WMU digital marketing students take second and third place in global case competition with 200+ competitors

Contact: Abbie Griffith

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Two teams of digital marketing students from Western Michigan University took second and third place among 217 undergraduate student teams from across the world in the Digital Marketing Competition hosted by Purdue University Northwest. Other Western student teams finished in sixth, 11th and 12th place in the competition. 

The case competition focuses on a real company challenge where strategic digital marketing insights can offer solutions. This year’s client was Radio Flyer, seeking direction on how to gain traction among family buyers for its new product line of electric bikes. Students have three months to conduct research and create an eight-minute submission video that communicates an integrated strategy for the company.

Second-place team members, left to right, Brandon Westbrooks, Derek Gleaton, Andrew Charles and Crizio Sinuraya.

Second-place team members

  • Team captain Derek Gleaton of Three Rivers, Michigan
  • Andrew Charles of Selangor, Malaysia
  • Crizio Sinuraya of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
  • Brandon Westbrooks of Bangor, Michigan

Third-place team members, left to right, Andrew Foong, Taylor Lepird, Seiichiro Yagi and Delaney Rose.

Third-place team members

  • Team captain Andrew Foong of Selangor, Malaysia
  • Taylor Lepird of Battle Creek, Michigan
  • Delaney Rose of Battle Creek, Michigan
  • Seiichiro Yagi of Okinawa, Japan

This competition was one aspect of a capstone course in WMU’s digital marketing and eCommerce program, giving students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills acquired throughout their time at WMU. In total, 13 teams of students competed with coaching from Dr. Scott Cowley, associate professor of marketing and co-director of the digital marketing and eCommerce program.

“Sometimes you can tell when teams have really put the time in, and both finalist teams had some key players who absolutely did that and made a huge difference. You really need a strong blend of analytical and creative execution to stand out in this competition. You have to convince expert digital marketing judges that you know what you’re talking about and that your data and insights are credible while also being memorable,” says Cowley on the caliber of the teams. 

In a competition of this scale, with a major share of competitor teams from universities outside of the United States, it is imperative to have confidence, excitement and a shared vision among teammates. 

Those qualities were more than apparent for Gleaton’s second-place team. “Our team played to each other’s strengths. Crizio designed all the slides, and they looked great, Brandon dove headfirst into the numbers associated with our plan, Andrew led the influencer portion of the presentation, and I made sure we stayed on track and pitched in wherever needed. Overall, each of us played a crucial role in creating an amazing presentation that helped us place in the top of the competition.”

That sentiment is echoed by Foong, who was captain of the third-place team. “Upfront and honest communication allowed us to form the right strategic vision for the competition—it was a collective effort. It was the grit and resilience that we had as a team that kept us motivated. We didn’t set any expectations to win, but we all did our best work with attention to detail.”

Another standout quality to Cowley during the competition was both teams’ sharp approaches to their presentations, leaning into the foundations of their digital marketing education at the Haworth College of Business. “We’ve had a lot of class conversations this semester about consumer artificial intelligence (AI) like ChatGPT and how it is transforming marketing. I was a little concerned that we might be disadvantaged if other schools put more emphasis on the trendier tech and AI while we focused on being crisp with our fundamentals. But I think our overall showing as a university confirmed that solid research and a clearly communicated strategy are timeless.”

Both teams’ achievements punctuate the end of another rewarding semester at WMU Haworth—one that marks the end of a few college careers for these students—Gleaton’s being one of them. He says, “I want to say thank you to all of my classmates and team, especially Dr. Cowley for this experience. This was a great way to end my time here at Western Michigan University.”

When Cowley reflects on the culmination of the course and where these students are off to next, he sees this competition as an inflection point, “This is really the spot in our program where everything comes together—the market research, the strategy principles, and the channel and media expertise. More than anything, I hoped that this experience would help students start to see themselves as early career digital marketing professionals and less like students. We love competing and showing the world that we love digital marketing. This is a win for Western and our premier digital marketing program as much as any single team.”

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