G MangatOur first Applied Learning of the year started out something like this:

MIKE JUDGE: Okay everyone, welcome to our first of many Applied Learnings. We’re delighted to have Dave Schaff here from WhiteWave Foods. We’re going to start with a shop-along at some local grocery stores and then circle back to discuss the results. Find your groups and your store and be back here in 90 minutes.

And with that, we were off.

It was our last week of orientation, and for our first Applied Learning, we were jumping right in. I don’t really remember what my expectations were, but owning to the non-stop nature of Orientation week, I was looking forward to “slowing things down a bit” with our first Applied Learning. Funny thing was, there was nothing ‘slow’ about it.

Our Applied Learning with WhiteWave Foods gave us the unique opportunity to shop along with Wendy, a 40-something single mother and part-time accountant. Our small group of four went with her to HyVee on the West Side of Madison where we watched her shop, asked questions, and tried to understand her buying process specifically as it related to coffee creamers. I’m not a big coffee drinker, so I was as surprised as anyone to realize how something seemingly trivial (like the color of the lid, for example) could have a big impact on a purchase decision. That was just one of many insights I gleaned over the semester.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Applied Learnings would give me ample opportunity to integrate classroom theory with real-world problems. Next up was Hollister, an employee-owned healthcare-products company that gave us the chance to work through a fascinating case study in which we wanted to maximize market share with two distinct brands within the same category. It was a radically different product and marketing challenge. I learned about the specific marketing challenges involved with a very specific, very sensitive product category.

From there, we had a great session with DISH Network where we were able to take on the role of the Brand Manager and learn about the creative review process. We learned how to write and execute against a creative brief, and had the chance to pitch our recommendations to a mock Managing Director.

With SC Johnson, we were given the unique opportunity to work through a case study involving Ziploc’s new Space Saver Bags with CBPM alums Matteo Garcia and Terry Goins, among others. It was great to work alongside second years and hear the great ideas and strategies our class came up with. My personal favorite was a strategy which involved having a branded Ziploc truck make its way around to various University Campuses during move in week. Genius!

As a fitting capstone, our last Applied Learning of the semester was with P&G, where we worked through an interesting real-time marketing case study involving Dawn®. It was an eye opening experience, and again, hearing from the other groups in addition to receiving feedback was incredibly insightful.

In all, the Applied Learnings this semester were fun, interactive and most importantly, relevant. I want to thank everyone who came and made our Applied Learnings such a resounding success. I think I speak for the entire Class of 2017 when I say it was time well spent.