EDGE Marketing Challenge - Winning Faculty Advisors' Guide


We have developed the following guidelines to help professors prepare teams to enter the EDGE Marketing Challenge. The Challenge provides students with real-world opportunities to prepare a comprehensive Integrated Marketing Communications proposal, and slide or video presentation for a client.

Like most educators, we strive to develop class projects that are timely, relevant and engaging, requiring students to think critically and creatively while applying the marketing theories they learned in their marketing course work. Today, if students want to land jobs with above normal starting salaries, they must be prepared to hit the ground running to meet business challenges. We have found the Challenge to be invaluable in preparing our students for the real world.

These guidelines are developed based upon our experiences with advising student teams, both graduate and undergraduate. A number of these teams have won the Gold, Silver, Bronze and other awards over the last half dozen plus years.

Dr. Lisa D. Spiller is Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Joseph W. Luter, III School of Business, Christopher Newport University.

David W. Marold is a Full-Time Lecturer, College of Business, Eastern Michigan University and Adjunct Instructor, Integrated Marketing Communications Online Graduate Program, Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, West Virginia University

EDGE Marketing Challenge Strategy

Theoretical Foundations

  • The marketing strategy must demonstrate an understanding of the client situation and the case challenge.
  • Research drives strategy. Justification of all strategies recommended should flow from detailed market research findings. Strategic recommendations without solid research to support are not sound.
  • The campaign must logically flow from the research that supports its hypotheses, strategies, media choices, offers, response rates and creative samples.
  • The overall campaign development and the projected results must be realistic.
  • Many students want to rush to the creative development portion of the campaign, but quickly realize that they don’t have the knowledge needed to craft enticing offers and really alluring creative materials without having deep knowledge about their target market.
  • Student teams must collect both secondary and primary research information. The more data they can obtain…the better informed they will be to determine their campaign strategies.

Activities & Elements to Include

  • While students today may tend to “Google” every word to obtain secondary research, they should be encouraged to use other, less obvious sources such as industry-specific journals and publications or corporate materials.
  • Each client challenge requires different market research methodology. Student teams should be encouraged to utilize a variety of primary data collection methods, including surveys, focus group discussions, depth interviews, observation methods, and experiments.
  • Networking is an effective method to securing market research assistance. Faculty advisors should help connect student teams with appropriate business professionals, alumni, community leaders, etc. who are willing to serve as key informants for the research phase of the Challenge.
  • Using Simmons and MRI data, even if dated, about psychographics and media preferences is important.
  • Periodical literature research of the business press will define what others have said about the project situation review and will provide additional insights to the students about other campaigns that might have an impact on what they are trying to accomplish.
  • Review of 10Ks and other financial data will give insight into the profit structure of the competitors and establish ROI threshold objectives for the project.
  • Regardless of the research methods employed, student teams must learn as much as possible about the company, industry, competitors, consumers, and really put their arms around the project.
  • Empowered with all this data, student teams are now able to analyze and synthesize the data. This involves answering the following questions: How do we present all this research concisely so that the reader will be engaged and so that our strategies will be understood? How do we use the research to logically build our strategies?
  • Students should be encouraged to play with the data and ask probing questions: What can be gleaned from all this information? What trends are indicated? What have competitors or similar marketing companies in other industries done that could indicate a successful marketing strategy with this challenge? What segmentation strategies should be applied? What offers are most desirable to the target audience? What media preferences do they have? How can we develop a meaningful strategy to spend the budget that has been allocated to us?

Suggested Layout

  • A primary data collection methodology section explaining how the data was collected should precede the discussion of primary research findings.
  • Student teams must differentiate from their research findings the most important elements to be included in the campaign proposal and PowerPoint slideshow and the support data to be included in the Appendix.
  • Clear and concise yet revealing bullet points may be used to communicate much of the content in this section.
  • Research findings should be presented in a “data-strategy” table. This table itemizes each key research finding and its corresponding strategic action. (See Exhibit A).
  • Based on the information presented in the data-strategy table, students should develop a conceptual model or flow chart for their strategic campaign. Visually linking the various strategies gleaned from their research findings is an effective method to strategically develop their campaign. (See Exhibit B).
  • Market segments of targeted customers must be presented. Brief profiles (including pertinent geographic, demographic, social, psychological and behavior data) of each segment should be created along with key benefits for each respective market segment. (See Exhibit C).
  • This section should close with a logical transition to the next section: Creative Strategy

EDGE Marketing Challenge Creative Strategy

Theoretical Foundations

There should be a clear link between what was learned from the research to the recommended strategies and tactics—especially in the formulation of the campaign’s offers and creative execution.
The creation of compelling offers or value propositions are critical to successful creative strategies.
The campaign’s big idea should stem from the benefits desired by the target customers as gleaned from research findings.
The big idea should be the cornerstone of the campaign. It could be a logo, tagline, trademark character, etc.—but it needs to be clearly and consistently presented throughout the campaign across all media channels.
The creative strategy is developed to demonstrate the form that the campaign messages will take—much like a creative brief.

Elements to Include

All creative materials must have a compelling “BIG idea” woven throughout and must be consistent in look and feel.
A strong “call-to-action” should appear on all the creative materials and these should be clearly shown.
Students must prepare actual composite (agency like “comps”) creative renditions as to what the finished artwork or message carrying vehicle will be for each medium.
Students should label each sample so that the reader understands exactly what is being shown.
Creative materials are limited only by the campaign objectives and budget. These materials may include space ads, direct mailers, coupons, kiosks, outdoor signs, website landing pages, outbound emails, Personalized URLs, blogs, Facebook ads, banner ads, text messages, hashtags, Google ads, Smartphone Apps, etc.
All creative executions mentioned in the campaign strategy must be created and included in the overall proposal.

Suggested Layout

Clear and concise yet revealing bullet points may be used to communicate much of the content in this section.
Explanation of offers and messages. These should be detailed for each respective market segment.
Different offer strategies should be created based on the desires of each respective market segment.
Description of creative materials with references made to Appendixes where each creative element or composite will be housed.

EDGE Marketing Challenge Media Planning

Theoretical Foundations

Research findings and budget considerations must drive the media mix recommended for the campaign.
The campaign budget for the Challenge is established by the client or sponsor. It is important that the teams spend all the money, yet do not go over the budget limit.
Media mixing is an important strategy in marketing in order to create a synergy between the various media.

Elements to Include

A media plan or communications plan should be created to provide both a visual representation and a discussion depicting the targeted, tailored and timed promotional efforts for the entire campaign based on the research and marketing strategy.
The communications plan should show the various communication strategies for each market segment to be targeted on a month-by-month basis. (See Exhibit D).
Test strategies should be developed, and the communication plan should include the recommended test strategies.
Test strategies may address the offer, creative, timing, targeted customer or other campaign strategies.
A media mix table detailing all the relevant media recommendations for each respective market segment may be created. These tables would delineate the media recommended, specifics about the media vehicles, media objectives and response mechanisms. (See Exhibit E).

Suggested Layout

Clear and concise yet revealing bullet points may be used to communicate much of the content in this section.
Explanations of both the communication plan and the media mix table should be provided along with references to these items.

EDGE Challenge Budget and ROI

Theoretical Foundations

The campaign budget for the Challenge is established by the client or sponsor. It is important that the teams allocate the budget, yet do not go over the budget limit.
In direct and interactive marketing, an old saying still rings true: “It’s not creative unless it sells!” Campaign proposals must demonstrate how a campaign will earn revenue and recover the campaign costs.

Elements to Include

A detailed budget showing how the budget has been allocated must be prepared and included.
All campaign costs should be detailed.
Support documentation should be provided for cost estimates.
If costs were calculated an explanation of the formula used should be described.
Campaign breakeven calculations, campaign response rates and ROI must be presented.
Student teams are wise to project a low, medium and high response rate to their campaign and provide quantitative scenarios for the campaign ROI at each rate of response.
Students should use both secondary and primary research to defend response rates. Rates should be developed based on the quality of the plan, response history and realistic judgment.

Suggested Layout

Clear and concise yet revealing bullet points may be used to communicate much of the content in this section.
A budget table can be created to visually show all budget allocations. (See Exhibit F).
A ROI table can be created to visually show the campaign profitability at the low, medium and high rates of response. (See Exhibit G).

To achieve a winning entry, every point counts. View the the Judges’ Scoresheet.