A group of students from the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary won a prestigious case competition sponsored by the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) and PepsiCo at the annual NSHMBA conference in San Antonio, this past October.
The team, which consisted of second-year MBA students from the Mason School — Maybelline Mendoza, Nicholas Skantz, Hanyan Wu and Raviteja Yelamanchili — beat out twenty-two other groups from other business schools to take top honors.
NSHMBA and PepsiCo challenged the teams in the competition to come up with new and innovative ways to begin to shift their traditional vending machine strategy to an interactive one — where the customer experiences something beyond just buying a drink from a machine. This new generation of machines will integrate the latest technologies, such as touch screen and Internet connectivity.
“The challenge was [the new vending machines] will cost more, and how do you monetize it?” said team member Hanyan Wu. According to Wu, he and the team came up with a three-part strategy to engage, reward and connect with the customer through this new machine.
Among their goals was to make payment easier at the machine, and making the experience a fun one, rather than just buying a drink.
“We thought about seasonal games,” said Wu. “Now it is NFL season, perhaps you could have a 30 second field goal kick game” on the vending machine. Other ideas included a way for customers to record entries for contests like dance offs.
The W&M team was rewarded with gift cards and an invitation to attend a NSHMBA post-conference banquet, where they were able to get feedback from competition judges on their entry.
“It reflected a lot of what we have been learning in business school,” said Wu. “It was a marketing case, but it also had finance and operations elements, and sales. A lot of things that we learn at the Mason School, we were able to put into place for Pepsi — a Fortune 50 company — and the challenges that they are facing currently.”
“It was really rewarding to know that things we learn here at the Mason School are well tailored for the corporate world.”