top five teams, took place Nov. 15 at Taziki's headquarters in Birmingham, Ala.

The WVU team, consisting of Corey Zinn, David Haak, Lizzy Howells, Danielle Ferreira and Ryan Gushue, came out on top among 32 teams from major universities in the east and southeast regions of the U.S. In addition to WVU, the qualifying teams were from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Clemson University, and two teams from last year's reigning champion, Samford University. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock was also announced as a winner, with both teams earning a matching number of points. As a result, each team was awarded the first place prize.

At the beginning of the semester, the teams were given a hypothetical $30,000 media budget and were instructed to create a campaign that fits the town of the Taziki's closest to them. They got to work right away, compiling extensive market research that included meeting with Pittsburgh TV station WTAE to come away with a proposal that would include 952 commercials in 12 months' time.

The WVU team produced a Taziki's television commercial, featuring original music composed and recorded by team member Corey Zinn. They also developed a radio advertisement focused around the controversial pronunciation of "gyro" and print advertisements that emphasized the restaurant's Mediterranean and Greek theme, with the tagline "Let your taste buds travel."

"The WVU presentation was amazing. I think that their professionalism, creativity, research orientation and total solution really differentiated their plan. Not only have the students gained invaluable experience, but I think WVU gained from such talented ambassadors," said associate marketing professor and team advisor Dr. Michael Walsh.  

The students enjoyed the case competition, noting that the presentation's execution was an all-hands-on-deck effort nearly identical to that of a real-life marketing campaign.

"(The group) met (to prepare) even more than we needed to. We got things done. Usually we're in a class of mixed mindsets, and so this felt like we had actually been hired by a company because we all cared about the same thing," said Zinn, a senior marketing major.

Junior Danielle Ferreira agreed. "I think a lot of times you have a vision for a project and it falls short and doesn't come out how you imagined. But this project showed me that what I envision and things I want to do can actually be achieved," she said.

Marketing senior Ryan Gushue felt that participation in the competition was the ultimate culmination of all the knowledge he has gathered as a marketing student over the past four years.

Taziki's Team at Work

"This was kind of like the Super Bowl for us. This was like a final for our whole four-year experience. I think I speak for everyone when I say we learned the most out of our four years in this one project. This was really it," Gushue said. "We all looked at this like it was an internship. We probably even learned more (than we would in an internship) because it was so hands-on."

"Sometimes in internships, you can only do entry level stuff. But we really went in there, researched and produced (the materials) ourselves from start to finish," added Senior Lizzy Howells. "It's different than a teacher giving you an A for nice work. Here, an actual business wants to use your materials. Somebody things (your ideas) are awesome ideas. It's great," she said.

None of the students felt a strong desire to pursue careers in the restaurant business, but felt that everything they learned through this competition would help them as graduation and job searches lie ahead in the not-too-distant future. Dr. Walsh agreed.

"(The team) discovered the fact that things don't always go as ideally as you hear in the classroom," Walsh said. "(They) don't fully realize how much they've changed over the last two or three months. The way they think about marketing and the way they talk about it now is different than before. They come across now with a sense of confidence and experience that is uncommon. That will come through in spades when they're interviewing. They are so much more prepared and it will be very evident (to interviewers)."

"(This competition) gives us a portfolio," Gushue said. "We have something that we can show potential interviewers that this is what we've done. That's huge."

 Zinn also felt that their collaboration with other colleges on campus was similar to a real-world marketing campaign, where a company's marketing department may outsource other agencies for artwork or music.  
"I really want to see B&E have more collaboration with other schools (on projects)," Zinn said. "This class helped us escape those boundaries."

In addition to the valuable lessons learned in marketing, collaboration and networking, there's one experience that should not be overlooked: the sweet smell of success. According to Dr. Walsh, the judges were blown away by the WVU team's presentation.

"I had two of the judges come up to me afterward to compliment the team, and indicated that they were very impressed with everything they had seen," Walsh said. The students were ecstatic about their feedback as well.

"The first thing a judge said to us after we finished (the presentation) was, 'Can I hire all of you?' It was so cool," Gushue added.

"We were all just beaming afterward, we were on cloud nine," said Howells.

"When they announced that we had won, it felt like our 15 minutes of fame," Ferreira said. "I have done group projects like this before, but had never won anything. It felt so nice to be the one (to win) this time."
The team thanked Taziki's Mediterranean Café for holding the competition, which is in its second year.
"(The Taziki's folks) were all genuinely nice and truly appreciated all the hard work everybody put into this competition," Haak said.

They also thanked the students from the WVU Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism and the College of Creative Arts for all the assistance they provided for the project, and the B&E administration, faculty and staff who provided feedback to aid in their efforts.