Winners announced in QMAC Sunsilk Challenge

A social media-based campaign for Sunsilk hair care products was the top pick by judges in the the Unilever-sponsored Queen's Marketing Association Challenge 2010.

They did it with a little help from Shakira.

Rising to the challenges outlined by a four-page case study submitted by Unilever for its Sunsilk line of hair care products, Queen’s University students Rachel Zimmer and Bram Warshafsky created an innovative social media campaign and defeated 45 other entries in the Queen’s Marketing Association Conference (QMAC) Sunsilk Challenge.

The competition, which took place Jan. 14 to 17 in Kingston, ON, asked students to create a media and marketing campaign for the Unilever products. The winners, fourth-year business students at the school, proposed a fully integrated viral marketing campaign involving components of Sunsilk’s Latin America strategy, intended to refocus the target market to young ethnic and active Canadian women with busy social lives.

Zimmer and Warshafsky proposed targeting 3.5 million young Canadian females aged 14 to 18, with an expected spillover into the nine-to-13 and 19-to-24 age groups, with a celebrity endorsement by singer Shakira, who already fulfills a similar role for Unilever in Latin America. Suggesting grand prizes of exclusive concerts, the duo proposed an online contest requiring entrants to upload their photographs to compete for a makeover.

Twenty-five consumers would win makeovers, meet Shakira and have their entire transformation filmed as a 30-second webisode that would be uploaded to YouTube and The viral element, the team proposed, would grow as the winners sent their videos to friends. The $5-million campaign would be further supported by a media campaign, merchandising and POS. Bus wraps and subway advertising were also suggested by the duo during their visual presentation.

Zimmer and Warshafsky were among four finalist teams who delivered an eight-minute speech in front of a four-member judging panel that included Unilever Canada president Christopher Luxon.

‘The two main deliverables that Unilever wanted were addressing the target market and trying to redefine the value proposition for Sunsilk in the Canadian marketplace,’ Don Burns, QMAC Challenge coordinator, tells MiC. ‘Ultimately Rachel and Bram talked a lot about realigning the target market and tried to brand the product around an active, mobile lifestyle – so a lot of social activation through phone, Twitter, Facebook and all those social mediums.’

Burns says the duo took a day to travel to a North Toronto high school to research their submission.

‘They followed around someone they identified as their core market for one full day,’ says Burns. ‘They tried to get embedded in consumer behaviour and preferences, and the best way to reach and appeal to the target market they identified for Sunsilk.’

Zimmer and Warshafsky will receive an all-expenses paid weekend in Toronto that includes hotel accommodation, a senior executive power lunch at Unilever Canada and a seat in the company’s corporate box at the Air Canada Centre for a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game.

Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, QMAC annually attracts 130 future marketing professionals from over 18 Canadian universities.

Keynote speakers at this year’s conference included; Royal Bank Of Canada’s chief brand and communications officer Jim Little; MUCH MTV Group SVP and GM Brad Schwartz; Loblaw SVP Craig Hutchison and Bensimon Byrne president Jack Bensimon, as well as Unilever Canada’s Luxon.