WMU students claim top spot in national digital marketing competition

Contact: Samantha Hooker
WMU students L to R: Lexi Payne, Parker Hurley, Liz Volante.

(Left to right) WMU students Lexi Payne, Parker Hurley and Liz Volante

KALAMAZOO, Mich.— A team of students from Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business placed first in a digital marketing case competition and also claimed a category award for Best Research. The event featured more than 50 teams from colleges nationwide and was hosted by Purdue University Northwest.

WMU's student team was composed of senior Lexi Payne, junior Liz Volante and senior Parker Hurley, all digital marketing and eCommerce majors. Dr. Scott Cowley, assistant professor of marketing, coached the team to victory.

The inaugural Purdue Northwest Digital Marketing Competition gave students the opportunity to create a digital marketing campaign for Harbour Trust Investment Management Company. Participating teams received the case details in August outlining the campaign challenge—creating a digital-first strategy that would result in $1 million of new revenue for the company.

"For most of us, the investment management industry was completely foreign, so the team had about two months to dig into regulatory constraints and investor behaviors and trends, all in the context of the client's unique circumstances," explains Cowley. "The biggest challenge was compressing all of that into an eight-minute pitch video to get to finals."

The team's pitch cemented its place as one of five teams invited to the final round of the competition.

"We recommended the company update their website, advertise on social platforms and use a referral campaign, along with creating new digital content, such as blogs, articles and a newsletter," says Hurley. "I'm glad that our recommendations led to a win, which will help bring more recognition to the digital marketing and eCommerce major at Western, because it truly is a fantastic program."

Cowley works with Payne, Hurley and Volante in class.

After landing in the finals, WMU's team members pitched their idea directly to the senior leadership of Harbour Trust. Cowley's students appreciated the real-world experience.

"This competition helped prepare me for life after college by allowing me to learn the ins and outs of a comprehensive digital strategy," says Payne. "No matter what I am working on, I will always be able to apply the methodology and way of thinking."

Cowley is optimistic that this is just the beginning for his students.

"WMU is one of the only schools in the country offering a digital marketing undergraduate degree. This is our third appearance in the finals of a national competition this year alone and the first national win for our students.," he says.

He praises the students' dedication and application of solid marketing fundamentals as the key to their success, adding, "They took everything we teach in our core digital marketing classes and adapted, organized and prioritized those strategies to align with the client’s objective at every step."

Volante valued the networking experience that the competition provided, and the project also validated her choice of major.

"I was able to meet professionals in fields I'm interested in pursuing after graduation. Many of the judges said we were always welcome at their companies, which is great to hear," she says. "Being able to work on a project similar to one I might do after graduation gave me insights on what my career would look like, and I feel assured that I am on the right path."

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