Speaking to Millennials: FSF Scholar Lauren Schmidt Takes On the Macy’s Marketing Challenge

FSF scholar Lauren Schmidt (second from right) and her University of Arizona teammates at the Macy's Marketing Challenge.

University of Arizona student Lauren Schmidt has leadership down to a tee. Not only is she a 2011 FSF scholarship winner, she is also the Student Ambassador for the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing at U of A, the Co-President of the non-profit business organization SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) and a national competitor in the Macy’s Marketing Challenge. The challenge posed the simple, yet seemingly impossible, task of creating a marketing strategy for Macy’s to attract the Generation Y consumer.

FOF: Congrats on competing in the Macy’s Marketing Challenge! What was your team’s idea?

LS: Our idea was to create an online social networking site through Macy’s. This would allow users to upload their photos and tag the Macy’s clothing items they are wearing, allowing for people to comment and share on Facebook or Twitter. These photos would be regional (fitting with the Macy’s campaign) allowing for users and viewers to feel a sense of community. Not all Macy’s sell the same merchandise and we wanted our social networking site to reflect this. Meaning, if you lived in Tucson, Arizona, you can see what other people in your area are wearing or if you have a passion for New York style, you could see what people in that area are wearing. It also involved technology within the store to highlight these looks.

FOF: Amazing idea! How many teams were you up against?

LS: This is a national competition and 10 teams competed from seven undergraduate schools, and then a few MBA programs competed in a different competition. The top team from each university was able to present their idea to the marketing team. I was flown to New York to present my case to Macy’s Marketing Executives with my team against the other top schools.

FOF: And how did the executives respond to your presentation?

LS: I think the executives really liked the idea. They were very interested in getting to know more about our generation and what respond to. They asked questions such as, “How can I talk to Generation Y?” and “Does Generation Y value brands that have a strong social responsibility campaign behind them?” These questions were great because it really challenged me to think about the ways I obtain information and trends and the brands I value.

FOF: What did the winning team receive?

LS: The winning team will have their idea implemented into Macy’s, but each of the teams flown to New York received an iPad for each team member.

FOF: Not too shabby! What a great prize. What did you learn most from your experience?

LS: I learned that even though all of the students competing were Generation Y, we each wanted to be marketed towards in different ways. Some of our generation really value celebrities while others like self recognition, some students enjoyed watching television while no one in our group did. We are so diverse and I think this is what makes our generation difficult for marketers to understand.

FOF: With what opportunities did it provide you?

LS: This provided me the opportunity to meet my YMA mentor Marc Mastronardi and catch up before the competition. The entire group had the opportunity to talk to CEO Terry J. Lundgren and ask for advice. I was also able to see many of my connections at Macy’s and it is always great seeing familiar faces.

FOF: How has the FSF scholarship helped you?

LS: This has been the most incredible experience. The dinner in itself was the best opportunity. I was in a room with the current leaders of the fashion industry and the future of the fashion industry. Sitting at the table with the other YMA winners was inspiring to me.

FOF: So you’ll be graduating in May. Do you have a job secured?

LS: After graduation I will be working for Collective Brands in Kansas as an assistant buyer. Collective Brands holds Payless, Stride Rite, Sperry, Keds, Saucony and a few other footwear brands. I am so excited to start my career with such an amazing company! I was able to go to the design offices while in New York for the YMA gala and that fueled my love for the company even more.

FOF: What is your ultimate goal? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

LS: In 10 years, I want a successful career and hoping my path has moved into international. I would love to be a buyer for a foreign market, and live in that country for some time to really understand the customer, because understanding the foreign customer is most important in becoming successful in that position. Within those 10 years I want to be able to learn different roles of the business to really help me have a better understanding of how all roles come together as one. Most importantly, in 10 years I want to be able to give back to the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing at the University of Arizona which has provided me with so many opportunities.

– FOF

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