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Toilet paper, soap and breakfast cereal have proven to be the stuff of which dreams are made for three groups of professors from Insead and Harvard Business School. Case studies on the three commodities have helped the researchers scoop the top honours at the ECCH (formerly the European Case Clearing House) annual awards, the ‘Oscars’ of the business school world.

The Insead case study documented how Renova, a privately-held Portuguese paper products company differentiated itself from its international competitors by creating “Renova Black”, the world’s first black toilet paper. The company’s products rapidly moved from supermarket aisles into boutique hotels and fashion shows on the back of the new product. The case won the overall prize at the awards.

Pierre Chandon, an Insead marketing professor and one of the authors of the case says he is pleased that the award acknowledged the success of a relatively small company, not the usual multinational. “Renova’s success in bringing innovation and creativity to a commoditised category can serve as inspiration for all managers battling difficult conditions and a reason to remain optimistic about the future of southern European businesses.”

Harvard Business School professors, king of the case writers, won two categories, in economics and politics (for United Cereal), and in marketing (for Dove soap). Researchers from the school also won the “hot topic” award for a case that looked at on-line gaming of Lord of the Rings.

Other category winners were Nagoya University of Commerce & Business and Ivey Publishing (entrepreneurship), Cranfield School of Management (ethics and social responsibility), the IBS Research Centre (finance and accounting), the ICMR Center for Management Research (human resource management), Cambridge Judge Business School (IT) Stanford (operations management) and RSM Erasmus (strategy and general management). MIT Sloan and London Business School professors also won awards.

The “lifetime achievement” award - or the outstanding contribution to the case method award, as ECCH calls it - went to three professors at the Ivey school at the University of Western Ontario, James Erskine, Michiel Leenders and Louise Mauffette-Leenders.


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