Rawls MBA Students Pairing with U.K. Students to Understand Texas-U.K. Market Differences
By: Trevor Bell
Dr. Mayukh Dass, Associate Professor in the Area of Marketing at the Rawls College of Business, and four MBA students are partnering with their counterpart at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom to work on a strategic, semester-long joint-research project regarding the alcohol sales and marketing in both the Texas and U.K. markets, particularly focusing on retail industry and consumer behavior habits differences between these two countries.
The Texas Tech team, which is led by Dr. Dass and consists of Connor Best, Gabriel Edmeier, Ernesto Merlos and James Urban, is working with Foxdenton, a small family firm that specializes in the small-scale production of English fruit liqueurs formed in 1935, to see how - and if - an exported, specialized gin can be profitable in the Texas market.
"Our team is going to have to make a creative solution to look at how you can import this product into our market," Dr. Dass said. "This product focuses on a niche market - specifically hunters in the U.K. - and we need to see if the same marketing strategy will work in Texas; or, do we have to reposition the product?"
The Hertfordshire team, which is led by Dr. Christopher Brown and consists of Carl Cheevers, David Homan, Roys Kalarikkan, Khalil Saeed and Senthil Sundaram, is looking at how McPherson Cellars, a local winery in Lubbock, can enter the U.K. market. Both teams will also write a joint industry report for IBM, and help them find new technology applications in the alcohol industry.
"Conversely, the U.K. team has to see if a Texas brand can thrive in their market," Dr. Dass said.
In the initial phase of this project, the U.K. team came to Lubbock February 5-9, 2014, to get a firsthand experience of the Texas wine industry. On this project initiation trip, the two teams traveled to many businesses in Lubbock where they could obtain a more in-depth understanding of the wine industry in Texas.
They first went to Llano Estacado Winery to learn the obstacles facing the wine market. They also learned the importance of a brand and the price per label. The teams then met with Roger Scott, category manager for United Supermarkets, to identify what wines are primed to sell in a successful grocery store. From this visit, they also learned more aspects of the wine business and how price, placement and wine category can all influence purchasing behavior.
The teams also spoke with Kim McPherson, owner of McPherson Cellars, and toured the facilities. While touring McPherson, the U.K. team was fully able to see how their client operated and what challenges it currently faces.
The last event included was a trip to Host & Toast, a local wine bar, to speak with owner Emily Phillips. The teams were given the opportunity to see how a wine bar operated, what thought processes a business like Host & Toast has when selecting a wine to offer, a further understanding of the Texas laws and regulations regarding alcohol, the importance of branding and the impact of educating customers.
Despite not getting a hands-on approach like the U.K. team had, the Texas Tech team was shown videos provided by Foxdenton which showcased the business and its current marketing challenges.
Over the course of the semester, the two teams will communicate on a bi-weekly basis via Skype. From these meetings, further planning and strategizing will occur. The Texas Tech team will travel to the U.K. in early June to present their industry report at IBM and their findings and suggestions at Foxdenton.
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