The six-week Digital Marketing Challenge (DMC), offered exclusively to ESSEC’s MSc in Marketing Management and Digital (MMD) cohort, is a chance for students to test their classroom knowledge in the real world and gain mentorship from global companies.

Creative ideas mean nothing if no one can execute them, MMD student Marion Gaudichon declares matter-of-factly. “If you don’t have the right communication method or objective, it won’t work.” This is one of her group’s biggest takeaways after participating in ESSEC’s annual DMC project.

The challenge, offered exclusively to the MMD cohort, was designed to help students bridge the gap between school and work by equipping them with a portfolio of work.

“When they look for a job, it’s important to demonstrate that they’ve done something with a real company and worked on a real issue,” Professor Tuck Siong Chung, Academic Director of the MMD program, shares.

By giving students a chance to collaborate with global companies and helm the development of a strategy that serves real business needs, Tuck says they gain real-world experience that gives them an edge.

He adds that ESSEC curates the yearly list of partners to ensure a diverse scope for students to work on. While students worked with big names like Johnson & Johnson and Richemont in previous years, this year’s lineup includes the latter and brand names such as Decathlon, Giorgio Armani Beauty, Lancome, and Roger Dubuis.

Steering Students in the Right Direction

“It’s a privilege to be able to showcase yourself and what you’re capable of—while at the same time learning from them and getting insights,” Xeena Morales, who worked on a human resources project for Richemont, shares.

For her team, it was a lesson on developing the best possible ideas within real-world limitations and how to “market” these ideas to customers and clients.

Marion’s group, which pitched a strategy targeting the Decathlon hiking community, was similarly forced to dive deep into the rationale of their proposals.

In the process, they learned the importance of engaging rather than just pushing information on the consumers, MMD student Shagun Khandelwal shares.

“We realized how you could use organic comments and posts to try and involve the customer in different ways. It isn’t just about bringing in technology,” she recalls.

Filippo Pirri adds that a major highlight was the mentorship from Sophie Broome, Regional Supply Planner and Category Analyst at Decathlon Singapore, who encouraged creativity and offered clarity.

“Sophie really took ownership and was super involved. She could guide us and see the obstacles and patterns. This was incredibly helpful for us to shape our direction,” the MMD student explains.

A Fresh Perspective for the Future of Marketing

It was a win-win for both sides—while students gained from industry experience, companies, too, acquired from the younger generation’s perspective.

Speaking at the judging panel, one of the Business Managers from L’Oreal complimented the students for their efforts to go beyond classroom theory.

“You took the time to understand the brand and what’s happening on the ground to drive accessibility and implementability of your ideas,” she observes, adding that their fresh insights were crucial in helping the brand push the boundaries for the future.

Because sometimes, that is also what marketing is. While working within limitations is essential, there are also times when rules must be broken to progress.