Facilitating a Virtual Marketing Group Conference

Facilitating a Virtual Marketing Group Conference

This year has required adjustment and flexibility not just from people, but also events. The 2020 Booth Marketing Conference was no exception. For the first time ever, the Booth Marketing Group organized a fully virtual Marketing Conference.

From organizing the event with my fellow Marketing Group co-chairs to listening to the panelists’ stories, this year’s event was an amazing learning experience. The planning for a virtual conference brought unique challenges, and we wanted to make sure we created an agenda that was engaging and valuable for attendees. Thinking innovatively on how to find this balance made planning for this event a rewarding experience. The main goal of the conference is for Booth students to learn about marketing trends and insights directly from successful marketing leaders. The topic of this year’s conference, Go-to-Market Strategies for Entrants & Incumbents, was particularly relevant in 2020, given all of the challenges marketing leaders faced this year due to Covid-19 and racial unrest in the United States.

Our Marketing Group members have a wide range of career path interests, including some interested in working at an early stage company while others are drawn instead to well-established companies. Our goal was to create an event that appealed to our members’ interests regardless of their target career path. We wanted students to get a sense of some of the real-life challenges business leaders face at various stages of a company’s lifecycle.

Every year at the conference, Booth marketing students are able to engage directly with companies and their representatives. As students network and explore if a marketing career is the right fit for them, the Marketing Group wanted to make sure that this year’s virtual conference gave students that same opportunity. We were honored to have representatives from Kellogg’s, Abbott, Ecolab, Beam Suntory, P&G, PepsiCo, and Kraft Heinz available to network with students. Taking advantage of the virtual structure, we wanted to create breakout rooms with no more than four students per company rep to give the students the opportunity to really get to know their companies of interest and their reps. To that end, prior to the event, we asked all students to rank the companies that they wanted to network with during the networking sessions so that we could match them together for fruitful conversations.

As the first of three networking session concluded, we transitioned into our first panel of the night, Go-To-Market Strategies for Entrants. For this amazing panel, we had Amir Badr, CEO of Upkey, Jamie Rubenstein, Brand Manager at Simple Mills, and Jim Murray, President of RXBar. We were also lucky to have Brad Shapiro, Chicago Booth Associate Professor of Marketing, moderate the panel. The engaging and candid conversation focused on how 2020 had impacted their respective companies and their key learnings.

Our next panel on Go-To-Market Strategies for Incumbents, was moderated by Marketing Group Co-Chair, Colleen Casey. The panel included Johnni Rodgers, CEO of Wet Noses, Carolyn Braff, Brand Marketing Director for Gatorade, Ashley Becker, Director of eCommerce at Kraft Heinz, and Steve Belfiglio, Brand Manager of House Suntory. They gave us perspective on how working at larger companies brings a different set of challenges when bringing products to market. A key takeaway was that a marketer shouldn’t innovate for the sake of innovating. Every decision should have the end consumer in mind.

Our keynote speaker for the evening was Jacques Hagopian, SVP of P&G Brand Operations and Brand Capability. He engaged in a lively conversation with Art Middlebrooks, Executive Director of the Kilts Center for Marketing. The discussion helped attendees understand the social responsibility that we as marketers have with brands and how mission-driven marketing is the key to developing long-term trust among consumers.

I became a Marketing Group co-chair with the goal of helping shape the experience for marketers at Chicago Booth. Being able to organize the signature event for the Booth Marketing Group allowed me to do exactly that and was a highlight of my business school career. I’m hopeful about the future impact Boothies pursuing marketing will make on the world throughout their careers. I am excited to see what direction next year’s co-chairs take this event in as well!