Collaboration Junction – What’s your Function?

I wish I could take credit for this title, but either Jonlee or Ray came up with it. This was, indeed, the actual title of our Wednesday afternoon session.

I guess one should never accuse Jonlee or Ray of lacking personality.

We spent Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning going through the blocking and tackling of leadership: giving and receiving good feedback.

Let’s face it; this is an extremely important topic. It is hard to give constructive feedback and it certainly isn’t easy to receive criticism.

We had two role play exercises in which one person gave feedback, another received it, and a third person observed.

The first exercise involved a Brand Manager speaking with an Assistant Brand Manager about improving their performance.

The second exercise, building off our Whirlpool talk, involved an Assistant Brand Manager telling a Creative Director that it would not be possible to add a suggested product feature.

Consciously or not, we all exposed an area of opportunity regarding our current managing technique (see how I didn’t say “weakness” :)).

And that’s a great point on which to end. We basically spent the week developing our leadership, marketing, and inter/intrapersonal skills so that we can come back to Bloomington in the fall with an offer in hand……….

Ok, it’s Spring Break. Enjoy!

Mike Hardman

@Intellagirl in the House

The times are a changing and I’m feeling better. While traditional advertising media may not become obsolete, they certainly have to make room for newer, social media.

Indiana University’s Director of Emerging Technology, Sarah Smith-Robbins showed us why she is an expert in the field. And, oh yeah, she goes by the name Intellagirl.

We talked about the Ok Go viral video, which by breakfast time had over 850,000 views. By lunch time, it had 1.5 million views. Yup, the day-of launch.

Other topics addressed included RSS Feeds, Twitter, Personal/ Professional Websites, Blogs, Google Alerts, and social bookmarking (e.g. delicious).

But the main point: BUILD YOUR ONLINE BRAND!

How can you claim to be marketing savvy and up-to-date on current trends if you are not involved in them?

How can you expect experts to give you the time of day if you, yourself, are not contributing to the online community?

Like it or not, social media is part of the marketing mix. It doesn’t have to be everything, but you’ve gotta speak the language.

Speaking of which, you can find me on Twitter @mikhardman

Understanding Retailer Motivation

As if to pay homage to tomorrow’s social media lecture, I actually listened to Jonlee’s Tuesday afternoon lecture from the comfort of my own apartment via Skype.

My head cold progressed a bit and between needing rest and not wanting to infect anyone, I thought it would be a good idea. While Skype has been around for a while, I was floored as to how well it works. I felt like I was in the room with everyone.

Jonlee walked us through ways to work with retailers. Remember, if you work for a CPG you might market directly to a consumer.

But, the consumer still buys the product in a retail outlet. So, the CPG has to find ways to motivate the retailer too.

We learned about what retailers expect from CPGs and performance measurements they use.

GMROI? Well, that’s merely Gross Margin Return on Investment.

We also further talked about slotting fees, end cap space, in-store promotions, and retailer margins.

Oh, and by the way, make sure you take M537 Retailer Channel Management at some point after the Core……

Mike Hardman

Working With People Far More Creative than I

Our morning guest speaker was Eric Bauchet, Marketing Director at Whirlpool (Gladiator Brand).

He gave us a great talk on how to work with ad agencies and their creative personnel, something many of us will be doing this summer at our internships.

He walked us through a creative brief, basically the cornerstone for every advertising project. He also helped us identify potential sources of conflict when working with very passionate and artistic individuals.

Do you want someone on your team that will have a brilliant idea enter his/her head at 2 a.m. and then work furiously to flush it out until 8 a.m.?

Of course you do.

But what happens if you don’t like the idea or it is not consistent with your marketing objective?

How do you communicate that to a “creative” while not discouraging them from being as passionate going forward?

It is certainly a fine line to walk and something with which we will all need to practice this summer.

Eric Bauchet explained to us that it wasn’t enough for an ad to be memorable, viewers (and specifically viewers interested in buying that product) needed to be able to tie the ad to the company that made it.

He closed by having us all group up and take a look at real print advertisements. Our goal was to work backwards and re-write the creative brief that led to the ads.

It certainly was a stimulating exercise and a great morning session that taught us a lot.

Mike Hardman

Making Your 2nd Year a Vacation: Converting the Summer Internship to a Full-Time Offer

It seems like for the past 7 months we’ve been networking and talking ourselves up and trying to woo companies into giving us internships.

As the summer approaches and interview season is winding down, our focus as MBAs shifts. We are no longer prioritizing talking the talk, but will soon need to walk the walk.

Specifically, we actually have to do a good job at the internships that we’ve landed.

In case the process is new to you, one of the major motivations for doing a good job at a summer internship is receiving a full-time offer.

This offer is given at the end of your internship (so, summer 2010) and commences upon graduation in May 2011. Yes, you can actually know what you are doing after graduation before your 2nd year as an MBA even begins!

Ray and Jonlee led a very informative and humorous discussion of what to do and what NOT to do at our summer internships.

If I had to crassly summarize I’d say: take charge, lead confidently, get to know people, show humility, get results, be a sponge, and lay off the sauce.

Besides the various networking and project management tips, it was also encouraging to know that either Ray or Jonlee are accessible throughout the summer in case we need real-time advice.

As nerve-wracking as this can be, I definitely feel as if support and guidance is right behind me.

Mike Hardman

I Give You My Blessing......

Academy Week started off with an incredible speaker, Ralph Blessing, EVP of GfK Group. GfK is a very large market research firm (#4 worldwide).

Ralph talked about how you can have the best strategic marketing platforms in the world and still miss an insight.

What would you do if all of your focus group research told you that your customers were trying to cut back on their sugar intake?

You would take out the sugar, right? And, you’d scream it from the rooftops!

But, what if you then saw a decline in sales? How could this be?

Because sometimes customers don’t know what they don’t know. And in this case, it’s that sometimes when you take out sugar, the product no longer tastes good. And that is still very important!

We also had a very interactive portion to our time with Ralph.

After learning about four key customer motivators: wellness, safety, gratification, and convenience, we developed a new product using these motivators.

It was a quick service restaurant (think “fast food”). And we spent a ton of time developing potential benefits and ranking them based on which ones would resonate most with customers.

While fun to brainstorm, it is certainly not an easy task.

In the end, we came up with a new Mediterranean/tapas bar where people can spend less than $10 and get service in less than 10 minutes.

Is this the greatest idea? Who knows? But it’s certainly good enough to get me in the mood for lunch!

Mike Hardman

Academy Week Part Deux: The Sequel w/o a Bus

It seems like only yesterday we were starting Academy Week #1 and I had a head cold. We’ll have to do some funky regression analysis because it’s Academy Week #2 and I have another head cold. Well, as they say in the military “head colds are a sign of knowledge entering the body”.

Unlike our first Academy Week, which was a whirlwind tour of the Midwest, we get to hang out in Bloomington the entire time. As much as AW1 provided us with tons of knowledge and cushy hotels, I think we’re all happy to have “home games” this week.

Whereas AW1 was about exposing us to a broad range of industries where marketing is prevalent, AW2 is about preparation for the summer internship.

We’ll cover topics such as: 1) key aspects of consumer marketing, 2) preparing for the summer project(s) we’ll all be leading, and 3) learning how to navigate the company’s culture safely (HINT: Don’t get drunk and tell off a VP on the first day).

Mike Hardman