I Think, Ergo I am

A team of Harvard Business School MBA students took home first place in the Seventh Annual Rice Marketing Case Competition on January 28.

Roughly 10 schools, the usual suspects, were represented in the Rice Marketing Case Competition that officially started at 9:30pm on Friday, January 27, when cases were distributed to student teams. Final presentations were due less than 24 hours later on Saturday at 6pm with 20 minutes on Sunday morning slated for marketing pitches.

After a ton of hard work, the HBS team members-Melissa Lau (NJ) with a background in telecommunications and consulting, Yanlin Liu (NJ) with a background in private equity and Deena Malkina (NI) with a background in telecommunications-took home the top prize of $5,000 placing ahead of Stanford and The University of Chicago.

The competition was sponsored by HP, TXU and the Rice MBA program. The challenge was a never taught before HBS case on how to build Lenovo as a global brand. The challenges included how to transfer the positive brand associations from the IBM ThinkPad acquisition to the master-brand, and how to build Lenovo as a brand in its own right, especially in Western markets that had negative perceptions of Chinese brands.

The idea that helped put the team over the top was re-branding Lenovo’s new sub-brand targeted at small/medium sized businesses and consumers as “Ergo.” The thinking was that the team needed to create parallelism between the utilitarian “ThinkPad” (usually purchased by customers driven by rational considerations), and the emotional considerations that drove Lenovo’s new target customers. So, picking up on Descartes’ famous line, the team proposed that Lenovo’s new tagline should run, “I Think, Ergo I am.”