by Erin Strepy (Class of ’15)
This April, The Center for Brand and Product Management (CBPM) hosted the annual Spring Advisory Board Meeting. These semi-annual meetings serve many purposes. First, they give students a chance to interact with leaders in the consumer packaged goods industry and to learn more about the companies that the board members represent. They also give the group a chance to learn about relevant marketing topics. Networking with top executives and learning from top researchers in the industry, who isn’t already very impressed? But more than these benefits, the Advisory Board Meeting should be noted as a defining characteristic that is unique to the CBPM program and likely unparalleled by another other graduate school in terms of the quality of content and networking opportunities. Speaking of content, this past meeting was the best board meeting that I have experienced in my 17 months with the program because the content was so interesting and relevant to our careers.
The meeting kicked off with a dinner on Thursday night, which was followed by a full day of presentations on Friday. The morning session was lead by Lindsey Pollak, a Millennial Workplace Expert and New York Times Best Selling Author. She spoke to us about how to better understand Millennials and other generational cohorts for improved marketing and managerial decision-making. As marketers, we have all either participated in or lead discussions on Millennials, but Pollak’s presentation was unique because she incorporated historical events and human psychology to help us better understand why the cohorts are different and how that is relevant and important to marketers. Despite learning a lot of information that I will undoubtedly apply in my future career, I now have the cold hard facts about why I am incapable of going anywhere or doing anything without my smart phone. I can’t wait to share these facts with my mom this summer when she yells at me for “only paying attention to electronic devices.”
Anyways, as if we weren’t already super impressed by Pollak’s presentation, the post lunch speaker was none other than Aaron Kennedy. Kennedy is the founder of Noodles & Company and CMO of the State of Colorado. Yes, you heard me correctly, I said Noodles & Company (cue salivation and day dreams of ooey gooey Wisconsin Mac & Cheese). Good thing we had just eaten lunch because if we hadn’t stomachs would be growling. Actually, not really, because Kennedy focused on his role in leading the development of a new marketing campaign for the state of Colorado. Yikes! I am neither capable of nor have time to give you the full recap of the presentation, but what I can tell you about is his biggest challenge in the process. Any guesses? Well, it was getting the buy-in and approval from not only state politicians, but also all those Colorado residents that have an opinion about what their state stands for and how it should be marketed. Fast forward to the end of the presentation when he talked about successfully creating a new identity and set of brand guidelines. I mean, I was not surprised by his success; if he can found the best fast causal noodle company in the country then I have no doubt in his ability to accomplish the impossible, including rebranding an entire state.
It was a sad realization when my last Advisory Board meeting as a student ended. However, thinking back on the meetings now, I feel less of a sad sentiment and more so privileged to have experienced four unique and valuable meetings in my time here. The learnings that I gained throughout these meetings not only served me well in my internship with Unilever last summer, but will continue to be learnings that I use in my career as an Assistant Brand Manager. I see them as experiences that define my education at the Wisconsin School of Business, which will help me add value to any team that I am working with and any brand that I am working on. Furthermore, now understanding the value of being informed about new marketing trends, topics, and research, I will likely start looking for ways to participate in these learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Let’s be honest though, given my Millennial mindset, they will probably come in the form of a Ted Talk or Podcast that is being played on one of my many electronic devices.
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