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The Pepsi challenge: Darden style

Are you ready to take the Pepsi challenge? Try multiplying a simple taste test by 40 companies and you get the Darden Marketing Club's Brand Challenge, an intense day of consumer fun and a whole lot of carbonation.

The event starts at 2:30 p.m. today in front of the Darden School with a test drive of sports cars and alternative fuel vehicles, followed by product taste comparisons at 6 p.m. in Sponsors Hall. National brands ranging from Cadillac and BMW to Gatorade, Quaker Oats and Sprite are participating.

"For one thing, it's fun," Director of Social Relations Joe Spampinato said about today's Brand Challenge. "It's also a good chance for students, mainly the first years, to network with major companies."

First-year students in the marketing club conduct comparisons of similar products by surveying their peers and faculty from within the University community. Those who have composed the questionnaires then conduct "data mining" and send the results back to the company.

"This is not just a learning tool," said Paul Coviello, Darden Marketing Club's Director of Special Events. "It's an actual application using tools you'd need as a marketer."

Spampinato said the questionnaires are especially helpful for smaller companies who participate, such as the root beer brand Root 66, produced locally, because they do not have the tools Pepsi and Coca-Cola have to generate consumer feedback.

This is the 13th year of the Brand Challenge, which is sponsored by General Mills and Procter & Gamble.

The last corner of the world without democracy

Government and Foreign Affairs Prof. David Waldner will present "Rethinking the Persistence of Dictatorships in the Middle East" at the Miller Center today at 11 a.m.

"Over the past quarter century, a large number of former dictatorships have become democracies in every region of the world except the Middle East," Waldner said.

In his presentation, Waldner said he will discuss why he believes Islam, or any religion, is not an obstacle to democracy. He will share his own observations about people tending to focus on culture to explain political outcomes.

Waldner said people will walk away with a "very critical perspective on the often caricatured vision of religion, and culture in general, as the main determinant of political life in the Middle East."

Compiled by Josie Roberts

Odds Ideas? Call Ryann at 924-1092.

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