The LINKS Marketing Strategy Simulation provides a team-based competition that allows students/participants to apply theories and principles of marketing strategy in a real-time environment. Student teams represent firms that manufacture set top boxes and compete simultaneously in global markets. The simulation is flexible enough to accommodate variations in the degree of complexity desired by instructors and different class sizes. The simulation is designed to provide students with hands-on exposure to strategic marketing decisions in the areas of segmentation, target market selection, marketing mix management, and supply chain management.
Major learning goals include helping students understand how to 1) evaluate market opportunities and select target markets, 2) formulate marketing strategy in regards segmentation, targeting, positioning,
and market entry, 3) evaluate the impacts of marketing mix variables in competitive markets, 4) coordinate marketing and operations decisions, and 5) analyze competitive markets and environmental forces.
Target Student Population:
The target population is primarily senior-level marketing and MBA students. It would be an excellent capstone course application in marketing management and marketing strategy. Other options could include a marketing research course, in analyzing marketing data and decision making applications.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Sound knowledge of basic marketing principles and marketing research. The latter is helpful for students to enable interpretation and use of the research reports generated by the simulation.
Type of Material:
This e module under review is a marketing strategy simulation that require teams to formulate decisions for every LINK event (round). Reports, and other information/reports are delivered in MS Word; support documentation is available in PDF file format. The main point of difference for this simulation is that the program is web-based, and therefore requires NO software/program installation. As such, students are NOT place or machine bound to participate.
This module is best suited for an upper-level marketing or graduate audience. The simulation could be used as an offline activity in a capstone course or could be the main focus of the course and supplemented with additional readings and discussions. The latter approach would probably work better due to the complexity and volume of information processing required. Team performance should be tied to class grades.
Standard internet browser and web access if the simulation is run remotely (as recommended by the author). Can also be run locally, in which the software would have to be installed on local machines. Students also need Adobe Acrobat reader and MS Word.
Evaluation and Observation
The module provides a great application material, it is well-organized, and is supplemented with additional information/links. Extremely realistic marketing strategy simulation that offers students an opportunity to "learn-by-doing." The simulation is designed to provide a current, relevant, and comprehensive experience in the practice of formulating and analyzing marketing strategy. It is completely self-contained and extensively supported with documentation FAQs, and personal assistance for instructors. The simulation can be run as an offline activity (outside of class time) although this might be too onerous for most student populations.
Complexity is the chief concern and students will need to devote a lot of time and effort to discovering the relationships between their decision variables and the impacts on the competitive markets.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Simulations are one of the most desired capstone course learning tools. This simulation provides excellent opportunities and platforms for instructors to develop and reinforce marketing concepts (e.g., segmentation, positioning) and discuss and demonstrate the use of analytical tools. It speeds learning through increased attention to the impacts of decision variables on performance. The Balanced scorecard approach allows instructors to evaluate and reward various dimensions of performance. It also helps instructors showcase the integration of marketing strategy with supply chain management.
The simulation does not provide students with much room for error and concepts are not reinforced progressively. One suggestion would be to use "practice" rounds - although the author of the module appears to be opposed to this option. Another might be to vary the level of complexity by restricting the scope of decisions and number of product-markets. These
latter options are not currently available and limits the population of students that can benefit from this simulation. Instructors need to spend a considerable amount of time and effort to ensure that they fully understand the simulation. The absence of an instructor's manual that describes how the decision variables impact the competitive market necessitates that instructors "learn-by-doing" or by questioning the author. The balanced scorecard system awards points to a team whenever its performance is better than another team on a sub-dimension (e.g. ROA). This approach is likely to promote an extremely competitive and aggresive class environment.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
From the students standpoint, the simulation is well designed, appealing, and very realistic. It provides clear, albeit lengthy instructions and would succeed in engaging their attention and interest. From the instructors standpoint, it provides multiple opportunities and platforms to discuss and develop marketing concepts (e.g., forecasting, conjoint analysis, etc.) and various analytical tools (e.g., Excel, SPSS). The simulation can be run over the web, eliminating the need for instructors and students to install and run software locally.
The site will require a strong orientation for students. Concerns from the students standpoint include the complexity of the simulation and time and effort required to understand the relationships between the decision variables and the performance measures. Another concern is the reliance on web integrity when the simulation is run as a remote exercise. From an instructors perspective, the major drawback is lack of information about marketing models that link decision variables to market outcomes and the unavailability of diagnostic reports for instructors.
Other Issues and Comments:
Recommend that Excel or SPSS be used as supplemental tools to analyze the reports generated by the simulation. The simulation would thus provide an engaging and realistic context for students to refine their analytical skills.