University of Southern California

Their Names in Lights
A Team of USC Marshall Undergrads Wins American Eagle Retail Competition
February 14, 2011 • by News at Marshall

Winning the American Eagle Outfitters case competition brought USC Marshall students not only a chance to present their ideas to the company’s top executives and a $5,000 prize, but also bragging rights in a very big way --- illuminated on the American Eagle Times Square video billboard, all three million pixels.

Ann Liang ('12), Traci Murakami '10, and Sunny Shek ('11), Kristin Umetsu ('11) and Burcu Yildiz ('11) comprised the Marshall team and were among three teams who made it to the competition's final round January 25 at the American Eagle headquarters in Pittsburgh, where they took the top spot. The two other teams represented Georgetown University and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For the challenge, students were asked to develop a brand-building campaign for Aerie, American Eagle's line of intimate apparel for women ages 18-25, with a challenge to provide "creative, out -of -the box solutions which will get the attention of female college students, drive them to the store, compel them to buy and share their experience with others."

The five Marshall team members were from Professor Judith Blumenthal’s Fall 2010 Retail Management class, Marketing 430. "This group was very creative and had really thought out their integrated marketing strategy carefully," Blumenthal said. "It was testimony to how effectively groups in a class can work together. At Marshall, we train our students to work in teams. This was an example of students complementing each other, pulling together and working very hard."

This was the third challenge sponsored by American Eagle Outfitters and Marshall’s first time participating. The first round of this competition was held in September, with 57 teams from 11 universities. Three teams were then chosen for the final round in Pittsburgh, where each group presented its strategy to a panel of judges that included the company’s CEO. "That was the most impressive part of the competition, getting flown out to American Eagle headquarters, presenting to their board of executives and taking their questions afterwards," said Kristin Umetsu. "I don’t know how many other people our age get that opportunity."

Blumenthal, who accompanied the team to Pittsburgh, said that it was clear the executives were impressed. "American Eagle may well adopt some of what the group suggested, as they offered thoughtful analysis and innovative ideas and recommendations. When senior officers were asking questions, these students knew the market, the company, the product and the brand so well. They responded like professionals in the field"

Umetsu described the team as "one of the most successful teams I’ve ever worked with at Marshall, and not just because we won the case. Although none of us originally knew each other, we were all highly committed to the project and put in many, many hours of collaboration." In addition, Umetsu attributes their success to what they had learned in the classroom. "All of my marketing classes at Marshall have been helpful in creating not just a marketing campaign, but the overall strategy," she said.

Umetsu, who’s poised to hit the job market when she graduates this spring, added that the trip gave her "in-depth insight into the retail industry on the corporate side" and reinforced the notion that "creating marketing and branding campaigns is exactly what I want to do."

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.