Natalie RandallAs you all know (being alumni of our program), one of the best features of our Center for Brand and Product Management is that we have an amazing Board of Executives that we have the opportunity to meet with twice a year.  Not only is this a great chance to network with senior management from prestigious companies, its also a fun day where we get to hear a variety of guest speakers present on various topics.

This year our first speaker was none other than Dean Francois of the Wisconsin School of Business, who spoke to us about the exciting things that are going on in our school today as well as his vision for the future.  One thing that I found particularly interesting was how one of his colleagues described the concept of our “Centers” to him: pools of trusted relationships between the school and the business community.  This way of framing things up really exemplifies how the centers truly are the way in which we interact with key businesses, learn from our alumni, and establish networking relationships with each other.  Dean Francois ended his presentation by posing two questions he’d like help answering in regards to the future of the CPBM: 1) How can we help the undergrad experience and 2) How do we increase engagement with our recent alumni?  For the recent alumni out there… any suggestions?

Dean Francois

Our second speaker was Ekaterina Walter, who has recently written two books: “Think Like Zuck” and “Power of Visual Storytelling.”  Her presentation revolved around the latter book and pushed us to think about how we can engage with consumers through storytelling techniques.  She said the way you buy brand love is by adding value to your customers but also by entertaining them.  A few ideas she gave were: show them the behind the scenes view of your brand, find fun occasions to celebrate with consumers (e.g. Emoji day), respond to critics creatively (e.g. Reese’s misshaped Christmas tree debacle), and more.

Ekaterina Walter

Our last presenter, Shawn Dennis, is our board member from Dreamworks Entertainment.  Building on the theme of storytelling, she spoke to us about the human story adoption process and how consumers use other stories to tell their own story.  The first step in the process is “Inspire,” when consumers are inspired by the first story that is told (whether from a brand, storyteller, etc).  Second is “Experience,” when consumers use a story for an experience (e.g. LARPing).  Third is “Badge,” when consumers declare their membership to a group by wearing t-shirts with logos or pictures or hanging posters in their rooms.  Last is “Gather,” when consumers self-select and become advocates for the brand by attending events, becoming collectors or joining clubs.

Shawn Dennis

Our board meeting was wrapped up by a few of our first years telling us about the amazing trip to China they took this January, thanks in part to our amazing board!  Again, we are very lucky to have such generous, dedicated board members that are willing to provide funding, connections, and advice to us.

China Trip