Students: The future is bright

If this year's crop of marketing grads is any indication, the future of marketing looks rosy.

If this year’s crop of marketing grads is any indication, the future of marketing looks rosy.

We asked marketing profs across the country, from the University of British Columbia to the University of New Brunswick, to tell us about their top students – undergrads and MBAs alike. We wound up with over 40 strong

candidates, and it was tough narrowing it down to just eight. But we think you’ll agree, these eight really are something special. From raking in top honours at business case competitions home and abroad to having an impact on

marketing plans at the likes of Rogers and Pfizer, these students are Grade-A keeners. You’d be wise to scoop them up now – if you still can.


Who: Allen Manser, 23

What: Undergrad, bachelor of commerce

Where: Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

When: Expected to graduate spring 2006

Why he’s one to watch: Manser doesn’t just work well under pressure – he thrives under it. Throughout his time at UBC, he has competed in as many business case competitions as he could find, most recently in Denmark at the Copenhagen Business School Case Competition, where he and his team beat out students from around the world to land a first-place title last month.

The team was given 32 hours to develop a new business strategy for a Danish industrial manufacturer, and devised a holistic approach focusing on human resource initiatives and leveraging the company’s history of innovation. They backed up each recommendation with financial implications, and it was this attention to detail that ultimately landed them the top spot.

‘At these competitions, you typically have two to three hours to come up with a reasonable solution to a business problem and present it,’ explains Sauder marketing prof Darren Dahl. ‘Allen works well under pressure. I think he enjoys it, actually – he’s one of those.’

Manser also boasts a first place finish at the JDC West Business Case Competition in Vancouver, and a second place finish at UBC’s Enterprize Business Plan Competition, on top of strong showings at many others across Canada and beyond.

Dahl describes Manser as having both the sizzle (strong presentation skills) and the steak (strong research and analytic capabilities) required for a successful marketing career.

‘He’s a very good communicator…he’s excited about what he’s talking about, without being over the top. Sometimes people can go a little crazy [with presentations]. He seems to have the right balance,’ he says, adding that Manser also has leadership potential. ‘He definitely has leadership as part of his core strength, while at the same time being a strong team player. He’s not a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of guy.’

Manser maintains Canadian and Swiss citizenship, and is fluent in English and German.

Manser’s dream job: A senior leadership position in ‘my own international company, possibly one that develops alternative energy products and processes in light of increasing energy costs and concern for the environment. After having met all corporate obligations, the position should allow me to effectively pursue my philanthropic goals as well.’


Who: Jack Weisz, 23

What: Undergrad, bachelor of commerce

Where: Queen’s School of Business, Queen’s University,

Kingston, Ont.

When: Expected to graduate spring 2006

Why he’s one to watch: Weisz, who hails from Mexico City and is fluent in English and Spanish, has keener written all over him. In 2004, he became the first third-year student to be elected president of the Commerce Society (ComSoc) student union at Queen’s, where he managed the $1.1 million budget and set long-term strategic goals. Under his leadership, ComSoc saw the creation of a commissioner task force, a human resources officer, free professional counseling services for its members, and formed its first board of directors to address long-term goals.

Weisz has had success in non-academic roles, too. Two summers ago, he worked as a marketing analyst associate at a Merrill Lynch branch in Washington, D.C., where he led and executed three marketing strategies targeting very specific markets. His market research and analysis generated several multi-million-dollar account leads.

But it was last summer that he had his most fruitful work experience yet, as a marketing intern at Mississauga, Ont.-based Pepsi-QTG brand Gatorade, where he impressed his bosses enough to land himself a full-time job with them upon graduation.

‘He would ask questions, a lot of questions!’ recalls Jeff Jackett, Gatorade’s marketing manager. ‘He wanted to find out not only more about why we employ [certain] marketing tactics, but also how we made the product, how product gets to stores, why we chose the athletes we support, why we use the agencies we do, etc. His inquisitive nature will serve him well in his career as a marketer.’

Things that annoy Weisz the most about marketing that he swears he’ll never do: ‘When I see brands being inconsistent and repositioned in order to jump on the latest fad. The issue of marketing and ethics is also something that annoys me and I swear to never make those terms mutually exclusive.’


Who: Delia Pan, 29

What: MBA, executive marketing

Where: Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.

When: Expected to graduate spring 2006

Why she’s one to watch: With all eyes on China as an emerging business superpower, Pan’s experience successfully managing a brand there will certainly appeal to potential employers here. As brand manager at Danone Robust Food & Beverage Company in China, Pan (who’s from Guangzhou), identified a new tweens consumer segment and developed a new yogurt drink to appeal to the group and drive growth.

‘She has three key assets: on the job experience, customer insight and international experience,’ notes Robin Ritchie, marketing prof at Ivey. ‘I think she has a natural interest in psychology. That’s essential in marketing – it’s not just all about campaigns and business plans. She has a fundamental desire to understand what makes consumers tick.’

Pan is set to step into a marketing manager position at Rogers Wireless upon graduation this year. She impressed the Rogers team while interning there last summer, when she researched cellphone usage behaviour among small and medium Canadian businesses and made a series of pricing policy change recommendations. Rogers implemented her new pricing plan targeting small businesses last year.

Unique perspective Pan brings to the table: ‘My experience in the burgeoning China market makes me open to any marketing ideas. I truly believe nothing is impossible. Also, my interest in finance helps me focus on the bottom line.’


Who: Cynthia Arnold, 23

What: Undergrad, honours bachelor of commerce, marketing

Where: DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton

When: Expected to graduate spring 2006

Why she’s one to watch: As president of the DeGroote Marketing Association this year, Arnold spearheaded the ‘MARS (Marketing, Advertising, Retail and Sales) Apprentice Competition’ that allowed fellow students to compete for internships with big-name companies like Frito Lay, Xerox, RBC and JAN Kelley Marketing. She used posters,

a Web site and word of mouth to attract 35 student competitors, and cold called potential corporate sponsors, pitching the program as a valuable recruitment tool and sponsorship opportunity.

‘She provided outstanding leadership in creating the program – branding it, defining and executing a communication strategy with both students and industry,’ notes Mandeep Malik, who teaches strategic market leadership at DeGroote, adding that Arnold’s efforts generated $123,000 in revenue in the form of scholarships, bursaries and sponsorships.

Arnold herself did a one-year internship at Mississauga, Ont.-based Fuji Photo Film last year, where she was able to salvage the company’s student scholarship initiative. Fuji had decided its Student Challenge photo competition, with its $65,000 budget, was too expensive. Arnold argued that students are a valuable target because of their brand loyalty, and that the competition is a good way to capture them early. She pitched a

scaled-down version of the contest, the Fujifilm Excellence Scholarship, with a budget of $18,500. Fuji let her manage the initiative, which included a DM piece soliciting entries that doubled as a mail-in rebate, and served as a valuable tracking tool.

Malik says Arnold’s strategic thinking, passion for marketing and willingness to learn will serve her well in this industry: ‘Cynthia is constantly engaging herself with the marketing challenges she is enlisted to solve, by exploring new or sometimes less travelled paths. She recognizes the need to research, debate, and create options before pinning down the solution.’

Arnold’s dream job: VP marketing for a large entertainment company like NBC, Universal or Disney.


Who: Brian Dove, 23

What: Undergrad, business management specializing

in marketing

Where: School of Business Management,

Ryerson University, Toronto

When: Expected to graduate spring 2006

Why he’s one to watch: Dove surely raised some eyebrows last year when he, a Ryerson undergrad, beat out MBAers from the likes of Schulich and Queen’s to win a Gold Canadian Marketing Association award in the national student case competition.

Dove, who worked alone while all other finalists worked in groups, submitted a grocery store gift-card business program. He came up with a plan to target 30-55s with an average HHI of $110,000 with targeted e-mail blasts before key gift-giving occasions like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. The hypothetical campaign also included a Web site, POP, floor ads, PR, radio and print executions.

The plan’s key selling point was that gift givers could choose from seven different price points, and the recipients could choose where to redeem their gift cards among participants in five different categories.

‘The depth of analysis in his proposal coupled with its creativity created a winning product,’ notes Ryerson marketing prof Barry Wallace. ‘Brian has a great ability to see from the perspective of the consumer – this along with his strong sense of professionalism and perseverance will serve him well as a marketer.’

Last year, Dove worked with a student consulting group at Ryerson, where he helped them win an $8,000 private sector project by participating in early client meetings and helping craft the winning proposal.

Dove’s dream job: ‘I’ve always said VP or director of marketing, but I think that’s a very broad term. What I really want is to work for a company that embodies the following: working with people who are passionate about what they do; a corporate culture that is consumer-oriented, progressive, strategic and results-driven; and knowing that the work I do is of genuine value to the entire organization and its customers.’


Who: Hani AlAita, 27

What: MBA, specializing in marketing and entrepreneurship

Where: Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto

When: Expected to graduate spring 2006

Why he’s one to watch: AlAita has already demonstrated his entrepreneurial skills: While earning his undergrad in computer science at McGill, he co-founded and managed an e-commerce virtual movie rental company,, which netted 7,000 clients within the first year of business. AlAita raised the capital to launch the venture, handled marketing agency contracts and finally, the sale of the company to another firm. His efforts landed him the prestigious Schulich Entrepreneurial Scholarship.

He also has corporate experience: Last summer, he did a marketing internship at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare’s Toronto office, working on Reactine and Benadryl. He recommended that the brands adopt a new mobile marketing channel after analyzing the effectiveness of current marketing programs. Reactine has since implemented ‘Reactine Pollen Alerts,’ a text message allergy update service which is being promoted at

‘He’s demonstrated an ability to come up with innovative solutions to marketing problems,’ notes Schulich marketing prof Andrew Stodart. ‘He’s also an excellent leader able to rally others around him.’

AlAita has been working as a part-time associate brand manager at Pfizer while he earns his MBA, and will join the company full-time upon graduation. To top it all off, AlAita (who grew up in Germany and Syria) is fluent in English, French, Arabic and basic German.

Things that annoy AlAita the most about marketing/advertising that he swears he’ll never do: ‘Un-customized direct mail, telemarketing calls, and cheap TV ads that look like they were made on a home computer.’


Who: Ryan Wood, 34

What: MBA

Where: Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal

When: Expected to graduate spring 2006

Why he’s one to watch: Wood and his team of three fellow McGill MBAers won first place in Virgin’s Next Big Thing competition at Queen’s University last month, with a marketing-heavy business plan for a new breakthrough business for Virgin. ‘The key to effective marketing is really putting yourself in the mind-space of your audience,’ explains Wood. ‘We spent more time researching Virgin than the details of our idea – this allowed us to context our idea to best resonate with the Virgin execs.’

His team’s winning plan, an entry strategy for the brand to break into the Indian market, centred on a ‘gap-up’ approach to offer high-quality cellphones with fun attributes at competitive prices. His team felt Virgin’s tried and true ‘gap-down’ approach (offering more basic packages at lower costs) that has been successful in other markets wouldn’t work in India because competitors already offered cheap, no-frills plans.

Before pursuing his MBA, Wood opened a private language school in Vancouver, then later managed a similar school in Korea. These endeavors first piqued his interest in marketing, as he had to define a target market and then figure out how to reach it.

‘His background is quite interesting…it shows an entrepreneurial bent and willingness to take risks,’ says Karl Moore, McGill marketing prof, referring to Wood’s language school stints. He adds that his ability to succeed in Korea is especially noteworthy. ‘He quickly learned what the rules of the game are [in Korea].’

Moore also points out that Wood is committed to never cutting corners. While many of his classmates present ideas in written paragraphs, he storyboards, films and edits actual commercials.

‘It’s creative, interesting and engaging,’ says Moore of Wood’s presentation style.

Things that annoy Wood the most about marketing/advertising that he swears he’ll never do: ‘Just one: Lose the message in

the process.’


Who: Stephanie Vanness, 29

What: MBA

Where: Desautels Faculty of Management,

McGill University, Montreal

When: Expected to graduate spring 2006

Why she’s one to watch: Vanness has leveraged her strong communications and relationship building skills throughout her time at McGill, helping facilitate networking events like the ’5à7 Business Networking Series,’ which gave MBA students a chance to mingle with potential employers on designated evenings from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., as the name suggests.

She also serves as VP communications for the MBA Student Association, and runs MYOB, the MBA student magazine, which she recently redesigned.

‘She’s a great networker, excellent at building relationships. She’s also an excellent presenter,’ notes marketing prof Karl Moore. ‘She’s both creative and analytic.’

Vanness used her networking skills to land herself a job as an assistant product director at Johnson & Johnson upon graduation by hobnobbing with J& J reps at the McGill Student Association Golf Invitational last September.

Not surprisingly, Vanness was chosen by the McGill MBA career centre to do a workshop for MBA students on how to succeed in interviews for marketing positions.

Vanness was also part of a team of 10 MBA students who contributed to a book by business author Christine Arena, called The High Purpose Company, set to hit shelves this fall. It was recently added to the prestigious Harvard Business Review’s 2006 Reading List.

Things that annoy Vanness the most about marketing/advertising that she swears she’ll never do: ‘I will always work to promote healthy body images and healthy lifestyles.’