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WWU students take their branding research abroad

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Marketing students Sara Liao-Troth (‘10) and Brian Williams (‘10) traveled to Sweden to present their study of U.S. branding practices to executives at Volvo Trucks.

When Volvo Truck Corporation officials wanted an extensive study of best-practices for brand development, they recently turned to a duo of WWU business students.

MBA student Sara Liao-Troth (’10) and marketing undergraduate Brian Williams (’10) traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden, in March to present their research, interviews and analysis to Volvo Truck executives.

They were accompanied by Associate Finance and Marketing Professor Sandra Mottner, a mentor and former professor of Åsa Rönström, Volvo Trucks’ merchandising manager, Europe Division.

After meeting in 2001 in Mottner’s marketing strategy capstone course in WWU’s College of Business and Economics, the two women had kept in touch while Rönström completed her education in Sweden and began her career at Volvo.

Rönström and her colleagues wanted to give students a hands-on learning experience in international business, Mottner says. And Rönström, who spent fall quarter of 2001 at Western, predicted WWU students would be perfect for the job.

“Working with case studies during undergraduate (courses) makes students ready for the professional world much faster than, for instance, in Sweden, where many classes are very theoretical,” Rönström says.

So Williams and Liao-Troth interviewed top marketing executives at U.S. companies such as Disney, NBC, Starbucks, John Deere, Harley-Davidson, American Girl and others known for strong brand practices. They also analyzed the companies’ financial statements, press releases and other materials.

The Volvo team was impressed with the study – and the students’ presentation, Rönström says. “Working with the students was inspirational and made us stay up to date with branding trends in the U.S. market very effectively,” she says.

More international collaboration is a possibility, Rönström says. She “would definitely recommend a colleague to cooperate with students at WWU.”