Combining the Seemingly Incompatible: The MAC Case Competition

April 4, 2014

Combining the seemingly incompatible is an inspirational way to ideate.

On March 28, 2014 the Center on Global Brand Leadership, in collaboration with the Marketing Association of Columbia (MAC), hosted the 2nd annual MAC Case Competition. Twenty-eight MBA students from Columbia Business School were tasked with developing a hypothetical game-changing business strategy by conceptualizing a unique way to incorporate one of today’s hottest digital trends with a major brand, one that is seemingly incompatible with the trend itself.


More and more articles of clothing and accessories, items we wear on a daily basis, are produced with the ability to gather personal data, and connect us and the collected data to the digital world. With this “wearables” trend, brands are now challenged to create more robust brand experiences.

Students had three hours to develop a positioning for Unilever or one of its brands by integrating the wearables trend and new consumer expectations for information access and interconnectivity.

To judge the competition, the Center on Global Brand Leadership invited Marissa Freeman, VP of Global Advertising at HP and founder of Bee Raw, and Fabian Pfortmüller, Co-founder of Holstee and Founder of Sandbox. Both are experts at understanding trends and using them to create innovative strategies for their businesses. The winning team, Hasbleidy Castaneda ‘15, Nate Champion ‘15, Melissa Gavin ‘15, and Emmy Vallandingham ‘15, developed The Water Band, an extension of Unilever’s Save Water, Save the World initiative.

The Water Band would be a wristband with the goal of reducing shower time. The team explained that it’s great for environmentally-conscious individuals. “Shortening a shower by 2 minutes can result in 4600 gallons of water saved per year,” shared the students. When wearing Water Band, the consumer would be alerted when their shower is running long.

They developed this idea to align with Unilever’s sustainability platform to provide value to its consumers, and to promote a sense of community and mutual responsibility amongst its stakeholders

Two teams tied for second place with The Bobby-Bit, a bobby pin that captures environmental data for a customizable action plan–using Unilever brands– for taking care of skin and hair based on environmental triggers; and Dove For Me, a system that uses wearables to capture environmental and physical data from individuals (e.g. activity, climate, location, vitamin deficiencies, hydration, etc.) to enhance and personalize Dove skin and hair care products at home.


The Case Competition experience was rewarding for the judges and the students alike, Marissa Freeman commented “I was astounded by the level of strategic insight, the thoroughness of the foundational data and the professional manner in which the cases were presented.  It would have been impressive if they had 4 days to do it, let alone 4 hours.  In my mind, they were all winners.”

While Sheera Hopkins ’14, from MAC, explained that participating in “The Case Competition was a great experience where I had the opportunity to put into practice many of the ideas and frameworks I had learned my first year at CBS. Even though it was only a one-day exercise, it helped prepare me for my summer internship.”

The Center on Global Brand Leadership looks forward to hosting the 3rd annual Case Competition in the spring of 2015 at Columbia Business School.


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