Basic Case Analysis Guide
Dr. Anthony Fruzzetti
Benefits of case analysis
Responsibilities of the student
The Six Steps for Preparing a Case Analysis
“Teaching and the Case Method”, Barnes, Christiansen, Hansen; Harvard Business
School Publishing. And
Professor Edward G. Wertheim, College of Business Administration, Northeastern
Why study using the case method?
Stated simply, to teach you, the student, how to think.
“The sole direct path to enduring improvements in the methods of instruction and learning
consists in centering upon the conditions which exact, promote, and test thinking.
Thinking IS the method of intelligent learning, of learning that employs and rewards mind.
We speak, legitimately enough, about the method of thinking, but the important thing to
bear in mind is that thinking IS method, the method of intelligent experience in the course
which it takes”. *
*From “Teaching and the Case Method”, Barnes, Christiansen, Hansen; Harvard Business
Participation in a case method class is futile without careful preparation. It is similarly
futile to attempt to learn simply by listening to your classmates’ opinions of the “right
answer”. Learning in a case method course is based on active participation in the
generation of alternative solutions and creation of actionable strategies. The case itself is
merely the conduit for discussion. Most students are disconcerted by the seemingly vast
and disjointed information presented. Even though the prospect of a case analysis can
seem daunting at first, the guideline presented here can help.
Another responsibility of the student is class participation. The in class discussion allows
students to test their theories in front of a peer group. The nature of the discussion is
similar in effect to that of a moderated focus group. This creates a supportive and
collaborative group dynamic for all to learn from. The instructor's role is not to provide
specific answers, as no specific answer exists. Rather, the instructor may highlight,
synthesize or redirect in an effort to move the discussion in the right direction.
Preparing a Case: Six Steps for Problem Analysis
The following six-step guide will assist you with preparing the HBS cases for this course
Step One: Situation Analysis
Step Two: Problem Definition
Step Three: Identify possible causes
Step Four: Generate Alternative Solutions
Step Five: Decision
Step Six: Implementation plan
1. Situation Analysis
It is not uncommon for cases to demand more than one reading to become familiar with the
facts and players. Keep the following questions in mind as you read the case:
Have I identified the key issue(s);
Who are the key players, who is not;
What is the decision facing the key player;
What information is missing (and where can I find it
It is rare that you will, as a manager, have every necessary piece of information at your
disposal. Part of your success here will rely on your ability to make assumptions that are
Do not be afraid of the numbers. Many cases will present you with vast amounts of data.
Some of it will be crucial to your case analysis. Some of it is mere distraction. Your ability
to distinguish between the two will keep you from what we like to call “Analysis Paralysis”.
It is quite reasonable to take a cynical stance as the case unfolds. Remember that not every
written word is guaranteed to be truth.
Tools such as S.W.O.T. analysis are particularly useful at this stage of the process. Yours
should be thoughtful, detailed, and well supported.
2: Defining the Problem
Tested here is your ability to discern the true problem of the case. This is both the most
critical, and most challenging part of case analysis. Failure to correctly identify the
problem (whether as a student or as a manager) leads one down the path of solving the
“wrong” problem. This is a waste of time, money, and human resources. What we at first
think is the real problem, often is not.
• You MUST clearly identify what the core problem of the case is, and defend why.
Having successfully (one hopes) identified the key problem(s), you must now try to find its
root causes. It is important to keep in mind that your task is not to solve anything yet.
• Avoid jumping onto the first suspect piece of data. It will rarely be that easy
• Stay open to the possibility that there could be more than one cause
4. Generating at Least Three Alternative Solutions (note, that IS the plural)
Above all else, remember that this is a Marketing Strategy course. When creating solutions,
• Keep the perspective of the actor(s) in the case. Your solutions must be within their
power to implement
• Your solution should be holistic. Never limit yourself solely to the 4 P’s
• Discuss any outside influences on your solution (External Marketing Environment)
• Be sure that the solution is realistic. A billion-dollar solution is not part of a milliondollar company’s strategy.
You will need to choose the one “best” solution from your alternatives. When writing this
section, be sure that your response:
• Addresses the core problem. Be specific.
• Clearly states what you expect will happen once your solution is implemented
• Details which actors will be implementing the solution, and how.
6. The action plan
Here you will provide detail on exactly how your plan will be implemented. Be sure to
detail how each objective will be met. Be self-critical; explain any limitations of your
Always explain WHY. It is never acceptable to assume the reader already knows.
Be clear, organized, and precise. It should be clear to the reader which section of the
paper they are looking at
Start strong, gain the readers interested
Don’t be afraid of using your textbook as well as the library to support your findings.
You might even discover linkages between your text and the cases
Lastly, let’s enjoy this experience. Case based learning is the most rewarding because it is
very much a self-directed journey of discovery. This will be the most realistic management
experience of your academic career, but only if you dive into it with both feet.
CASE 12 Nestlé: The Infant Formula Controversy
Nestlé Alimentana of Vevey, Switzerland, one of the world’s largest food-processing companies with worldwide sales of over $100
billion, has been the subject of an international boycott. For over
20 years, beginning with a Pan American Health Organization allegation, Nestlé has been directly or indirectly charged with involvement in the death of Third World infants. The charges revolve
around the sale of infant feeding formula, which allegedly is the
cause for mass deaths of babies in the Third World.
In 1974 a British journalist published a report that suggested
that powdered-formula manufacturers contributed to the death
of Third World infants by hard-selling their products to people
incapable of using them properly. The 28-page report accused
the industry of encouraging mothers to give up breast feeding and
use powdered milk formulas. The report was later published by the
Third World Working Group, a lobby in support of less developed
countries. The pamphlet was entitled “Nestlé Kills Babies,” and
accused Nestlé of unethical and immoral behavior.
Although there are several companies that market infant baby
formula internationally, Nestlé received most of the attention. This
incident raises several issues important to all multinational companies. Before addressing these issues, let’s look more closely at the
charges by the Infant Formula Action Coalition and others and the
defense by Nestlé.
Most of the charges against infant formulas focus on the issue of
whether advertising and marketing of such products have discouraged breast feeding among Third World mothers and have led to
misuse of the products, thus contributing to infant malnutrition
and death. Following are some of the charges made:
• A Peruvian nurse reported that formula had found its way to
Amazon tribes deep in the jungles of northern Peru. There,
where the only water comes from a highly contaminated
river—which also serves as the local laundry and toilet—
formula-fed babies came down with recurring attacks of
diarrhea and vomiting.
• Throughout the Third World, many parents dilute the
formula to stretch their supply. Some even believe the bottle
itself has nutrient qualities and merely fill it with water. The
result is extreme malnutrition.
• One doctor reported that in a rural area, one newborn male
weighed 7 pounds. At four months of age, he weighed
5 pounds. His sister, aged 18 months, weighed 12 pounds,
what one would expect a four-month-old baby to weigh. She
later weighed only 8 pounds. The children had never been
breast fed, and since birth their diets were basically bottle
feeding. For a four-month-old baby, one can of formula
should have lasted just under three days. The mother said
that one can lasted two weeks to feed both children.
• In rural Mexico, the Philippines, Central America, and
the whole of Africa, there has been a dramatic decrease in
the incidence of breast feeding. Critics blame the decline
largely on the intensive advertising and promotion of infant formula. Clever radio jingles extol the wonders of the
“white man’s powder that will make baby grow and glow.”
“Milk nurses” visit nursing mothers in hospitals and their
homes and provide samples of formula. These activities
encourage mothers to give up breast feeding and resort to
bottle feeding because it is “the fashionable thing to do or
because people are putting it to them that this is the thing
The following points are made in defense of the marketing of baby
formula in Third World countries:
• Nestlé argues that the company has never advocated bottle
feeding instead of breast feeding. All its products carry a
statement that breast feeding is best. The company states
that it “believes that breast milk is the best food for infants
and encourages breast feeding around the world as it has
done for decades.” The company offers as support of this
statement one of Nestlé’s oldest educational booklets on
“Infant Feeding and Hygiene,” which dates from 1913 and
encourages breast feeding.
• However, the company does believe that infant formula
has a vital role in proper infant nutrition as a supplement,
when the infant needs nutritionally adequate and appropriate foods in addition to breast milk, and as a substitute for
breast milk when a mother cannot or chooses not to breast
feed. One doctor reports, “Economically deprived and
thus dietarily deprived mothers who give their children
only breast milk are raising infants whose growth rates
begin to slow noticeably at about the age of three months.
These mothers then turn to supplemental feedings that are
often harmful to children. These include herbal teas and
concoctions of rice water or corn water and sweetened,
condensed milk. These feedings can also be prepared
with contaminated water and are served in unsanitary
• Mothers in developing nations often have dietary deficiencies. In the Philippines, a mother in a poor family who is
nursing a child produces about a pint of milk daily. Mothers
in the United States usually produce about a quart of milk
each day. For both the Filipino and U.S. mothers, the milk
produced is equally nutritious. The problem is that there is
less of it for the Filipino baby. If the Filipino mother doesn’t
augment the child’s diet, malnutrition develops.
• Many poor women in the Third World bottle feed because
their work schedules in fields or factories will not permit
breast feeding. The infant feeding controversy has largely
to do with the gradual introduction of weaning foods during
the period between three months and two years. The average
well-nourished Western woman, weighing 20 to 30 pounds
more than most women in less developed countries, cannot
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feed only breast milk beyond five or six months. The claim
that Third World women can breast feed exclusively for one
or two years and have healthy, well-developed children is
outrageous. Thus, all children beyond the ages of five to six
months require supplemental feeding.
• Weaning foods can be classified as either native cereal
gruels of millet or rice, or commercial manufactured milk
formula. Traditional native weaning foods are usually made
by mixing maize, rice, or millet flour with water and then
cooking the mixture. Other weaning foods found in use are
crushed crackers, sugar and water, and mashed bananas.
• There are two basic dangers to the use of native weaning
foods. First, the nutritional quality of the native gruels is
low. Second, microbiological contamination of the traditional weaning foods is a certainty in many Third World settings. The millet or the flour is likely to be contaminated, the
water used in cooking will most certainly be contaminated,
and the cooking containers will be contaminated; therefore,
the native gruel, even after it is cooked, is frequently contaminated with colon bacilli, staph, and other dangerous
bacteria. Moreover, large batches of gruel are often made
and allowed to sit, inviting further contamination.
• Scientists recently compared the microbiological contamination of a local native gruel with ordinary reconstituted milk
formula prepared under primitive conditions. They found
both were contaminated to similar dangerous levels.
• The real nutritional problem in the Third World is not
whether to give infants breast milk or formula but how
to supplement mothers’ milk with nutritionally adequate
foods when they are needed. Finding adequate locally produced, nutritionally sound supplements to mothers’ milk
and teaching people how to prepare and use them safely
are the issues. Only effective nutrition education along
with improved sanitation and good food that people can
afford will win the fight against dietary deficiencies in the
In 1974, Nestlé, aware of changing social patterns in the developing world and the increased access to radio and television there,
reviewed its marketing practices on a region-by-region basis.
As a result, mass media advertising of infant formula began to
be phased out immediately in certain markets and, by 1978, was
banned worldwide by the company. Nestlé then undertook to carry
out more comprehensive health education programs to ensure that
an understanding of the proper use of their products reached mothers, particularly in rural areas.
“Nestlé fully supports the WHO [World Health Organization]
Code. Nestlé will continue to promote breast feeding and ensure
that its marketing practices do not discourage breast feeding anywhere. Our company intends to maintain a constructive dialogue
with governments and health professionals in all the countries it
serves with the sole purpose of servicing mothers and the health of
babies.” This quote is from “Nestlé Discusses the Recommended
WHO Infant Formula Code.”
In 1977, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in
New York compiled a case against formula feeding in developing
nations, and the Third World Institute launched a boycott against
many Nestlé products. Its aim was to halt promotion of infant
formulas in the Third World. The Infant Formula Action Coalition (INFACT, successor to the Third World Institute), along with
several other world organizations, successfully lobbied the World
Health Organization to draft a code to regulate the advertising and
marketing of infant formula in the Third World. In 1981, by a vote
of 114 to 1 (three countries abstained, and the United States was
the only dissenting vote), 118 member nations of WHO endorsed
a voluntary code. The eight-page code urged a worldwide ban on
promotion and advertising of baby formula and called for a halt
to distribution of free product samples or gifts to physicians who
promoted the use of the formula as a substitute for breast milk.
In May 1981, Nestlé announced it would support the code and
waited for individual countries to pass national codes that would then
be put into effect. Unfortunately, very few such codes were forthcoming. By the end of 1983, only 25 of the 157 member nations of
the WHO had established national codes. Accordingly, Nestlé management determined it would have to apply the code in the absence
of national legislation, and in February 1982, it issued instructions to
marketing personnel that delineated the company’s best understanding of the code and what would have to be done to follow it.
In addition, in May 1982 Nestlé formed the Nestlé Infant Formula Audit Commission (NIFAC), chaired by former Senator
Edmund J. Muskie, and asked the commission to review the company’s instructions to field personnel to determine if they could be
improved to better implement the code. At the same time, Nestlé
continued its meetings with WHO and UNICEF (United Nations
Children’s Fund) to try to obtain the most accurate interpretation
of the code. NIFAC recommended several clarifications for the instructions that it believed would better interpret ambiguous areas
of the code; in October 1982, Nestlé accepted those recommendations and issued revised instructions to field personnel.
Other issues within the code, such as the question of a warning
statement, were still open to debate. Nestlé consulted extensively
with WHO before issuing its label warning statement in October
1983, but there was still not universal agreement with it. Acting on
WHO recommendations, Nestlé consulted with firms experienced
and expert in developing and field testing educational materials, so
that it could ensure that those materials met the code.
When the International Nestlé Boycott Committee (INBC)
listed its four points of difference with Nestlé, it again became
a matter of interpretation of the requirements of the code. Here,
meetings held by UNICEF proved invaluable, in that UNICEF agreed to define areas of differing interpretation—in some
cases providing definitions contrary to both Nestlé’s and INBC’s
It was the meetings with UNICEF in early 1984 that finally led
to a joint statement by Nestlé and INBC on January 25. At that
time, INBC announced its suspension of boycott activities, and
Nestlé pledged its continued support of the WHO code.
NESTLÉ SUPPORTS WHO CODE
The company has a strong record of progress and support in implementing the WHO code, including the following:
• Immediate support for the WHO code, May 1981, and testimony to this effect before the U.S. Congress, June 1981.
• Issuance of instructions to all employees, agents, and
distributors in February 1982 to implement the code in
all Third World countries where Nestlé markets infant
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• Establishment of an audit commission, in accordance with
Article 11.3 of the WHO code, to ensure the company’s compliance with the code. The commission, headed by Edmund
S. Muskie, was composed of eminent clergy and scientists.
• Willingness to meet with concerned church leaders, international bodies, and organization leaders seriously concerned
with Nestlé’s application of the code.
• Issuance of revised instructions to Nestlé personnel, October
1982, as recommended by the Muskie committee to clarify
and give further effect to the code.
• Consultation with WHO, UNICEF, and NIFAC on how to
interpret the code and how best to implement specific provisions, including clarification by WHO/UNICEF of the definition of children who need to be fed breast milk substitutes,
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