Applied learning with Kimberly Clark

Applied Learning Classes are, no doubt, a strength of the Wisconsin MBA program. I have been quite impressed by the caliber of people the Center has brought in for Applied Learnings throughout my two years on campus. For years ahead, I will think back with fondness on the sessions with Scott Cook that kick-off each new school. And this semester we had another session that will stick with me and that I will recall often as I begin my career in Brand Management in just a few short months.

In March, Kimberly Clark came to campus for a Friday Applied Learning class focusing on management of customer relationships. We spend so much time in the Brand Center focusing on consumer insights and consumer relations, and it was a refreshing change to spend a session talking about the importance of the customer relationship.

We engaged in a roll play activity where each group of students represented a manufacturer with a new product to sell into a retailer, and KC employees represented buyers at stores like Wal-Mart and Costco. Pulling on experience from their own customer relationships, the KC team helped the students better understand this complex relationship and the importance of negotiating to achieve a mutually beneficial result.

During the exercise debrief, KC offered constructive feedback to students, including not to be too quick to “give away the farm.” In many cases, they said, students perceived that that retailers were the sole power holders in the negotiating relationship leading to manufacturers relenting to the demands of those retailers or agreeing to very expensive promotional campaigns. KC helped us to remember that while, of course, the retailer does hold significant power in this relationship, so too does the manufacturer.