BYU students compete in marketing challenge 01

Teams present their findings at the final round of competition in the 2015 Sawtooth Software Marketing Analytics Consulting Challenge at the Tanner Building at Brigham Young University on Saturday, March 21, 2015. GRANT HINDSLEY, Daily Herald

PROVO — Isolating the exact features that sell a product is crucial to most businesses. In today’s extremely competitive smartphone arena, with its vast variety of multi-feature phones competing for the same consumers, pinpointing the features they value most and giving it to them at a cost they can afford is even more essential.

This is the problem tech giant 3M posed to MBA students from Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, UCLA, the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia Darden at the first ever Marketing Analytics Challenge held at BYU this weekend.

In January, each school received this real-world case study that 3M is researching. The students were tasked with performing online surveys to learn what consumers value in smartphone features. Using conjoint analysis software, the students measured what customers value in smartphone features.

“Basically we’re asking them to analyze the ‘trade-offs’ consumers are making when they make buying choices, like the cost of the product versus a specific feature they want,” said competition judge Nico Peruzzi, a partner at Outsource Research Consulting in California.

Conjoint analysis starts with what is out there as a product, evaluates what people are buying and why they are buying. Based on what people like now, marketing analysts can then survey consumers regarding the key features they are interested in and at what cost point they will pay for those features. After gathering data from hundreds of virtual consumers, and aggregating that data, analysts can better predict the types of products a company can create that will make the consumers happy.

Each team presented their market analysis findings Friday and Saturday to the judges.

Alisa Schilmoeller, the consumer and market insights analyst for 3M, was the main judge. She was looking for how well the students understood conjoint analysis, and how well they articulated the results.

“A market analyst has to present their findings to marketing managers, product developers and management, and they have to be able to explain it to all levels,” Schilmoeller said. “We judged the presentation on how well someone who doesn’t understand the math behind conjoint analysis technology would understand the results.” 

Clay Voorhees, a judge and an associate professor of marketing at Michigan State, agreed.

“It basically comes down to this,” Voorhees said. “Will you convince a marketing executive to spend their budget in a different way according to your findings?”

BYU took second place in the challenge. For all of the students involved, though, the real world experience was the bigger prize.

“Marketing is no longer about gut feelings,” said Scott Christofferson, one of the five on BYU’s team. “Companies are expecting actual numbers and data behind their marketing, and this skill helps me be confident in the decisions I will make in a company. You go from ‘I think,’ to ‘I know.’ This has been a great learning experience to see the technological tools that allow you to segment responses, and allows you to expand your analysis beyond what just you can do.”

“This has really helped me understand the quantitative side of marketing, and we actually got to apply it,” said fellow team member Christie Rasmussen. 

This competition was the first of its kind, and the brainchild of Bryan Orme, president of Sawtooth Software in Orem, and Jeff Dotson, BYU associate professor of marketing. Dotson has been teaching conjoint analysis for years at BYU, and more and more of bigger companies are relying on it.

Sawtooth Software provides marketing research solutions for businesses through designing, collecting, and analyzing marketing research survey data. They are best known for their use of conjoint analysis. The student teams used a student version of Sawtooth Softwares conjoint analysis product.

Orme and Dotson hope to make the Marketing Analytics Challenge an annual event and expand the number of schools who compete.

Karissa Neely reports on Business & Community events, and can be reached at 801-344-2537 or