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When it comes to Markstrat, Sandrine Macé knows all of its inner workings. This marketing professor at ESCP Europe, who is also a member of the Markstrat Advisory Board, has been using the game for 20 years with groups of students in France, Lebanon and Russia, between five and ten times a year. She shares with us her expertise on the subject.
Markstrat has a clear objective: to introduce the bases of strategic marketing, and allow students to apply what they have learned. And it is from this perspective that it must be used, according to Sandrine Macé. “It’s a perfect game for approaching the major rules of discipline: segmentation, targeting, positioning. Above all, this teaches students to make strategic choices. Some are terrified at the idea of putting a zero in a column, they prefer to divide up their marbles… But this is often less efficient.”
Another advantage of Markstrat, according to Sandrine Macé: going beyond the “glamour” of this discipline. “Markstrat shows students that marketing isn’t all publicity and flashing lights. That there is a rational facet to it, that decisions aren’t linked to a subjective feeling but obey certain rules “, she notes.
The fact that the high-tech product at the center of the game doesn’t exist allows one to make more objective decisions, and thus to submit oneself “to what the client wants and not one’s personal point of view », she says. “It’s a game that’s very good for learning to bend oneself to the needs of the market: the marketing of demand.”
Format. Sandrine Macé has experimented with Markstrat under diverse formats: from the most intense – 15 to 20 hours in one week– to the least intense (3 hours per week for 10 weeks).
“What is certain is that one mustn’t go under 14 hours, because there is a sizeable cost of entry. The more time one has, the deeper one can go. When I do it over a span of 10 weeks with my Masters’ students, I use it as an opportunity to add in exercises, to find the main point of certain notions, like the marketing levers of performance. I’ve even created individual tests from the game, in order to evaluate the students on concepts they’ve learned,” she claims.
Public. For Professor Macé, Markstrat is ideal for Masters’ students. “It also works very well in continuing education. For example, I did the game with people who work in marketing studies. They loved seeing how their profession – studies – takes part in the value chain of a business.”
She also observes that Markstrat works just as well with people who don’t necessarily have a business background. “This week, a manager who was in my group, more of a literary type, turned white as a sheet when she saw all the tables of numbers. It stressed her terribly! But she dove in, overcame what was blocking her and made progress.”
Makeup of the groups. One of the difficulties is creating groups that are consistent. “At first, I let them do it, but now I put the groups together myself, with an eye towards diversifying the profiles. I want to avoid putting friends together. In real life, we work with people we don’t know!”
Sandrine Macé also tries to create groups that are balanced in terms of their levels, even if it isn’t always easy.
“At times, a team is lagging completely behind, and then they must be motivated to get back on their feet, otherwise this can create discouragement. The best games are when all the groups have been number one at some point and have had their moment of glory!”
Responding to students. Another challenging point: managing the spirit of competition that is very developed in some students, who challenge the fairness of their positions.
“I’ve had problems with this, so now I start off with all the teams in the same position at the beginning of the game. Certainly, it’s not like in a real company, but at least there is no jealousy: they all have the same briefing in the beginning. After that, they each take different roads, and it’s interesting to compare the paths at the end of the game, to see the winning strategies.”
The teacher’s role. Throughout the game, the professor must find a balance: replying to the students’ questions, while still allowing them to find their own answers.
“They must be put on the right path, so they can learn from their choices. This is how they will truly anchor their knowledge,” observes Sandrine Macé. “In the end, it’s a very rewarding role for the professor.”