Schulich’s L’Oréal winners are off to Paris

Above: From left, Pierre-Yves Arzel, president and CEO of L’Oréal Canada, with winning Schulich School of Business students Issack Derchansky, Michael Yang and Chi Zhang, Schulich Professor Ajay Sirsi and Dominique DeCelles, vice-president of L’Oréal Paris

Two teams of marketing students from York’s Schulich School of Business had a tough task to live up to at this year’s L’Oréal Brandstorm competition – defending the national title won last year by a Schulich team that went on to win the international competition in Paris.

So, they went one better, taking the top two spots along with a chance to defend the international title in Paris on June 20.

Schulich’s team “CMI”, comprised of Issack Derchansky, Michael Yang and Chi Zhang, claimed the top prize. Second prize went to Yongjian Chen, Marco Iannucci and Nikolas Koiou of Schulich’s team “Trouveres”, and third place to a team from Montreal’s École des hautes études commerciales (HEC Monteal).

The 13th annual competition was held at L’Oréal’s national headquarters in Montreal on Friday. Teams made a series of presentations before an executive jury panel led by L’Oréal Canada president and CEO Pierre-Yves Arzel. Jury members included Dominique DeCelles, vice-president L’Oréal Paris; Jacques Duval, CEO of Marketel; Suzanne Dansereau, journalist for Les Affaires; and Stan Sutter, associate publisher/editorial director for Marketing magazine.

“The judges actually said there was very little difference between the top two teams,” said Ajay Sirsi, professor of marketing at Schulich and a team coach along with his Schulich colleague Professor Ashwin Joshi, who helped the students prepare their presentations.

Sirsi said the L’Oréal competition presents quite a challenge since it involves a total effort beginning with a product idea based on thorough demographic research of a target market of 16- to 22-year-old consumers. “The teams ‘became their market’ and spent weeks with young people learning about them,” said Sirsi.

Fourteen teams competed in Schulich’s regional finals, held in the fall of 2004. The top three teams won a chance to compete in the national finals. York’s third team included Ashley Johnson, Leslie Young and Shobana Narayan-Lakkavally.

Sirsi said his teams’ string of successes so far in the competition were largely due to the talent of the students. “We’re starting with good material,” he said. “These are the cream of the high school crop of students.” It also doesn’t hurt, Sirsi said, that the competition offers strong incentives in the form of a trip to Paris and, if they win, employment with L’Oréal and a chance to travel the world. Last year’s international winning team from the Schulich School of Business won 9 000 Euros and are all now employed at L’Oréal’s head office in Montreal. The threesome of Pooja Subramanian, Anna Waskow and Yasna Beheshti met for dinner with Sirsi and this year’s team members.

Now in its 13th year, the 2005 edition of the competition is the biggest and most international marketing game ever, with hundreds of participants from over 30 countries including Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Australia and Russia. In Canada 42 students from the Schulich School of Business and 33 students from HEC Montreal registered for the competition.

This year’s L’Oréal Brandstorm (formerly L’Oréal Marketing Award) is a unique opportunity for students to play the role of an international brand manager mandated to define the new positioning of the Studio Line brand for L’Oréal Paris. Participants were asked to devise a new product range with a complete packaging and communication campaign. The teams were tasked with developing a new international marketing strategy and increasing the global market share for Studio Line. Adding to their learning experience, students worked directly with L’Oréal Paris’ own design agency, Marketel.

The Brandstorm competition allows L’Oréal executives to recruit from among the best creative talent worldwide by seeing candidates in action. In fact, as many as 116 jobs and internships were offered last year to students from 26 countries and in Canada, approximately 50 per cent of finalists have been recruited to L’Oréal Canada. Students meanwhile benefit from an enriching opportunity to put marketing theory into practice, acting as a brand manager mandated to revitalize a brand.

“The outstanding performance of the Schulich teams, capturing the top two spots in the national competition, is a testament to the calibre of students here at Schulich as well as to the quality of our marketing department,” said Schulich Dean Dezsö Horváth. “We wish them luck in Paris.”

Last year, the team from the Schulich School of Business swept first prize against countries that included Singapore, Holland and Brazil among others. (See stories in the May 6, 2004 and June 14, 2004 issues of YFile.)

For more information on the competition, visit L’Oréal’s Brandstorm event Web site.