Monday, November 30, 2015

2015 McCombs MBA Marketing Conference Brings Whole-Brained Insights to Students

By Natalie Quinn, MBA Class of 2016

View the event through the eyes of social media.

On October 29-30, the Texas MBA program hosted its annual marketing conference at the McCombs School of Business. Sponsored by the Center for Customer Insight and Marketing Solutions (CCIMS) in conjunction with the Graduate Marketing Network and the CCIMS Marketing Fellows student organizations, the event focused on uniting quantitative and qualitative skills to engage in “whole-brained marketing.”

Over the conference’s two days, attendees heard from marketing experts in the digital, CPG, financial services, technology, and academic fields. First-year students also had the opportunity to present their work on a case challenge that asked them to develop a plan for engaging millennial Walmart grocery consumers via the Pinterest platform.

The Thursday evening sessions of the conference kicked off with three TED-style talks about marketing. Marissa Jarratt, Senior Director of PepsiCo’s Global Marketing Program Office, discussed whole-brained marketing approaches in emerging markets and introduced the “Four As Framework,” which focuses on applicability, availability, affordability, and affinity. She then provided a case study from PepsiCo’s own work in Asia with the Sting energy drink.

Award-winning author and speaker Erik Qualman followed Ms. Jarratt with remarks describing the 5 habits of digital leaders. Summarizing them with the acronym STAMP, Mr. Qualman explained that those who excel in the digital space practice simplicity, share truth, act with agility, follow a map, and care about people. Implementing the STAMP approach to digital allows brands and influencers to leverage word of mouth by putting this method of sharing on the steroids of social platforms.                 
The final TED-style speaker was Todd Darroca, a marketing thought leader from Austin-based IT company Spiceworks. Acknowledging that “content is king,” Mr. Darroca outlined the importance of content development and content mapping in order to connect with the right consumers at the most opportune times. He concluded by emphasizing that conversion-driving content speaks to a company’s business objective while also giving a reader a reason to care.

After the TED talks concluded, Seth Gaffney of Preacher, an Austin ad agency, and Matt Stuart of Main Street Hub, an Austin analytics firm, faced off in a moderated debate pitting creativity against data. After weighing in on questions like “Is big data creating a creative deficit?” and “What’s the role for creativity and data in building a brand?”, Mr. Gaffney and Mr. Stuart ultimately agreed that while human creativity is more closely tied to action, data can validate and inform the creative steps a brand or organization can take.

Following a networking reception and sit-down dinner, conference attendees then had the privilege of hearing from Kip Knight, President of H&R Block’s U.S. Retail Operations. Mr. Knight shared experiences from his varied marketing career, which has included roles managing businesses in the CPG, fast food, e-commerce, and consulting spaces. He also outlined 3 principles for modern marketers and 7 tips for McCombs marketing students. 

Mr. Knight encouraged students to identify their wildly important goals (WIGs), always ask “What if?”, and learn to “zag” when others zig. After discussing his own experiences working with both Crown Maple and H&R Block to tackle specific brand challenges, Mr. Knight closed his remarks with the following 7 recommendations:
• Always be learning
• Develop relationships
• Don’t play not to lose; play to win
• Bring people with you
• See the world through your customers’ eyes
• Be true to yourself
• Enjoy the ride

The next morning, first-year students arrived bright and early to compete in the preliminary rounds of the conference’s marketing case challenge. Not even heavy rain and a subsequent tornado warning could dampen the students’ enthusiasm for sharing with judges their teams’ recommendations on enhancing Walmart's connection with potential millennial consumers via Pinterest activations. As the final round of the case challenge began, other conference attendees participated in two workshops.

Winning Challenge Team
The first workshop, presented by Justin Freels and Frannie Makabenta of Tableau, focused on data visualization. Mr. Freels and Ms. Makabenta discussed the opportunities that visualization tools like Tableau create for putting the power of data comprehension into anyone’s hands. Professor Art Markman of the UT-Austin Psychology Department then discussed how marketing leaders can help people be more creative in the workplace by leveraging group memory in the ideation process.

All conference participants from both the case challenge and workshops then convened for a final keynote lunch featuring Peter Horst, CMO of The Hershey Company. Mr. Horst reminded attendees that whole-brained marketing combines both the “think” and “feel” components of business strategy. After sharing examples from Ameritrade, Capital One, and Hershey’s Kisses and Jolly Rancher brands, Horst concluded his remarks by suggesting that whole-brained marketers always abide by the following principles:
• Lead with hypotheses
• Integrate and iterate
• Be skeptical
• Be bold
• Position powerfully
• Have fun

Peter Horst, CMO of The Hershey Company

Reflecting on their experiences at the conference, students agreed that the speakers’ topics and case challenge allowed them to experience the necessity of a whole-brained approach firsthand. Second-year student Judy Kuo noted that Professor Markman’s creative ideation workshop afforded her a new perspective on problem-solving by demonstrating “that everyone has the potential to generate ideas if allowed to think about and tackle a problem with their own devices.” First-year student Matt Giorgis added this observation about his experience while working on the case: “What resonated most with me was the feedback my team was able to receive from multiple judges coming from a wide range of industries.” This breadth of feedback and knowledge gained combined to facilitate yet another year of challenge and conference success for this annual CCIMS event.

Marketing Conference & Challenge Committee