This article was written in collaboration with Haas News Wire and Berkeley-Haas Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Ronna Kelly.
The Macy’s Undergraduate Challenge is an annual event open only to undergraduate students enrolled in participating schools. The Berkeley-Haas team, consisting of Jeffrey Sirimahachaikul, Haas BS 2014; Kelvin Lu, (Political Economy) BA 2015; Nhu Ngo, (Political Economy) BA 2016; and Dara Dan, (Intended Business) BS 2017, won first place in the 2014 Macy’s Challenge for up to fifteen Berkeley student teams. Each member won an iPad and a trip to New York from April 14-16, 2014, where they joined the winning teams from the five other participating schools, namely University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin – Madison, University of Arizona, University of Maryland – College Park, and Rochester Institute of Technology, to present their recommendations to the company’s executives.
This year’s challenge prompt was to create a marketing program, which includes an activation idea driven primarily by social media, to convert millennials into Macy’s customers and advocates. Teams were asked to submit a written case study or a PowerPoint presentation of up to 20 pages. The Berkeley-Haas’s winning proposal involved an integrated social media campaign called #MagicOfGiving. Through this hashtag, Macy’s will actively show support for the LGBTQ homeless youth, one of the most marginalized groups among the LGBTQ community.
The campaign would include partnerships with LGBTQ homeless shelters, where a team of professional makeup artists and social media experts are tasked to provide makeovers to a group of youth. The activities and makeover processes would be broadcasted through social media campaigns that would raise awareness for the need of more homeless shelters and support for the LGBTQ youth. Additionally, #MagicOfGiving would have its own in-store special promotions, where a percentage of sales would go to LGBTQ homeless youth centers.
The Berkeley-Haas student team leader, Sirimahachaikul, said their winning idea came from one of Macy’s existing marketing campaign: “Macy’s has an LGBTQ campaign already, but it’s not that big.” Sirimahachaikul believes their proposed “campaign would show [that] Macy’s is accompany that will take a stand on LGBTQ rights.”
To make a case for the campaign, the team noted in its executive summary that more than 70 percent of millennials have been recorded to be in favor of same-sex marriages. They also took inspiration from commercials that went viral, including Pantene’s anti-sexism campaign and Dove’s real beauty sketches campaign, to reinforce the legitimacy and potential for success of their recommendation.
Regarding their decision to tackle a social issue versus a strictly commercial-marketing focus, “we wanted to use Berkeley’s strengths,” says Sirimahachaikul, stating how the school is known for its social conscience. Using that idea as a springboard, he bounced ideas off of Amy Dinh, a program manager in the Haas School’s Center for Responsible Business. He also utilized the skills and knowledge gained in Haas marketing classes taught by lecturers, William Fanning and Wasim Azhar. For instance, Sirimahachaikul recalls learning about collecting data from focus groups in a marketing class taught by Fanning, which the team tapped for a survey of 136 millennials. According to Sirimahachaikul, “They [Fanning and Azhar] really taught us a strategic approach to looking at a challenge like this.”
The trip to New York in itself was already gratifying for the Berkeley-Haas team members. Nonetheless, when asked to share the best part of the trip, the team had this to say: “We are most excited to meet the CEO and CMO of Macy’s and have a conversation about their upcoming marketing strategies.”
Class of 2014