AMA Case Competition team members (L to R, top to bottom) Rhita Hassar, Alexis Morton, Matt Shepherd & Stephanie Hahlen

Under the bright lights in the huge auditorium of Capilano University’s Cedar Building, with three judges sitting in Dragons’ Den formation, Bachelor of Business Administration student Rhita Hassar was nervous to present her pitch for Ice Beakers Cool Blasts Chews.

“I didn’t know the team members until, really, the week before,” Rhita says. “We were all fulltime students and we had to work fast on doing a report and practicing our presentation skills after. So, on the day, it was a rollercoaster for us.”

That rush of nervous energy paid off at the internal competition, when Rhita found out she was in the case team picked to represent Capilano U for the American Marketing Association’s Case Competition (AMA). Rhita joins team members Stephanie Hahlen, Alexis Morton and Matt Shepherd. Buoyed by a first place win at the BCIT Marketing Association Regional Conference Case Competition on January 16, the group will find out if they make the AMA Collegiate Top 10 case teams on January 29.

“I was not expecting [to be selected],” says Rhita. “I see my name on the list of four people in an email from Andrea Eby. I’m just so surprised and shocked like, ‘Is this really happening?’ But it was a great feeling—I didn’t know what I’d be getting myself into, but I was ready for it.”

No sooner than Rhita could celebrate, the team went straight into planning their marketing strategy with the help of their coach, School of Business instructor, Andrea Eby.

With 350 collegiate chapters across North America, the group’s Canadian competitor in most AMA competitions is BCIT. This year’s AMA case competition focuses on Hershey’s new product, Ice Breakers Cool Blasts chews. Rhita led the team and they submitted a written case report outlining their idea for a comprehensive marketing campaign for the U.S. market.

How to market something minty?

Shows like Mad Men have popularized the idea that an advertising campaign relies solely on a visionary slogan or jingle handled by the creative team. But, Rhita found out that in marketing a new product like Ice Breakers Cool Blasts chews, the team had to think outside the box in their researching.

“It’s a new product that’s a mix between a mint and a gum—a chewable mint,” Rhita says. “So, the big challenge was that it’s an innovative product and there’s nothing like it out there. Hershey did their own market research, [and found] that millennials are looking for a more discreet option for a breath freshener. We had to explain the product to the audience, so that they know what to expect.”

The team made a trip to Bellingham as part of their market research, where they went in and out of around 40 stores, such as Target, to view how the product was placed, the price to find out what consumers and retailers thought of the product, which is sold in the U.S. and Canada.

Appealing to the millennial chewer was the tougher part, but the team had a great resource in their instructor Andrea Eby, who has previously managed brands like Cadbury, giving the team that extra edge of experience.

“I was delighted that it was actually Hershey sponsoring, because Hershey was one of the big competitors when I was working in confectionary with Cadbury,” says Andrea. “So I felt like I knew how to compete with them from the real-world experience I have, and I think that set us up a bit better.”

Once they had done their market research and surveys, Rhita and the team settled into writing up their report, which meant “10 hour days, and spending all of our Sundays at school.”

Try everything out

In spite of this rigorous process, Rhita felt that the competition utilized so many of the skills she learned in her first year business classes at Cap.

“We probably used textbooks and knowledge from six different classes,” Rhita laughs. “Honestly, we realized that there was so much more to learn, and we were all in our textbooks flipping back and forth—it’s a good thing we kept them!”

Back home in Morocco, Rhita had known that she wanted that full Canadian university experience. While googling the best places to live, Vancouver had come up a lot. With family in North Vancouver, Rhita applied for Cap U’s BBA program and hasn’t looked back since.

“I’m an international student, so university experiences like this one are not necessarily a big thing where I come from in Morocco. So when I came here, I promised myself I would get involved with absolutely anything possible and get the most of it.”

Since joining Cap, Rhita was involved in the Capilano University Marketing Association, and was elected to be part of the senate and board of governors as the student representative. Whether she gets through to the final 10, Rhita is happy to have participated.

“Even as far as we’ve gone, it’s already a great opportunity to be selected to participate because it’ll open up so many networking opportunities to say I’ve been involved in this case competition.”

Submitted by Communications & Marketing, written by Rumnique Nannar

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Learn more about Capilano University’s business offerings at the School of Business Info Night on January 25.

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