My 10 years in a [Simulated] Brand Management Role

Chelsea Shettler, Prevish Marketing


In a recent job interview, the hiring man0129_typing_3_08_imac_590x332ager asked the golden interview question, “When is a time that you failed?” I smiled at my interviewer as I sat back in my chair, eyebrow arched, and coolly answered, “just last week.” I then relayed what I learned from failing at a simulated brand management role during my Senior Seminar Marketing class at CU Boulder.


The “Capstone Course” is a culmination of all that we have learned in the past four years of business school. One of our assignments was a sophisticated simulation program, “PharmaSim,” in which each group assumed the roles of brand managers for a fictitious pharmaceutical company. Our group had to reach a set number of goals for the two-month long project as our company was losing market share and sales. We had to increase our stock value, increase cumulative net income and show a consistency in net income growth over a period of ten years.


Every time my group made a marketing decision, the simulation would respond with a computerized answer, meaning that there were literally thousands of ways our simulation could have worked with the decisions we were feeding the program. We failed miserably.


We came in dead last out of 10 teams in the class, having reached NONE of the goals. Every time we closed a year, thinking that our advertising and sales force decisions were on the money, consumers would respond the opposite. No matter what we did, lowering the cost of the product, introducing a new product, increasing advertising and promotion, our stock value would not budge. I was absolutely crushed, not only had I failed an important assignment (no lenience grading on this one), but I had failed in demonstrating my market savvy.


Brand management has been a career goal of mine for years, and in two short months, that dream was shot out of the sky by a computerized marketing game of chance. Despite the disappointment, I took away four key learnings from the project:


  1.      1. Even if you are not winning, always have a winning attitude. Much can be said for having a positive attitude, which my group lost quickly in the simulation rounds. We became more downtrodden every time we closed a year. This clouded our judgment, as we failed to make the right business decisions, and instead, made rushed decisions based on our emotions towards PharmaSim.


  1.      2. Read the Numbers. I am an analytical person, but there was no social media or data analysis to conduct on this project. My team should have read the numbers reports and more thoroughly studied our annual income statements. I wish we had used our financial knowledge to understand our contribution margin. We failed to make these decisions because we thought of ourselves as only marketers, but even marketers will have to take on other roles of the business at times.


  1.      3. Take some risks. Along with having a negative attitude, my group was afraid to make major decisions each year. We usually just changed the numbers “a little bit” to minimize risk. However, as all stockbrokers know, the greater the risk, the higher the potential profits. Other groups started out strong by increasing their marketing channels budgets by a significant amount. I can be a risk-taker at times and like to push others to try different solutions. But I found myself so afraid to lose that I went along with my group’s decision to keep it conservative.


  1.      4. I don’t know everything. This had to be the most important lesson I learned. I started the project thinking it would be easy, after taking four years of marketing and business classes. My knowledge helped, but did not save me, or our group. I realized that I have a lot to learn and a long way to go in my career. However, I never lost my curiosity during the project as I kept trying to “figure it out.” Perhaps the first step in coming up with an answer is admitting that you don’t have one. I’ll have to work on that one . . .



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