Practicing Agility in Times of Ambiguity: Marketing Group Conference

Practicing Agility in Times of Ambiguity: Marketing Group Conference

As a Marketing Group co-chair, our plan for the 2021 Booth Marketing Group Conference was to host a dual-modality event, allowing for in-person and virtual attendance. However, as marketers have learned in the past years, things rarely go according to plan. This conference didn’t come together exactly as we’d envisioned, either.

In response to heightened Covid-19 risks at the time, we decided just days before the event to shift to be fully virtual. Really, it was perfect for the conference’s theme, “Agility in Times of Ambiguity.” In a matter of days, we adapted our conference plan to be entirely virtual and, while it wasn’t what we’d envisioned, the result was still a great success.

With our theme, we wanted to encourage participants to consider trends beyond the pandemic, such as consumer expectations, corporate social responsibility, and the rise of the Gen Z consumer. These topics were particularly relevant this year, as the world starts shifting towards the “new normal.” We wanted to give students tools to consider brands beyond the classroom, in their full context, which is often ambiguous and dynamic.

We began the evening with a fireside chat between Tom Duncan, VP of P&G’s Walmart Marketing and Communications, and Art Middlebrooks, renowned Booth Professor and Executive Director of the Kilts Center for Marketing. This discussion highlighted the challenges and rewards of making the “right” socially conscious decisions. Tom’s use of real-world examples, such as the Tide #TurnToCold campaign, illustrated how brands can be relevant and authentic in social initiatives.

With attendance of nearly 75 students, faculty, and company representatives, virtual networking presented a challenge. The Marketing Group Conference always brings valuable opportunities for students to connect with company sponsors alike. This year, we were thrilled to have representatives from Abbott, AbbVie, Ecolab, Kellogg’s, Kraft-Heinz, Molson Coors, PepsiCo, P&G, Tyson, and ZS Associates. We wanted to make sure personal connections were still a priority in networking, despite the online format. By asking students for their preferences and interests beforehand, we were able to assign students to small breakout rooms. With 2-3 students in each room, we created a genuine networking experience online.

Following the networking sessions, we hosted two concurrent panels, which allowed students to engage in more intimate discussions. Both panels addressed generational buying power and how brands evolve with consumers. One panel dove into questions around balancing big data with actionable changes that put the consumer first. It was moderated by Professor Krohn and featured Jill Stewart, Director of Innovation Lab at Tyson Foods; Ashley Becker, Sr. Director of Ecommerce Strategy & Media at Kraft-Heinz; and Neil Ramchandani, Senior Director of Marketing at Ecolab. 

The other panel tackled questions of how to adapt large, legacy brands to fit the needs of younger consumers. Meenakshi Dash, Senior Associate Director of Career Management at Booth, moderated this panel, which featured Zena Arnold, Chief Digital & Marketing Officer at Kimberly-Clark; Anuj Bhasin, VP of Marketing/GM on PepsiCo’s Gatorade Protein & Fitness Brands; and Denise Campbell, Head of Immunology Consumer Marketing at AbbVie. 

Being a Marketing Group co-chair has been immensely rewarding. My fellow co-chairs and I work constantly to give students the best opportunities to connect and learn from the Booth marketing community and beyond. This year’s conference went above and beyond in creating these connections. I only hope I’ll be lucky enough to attend in future years. We all know marketing is always evolving, just like this conference surely will. 

This year’s conference went above and beyond in creating connections.

The Kilts Center for Marketing supports student group events and hosts events and programs throughout the academic year that showcase the breadth and depth of marketing skills across job functions and industries. Learn more about the Kilts Center and stay up to date on Booth marketing community news, successes, and events by following the Kilts Center on LinkedIn.