Real-world problems solved at RRU business competition

How should ING bank approach its social media strategy?

The short answer is Facebook. The long answer covers 20 minutes of a detailed breakdown of target demographics, the pros and cons of different social media platforms, and projected growth and revenues.

It’s a hard task for the best of consultants. Top business students from across Canada and the U.S. are given scant information, no access to the Internet or outside resources and have three hours to devise a business case.

Over the weekend, the ninth annual Royal Roads University International Undergraduate Case Competition drew 16 teams into the pressure-cooker competition whose ultimate prize is bragging rights and exposure to local business leaders.

Last year’s winning university from South Carolina has returned to defend its title against teams from Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Florida and Indiana.

Mike Maclean, owner of ENS project management consultancy in Victoria, is a veteran case competition judge and a RRU bachelor of commerce graduate from 2004.

“They are given a business problem. I know the problem and think of a solution. I see if they come close and hit on the main points,” Maclean said. “There is no right way or wrong way. It’s how you perform.”

Maclean said he volunteers as a judge to stay connected with the university, and as a way to scout up-and-coming talent.

“In the past they have been fantastic. It’s refreshing how bright these young people are,” he said. “This is very difficult. They go in blind. They have three hours to prep the case, the level of difficulty, the level of the task shouldn’t be underestimated.”

On Thursday, four students from Montreal’s Concorida University were given the real-world problem of devising a social media strategy for ING Direct bank. The quartet effectively acted as a consultant team pitching their case to their board of directors.

Starting with little more than a few sheets of information outlining the task, the Concordia team crafted a presentation that examined the growth potential of blogs, Twitter and Facebook — they quickly dismissed MySpace as “dying” — and gave a logical breakdown of risks and rewards.

Blogs are too fragmented, Twitter is too limited and casual and both present brand risks, said Kyle Britton, 21, whereas Facebook has global reach, high growth, measurability and a look that appeals to upcoming 20 and 30-something clients.

“Print ads don’t target the young population,” said Rebecca Golt, 21. “Gen-Y needs instant gratification. Social media is high-growth, next generation way of communication. (Gen-Y) wants a personal experience incorporated into a website.”

The team walked out of their presentation pleased and buoyed with their performance — and as Dominique Vignet, 21, noted, quite hungry. Three hours of mid-morning prep meant skipping lunch.

“We were finished everything on time, we went in confident,” Vignet said. “We were happy with the result.”

University of Guelph-Humber came out on top, with the University of Prince Edward Island, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia as finalists.



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