Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The City of Medicine: Attending the 2014 Brand Management & Marketing Diversity Forum

Hello All,

Last week, I was able to visit Durham in North Carolina, USA. Durham is also known as the 'Bull City' and the 'City of Medicine.'

The Bull City
During the civil war, as Durham was neutral during the truce, a small tobacco factory owned by J. R. Green (a tobacco peddler) was ransacked of its entire contents by both sides, and Green thought he was ruined. When the thousands of soldiers returned to their homes all across the United States, they wrote to Durham’s Station for more tobacco, and Green—and Durham’s—tobacco boom was off and running. When all the orders came pouring in, Green realized he needed a specific name and trademark for his product and the Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco was therefore born and with it the name of the city.

The City of Medicine
Today, healthcare is a major industry in Durham including more than 300 medical and health-related companies and medical practices with a combined payroll that exceeds $1.2 billion annually which is why it is now known as USA's 'City of Medicine.'

The Travel
I was happy to see that I could visit Durham via a one-stop transit from Bombay via London using British Airways (BA). I am beginning to grow fond of BA solely due to their increasingly excellent connections from India with nearly perfect transit times. Their service levels still have a long way to go. I reached Bombay airport and was shocked to see that there was not a single trolley available. I had to walk till the end of the terminal to be finally able to find a stray trolley. No wonder the airport has not made it into the world's 100 best airports list (Hyderabad ranks 68). Once inside however, I really liked the fact that post check-in, they had an exclusive security queue for oneworld Sapphire members which is missing at the Hyderabad airport. Time to board. Unfortunately, BA still uses it's older generation Boeing 777-200 fleet from Bombay where as their flights from Hyderabad now use the slick new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner fleet. The flight from London to Durham was a oneworld code share with American Airlines (AA) and AA was using a real antiquated Boeing 767-300 which had no personal in-flight entertainment and this was a 8hrs 40min flight!

I stayed at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club which turned out to be a lovely hotel. The room had bath and body products from Gilchrist & Soames London!

Purpose of the Visit
I was in Durham to attend the JumpStart 2014 Brand Management & Marketing Diversity Forum. MBA JumpStart is a targeted forum through which marketing, consulting and financial services firms can identify, educate and recruit diverse talent at top-tier MBA programs. The forum is today considered the premier annual experience in the USA focused on providing exceptional MBA students entering their first year of MBA in the USA with the tools, resources, insights and access to be successful in these highly competitive fields.

I was elated to know that in its 10 year history, I am the first ever Babson student to be selected for the Diversity Forum!

For the 2014 Forum, approximately 95 students were selected overall and students from the following business schools made it through: Anderson (UCLA), Austin, Babson, Booth (Univ. of Chicago), Carey (John Hopkins), Columbia, Darden (Univ. of Virginia), Freeman (Tulane), Fuqua (Duke), Goizueta (Emory), Haas (UC Berkeley), Harvard, Johnson (Cornell), Kelley (Indiana), Kellogg, Kenan-Flagler (Univ. of North Carolina), Kranhert (Purdue), Olin (Washington Univ. St. Louis), Pepperdine, Ross (Univ. of Michigan), Simon (Univ. of Rochester), Sloan (MIT), Stern (NYU), Tuck (Darthmouth), Univ. of Illinois, Univ. of Miami, Univ. of Wisconsin, USC, Wharton and Yale.

Day 1
The day began with a Brand Management 101 session from Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Given that the J&J family today contains at least 230 subsidiaries from ASP to Vistakon and innumerable products from Acuvue to Zyrtec, we could not have had a better brand management session. We studied the business challenges of brand management in large conglomerates such as J&J along with how to execute strategies while leveraging cross-functional teams. Next was a case study from ConAgra in which we studied how Reddi-wip has increased its market share through the years and how it adapted to various challenges, changing times and habits. The case study was primarily focused on how marketing was used to increase market share, influence and change consumer behaviour. Post this we had a competitive advantage workshop. It was great that each session contained team exercises and team brainstorming sessions which enabled us to get in touch with each other. We also had a session with Procter and Gamble (P&G).

Dinner was hosted by Scott Creighton who is a VP at J&J followed by the kick-off reception.

Oh and we got goodie bags from J&J and Sephora! The J&J bag had Listerine PocketPaks Breath Strips, Aveena daily mosturizing lotions, Flexible fabric Band-Aids, Visine Redness Relief drops, Essential First-Aid Kit and Neosporin antibiotic pain-relief ointment where as the Sephora bag had Eshu Skin Assist Face Wash for men and for the women, Formula X Press Pods and three other products and I have no clue what they are.

Day 2 and Day 3
The day began with a working breakfast in which Walmart made us go through a case study around big data and exposed us to the business challenges and opportunities of understanding and leveraging big data. This was followed by a store visit to Walgreens and Costco where we studied product placement, consumer behaviour and the relationship between a retailer and the brand manager. The store visits were fun as a couple of times we were studying product placements and a customer would come by to shop from the aisle and then like five of us along with the store manager and company rep would be observing them to see what they behaviour looks like and what they end up picking up and whether our studies come through and when the customer finally went to pick up an item and we wait and watched with bated breath and the customer would go like ok did I do something wrong? We also got a goodie bag from Walgreens.

We then headed to the Fuqua School of Business for a case study hosted by P&G in which we studied how P&G was losing business for their brands' unit dose laundry detergents to a competitor and how it won back its market share while ensuring their marketing does not cannibalize into the company's other liquid based laundry detergents.

The fun part was for all the case studies, we were given the problem with backgrounds on the financial situation, R&D situation etc, asked to work out the solution on our own and we then studied how the company handled the same in reality.

We than had a session with Baxter which was focused on healthcare marketing and the changing landscape of healthcare followed by a 'Brand Manager for a Day' session in which we went through real life scenarios of a J&J brand manager and worked on presentations for the scenarios presented to us. The day ended with a networking social.

The final day we had a recruiting session in which all the companies shared their best practices, criteria for decision making etc.

The Experience

The sessions above were fantastic and showed what a dynamic industry marketing and brand management is which made me appreciate the digital advertising offerings and in specific Google's advertising offerings even more. For every case study, I was thinking how Google's/DoubleClick's/LinkedIn's etc solutions fit into the larger ecosystem and how Google could have effectively helped each of the brands achieve their desired objectives in the case studies above. Through my conversations with the company reps and better understanding their digital marketing strategy, I realized that both the companies and Google were missing out on ample opportunity and that each could learn from the other and create a symbiotic relationship to bring about even more innovations in advertising and this makes me very positive about the future of our industry.

I really enjoyed the networking events and the different people I got to meet. From an Armed Forces veteran who has seen action in Afghanistan to a Victoria's Secret marketing manager, from Anderson to Yale, students from different B-Schools with different perspectives. I would say that meeting fellow students was the most invigorating part of the event and this makes me excited about the new world I am about to enter and the opportunity that lies before me to turn mirrors into windows.

To interesting times ahead!