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York University
Administrative Studies
ADMS 2400
Paul Favaro

HOW TO PREP A CASE Why cases? Cases are used all over B-schools. The idea behind cases is that you’ll sort of temporarily work for the company that’s featured, and you’ll get to practice at playing CMO or CEO. The cases tell a scenario based on some real life management situation. Cases begin by describing the company and industry and then some dilemma is posed that you’re supposed to address (and often, figuring out what the dilemma is, is part of the problem). You’ll do cases in classes and sometimes on job interviews (especially for consultants). While you probably want a good grade in class, or a chance at the job, the point of a case is to immerse you into a simulated managerial decision setting, without there being terribly serious real world ramifications; i.e., before someone hires you and lets you loose in the real world, empowering you to possibly destroy a brand or bring your ROI crashing down (sort of kidding), they want to see how you think and behave in this practice world first. How to proceed? First, read the case like you were taught to read your texts—that is, first skim it, looking at the opening paragraph or two, the section headers, peruse the exhibits (tables and figures at the end), to get a lay of the land. In particular, the exhibits will usually fall into one of three categories: background (“What a yawn”), some key depictions (“Isn’t that cool!”), and some in between (“What am I supposed to make of this?”). And again, part of your job will be figuring out what is what. For example, for marketing classes, the first tables in a case often contain financial data as “background” information—to give you a sense of how the company seems to be doing. Check to see whether the numbers are moving steadily over time, or are dropping precipitously somewhere, are the numbers proportionate over segments, etc., depending on how the numbers are presented. At this point, some very rough, very fuzzy questions are probably forming in your head. Some marketing professors suggest that you begin taking notes, e.g., by writing down your questions even at this perusal stage. That would be great, but I’ve been teaching long enough to know that this suggestion will fall on deaf ears.  Besides, it’s quite conceivable that you can barely articulate your questions at this point. Use the marketing framework!! Now, start to read the case more carefully. If you use our familiar marketing framework—5Cs, STP, 4Ps, it will help you to think systematically. In turn, the marketing framework you’ve learned from this book will help you identify the problem and potential solutions more readily. Step 1 is a “Situation Analysis”—in layperson’s terms, that means, “What’s going on here?” The situation is analyzed primarily through the 5Cs. You’ll describe your company, your current customer base, the actions of the competition, your collaborations, and the industry context as the setting in which all this business action occurs. Let’s break that down a bit… You can’t do a good marketing case analysis without nailing the customer and company Cs—they’re central to the marketplace exchange—how we define marketing (reread Chapter 1 if you must!). Your competition might well be doing something in the case that is setting up the central problem. If not, then competition might be something you only thing about toward the end of the case, after you identify the problem, and suggest your solution(s), you’ll want to consider which competitors might respond to your actions, how they’ll respond, how you’ll re-respond, etc. Similarly, in many cases, except those that focus on distribution channels, your collaborators might not play a key role in some cases—when that is true, mention them to show you’ve considered them and then dismiss it as a nonissue if that’s true. Finally, the context is often a driving force underlying these cases, e.g., something is changing in the business or economic environment, more e-commerce, more global initiatives bringing more legal entanglements, more green requests of consumers hence a need to address these issues, etc. The identification of the relevant contextual trends and their impacts will probably be something you’ll need to incorporate in most case analyses. In Step 2, you’ll identify the case problem. Often several problems may be identified in a case. Then you’ll have to prioritize—which is the central issue and which are relatively peripheral (but perhaps bear on the central issue, or will help shape your recommendations). If you’re not certain what the central problem is, that’s okay—write down all the problems you see in a ‘laundry list’ and priorities will sort out as you proceed. For marketing cases, start with STP. The key goal for marketers is to keep their customers coming back—repeat purchase and/or upgraded purchases and/o
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