Accounting and Economics and Strategy, oh my!

If you’re not familiar with my Wizard of Oz reference above, here is a link to help you.

This past week has been a little hectic…and this is only the beginning.  I’m surprised I even managed to get a blog post published last week.

I’m enjoying all of my classes, but it is a lot of information to process in such a short timeframe.  I’m typically on campus from 8:45 am until 3 pm.  I eat lunch at 3 and if I have no after-school activities or group work, I head home to begin reading and studying for the next day.  But it is rare that I’m home before 6 or 7 pm.  Term 1 is full of “core” classes which are meant to give us a global perspective of business, focusing on foundational elements such as financial accounting and strategy.

This week’s coursework has been a little stressful, but it also included my favorite class thus far: Communication Skills!  I know what you’re thinking, “But Rachel, how can presenting in front of a class be so fun?  It is so awkward!”  Well, I will tell you what makes it fun: our instructor is from CNN and my classmates are from all different cultures.  This combination makes for a very interesting and fun class.

Our instructor, Lola Martínez, has worked at CNN for 12 years and she has all of the skills to prove it.  She teaches us techniques and then we can see those techniques come to life with 1-minute presentations that she assigns to random students in class.  (side note – the entire class critiques the one who presents…talk about pressure!)

Lola Martinez, CNN

Lola Martinez, CNN

We have only had a few sessions, but we’ve already seen the shiest student come out of their shell and another student captivate us by simply standing at the front of the classroom.  Public speaking is such an awkward and vulnerable activity, but I love that I’m experiencing it in this environment.  We are all so different from each other, so in a strange way I feel more comfortable and less judged than I did in my undergraduate communication class.  I feel like I saw some of my peers in a different way this week and for that, I’m thankful.

I also feel like I have a lot to contribute to this class.  So aside from the learning, I feel that I can help my group improve which is not something that I can do with accounting.  For example, we were discussing Hans Rosling and his ability to break down complex data into simple stories that anyone can understand.  After all, we will always speak to an audience that has a mix of right brain and left brain folks, a mix of visual, listening and feeling-type learners.  By creating a story, you can help the entire audience understand your presentation.  Coming from a creative company, I completely understand this dynamic.  You have meetings where numbers are important, but you have people in those meetings that would learn more from something more emotional.  Not to mention that I worked with people who are remarkable story tellers.  They set the bar pretty high.

Here’s a snippet from one of Bill Gates’ TedX presentations where he used a prop to evoke some emotion in the audience.  How would you feel if you were in that audience? Bill Gates just tells you about mosquitos carrying malaria and then he releases mosquitos into the room!  He was trying to show that a huge population lives with that fear every day and I think he got that message across quite clearly.

This past weekend involved a lot of sleeping and many hours spent studying at campus, but I felt well rested and prepared for my day of classes today.  I did have a short adventure yesterday evening which I’ll write about in a separate post.

I just returned home from two back-to-back presentations on campus which were fabulous!  Through IE’s vast global network, there are approximately 1 to 5 talks each week around various topics.  I don’t attend all of them, but I do my best to attend the ones that interest me the most.

The first guest speaker this evening was José María Álvarez-Pallete, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Telefónica.  Telefónica is one of the largest broadband and telecommunications companies in the world and it is headquartered in Spain.  He shared with us the trends and demands in telecom over the past decade as well as the expansion of Telefónica in Latin America.  I know very little about the telecom sector, but he shared a lot of insights on how consumers are connecting across Europe and Latin America which I found very interesting.

The next presentation was organized by a group of Marketing and Emerging Markets students at IE.  We welcomed three brand and marketing experts from Brazil to share with us a snapshot of Brazilian consumer behavior and current market trends.  Why Brazil?  You can read all about Brazil as an “emerging market” here.  The speakers come from some pretty big brands: Natura, Havaianas, and Kraft Foods.  Natura and Havaianas are Brazilian brands that have expanded internationally, but Kraft is an American brand which has been growing market share in Brazil in certain food segments.

The person from Kraft (or Mondeléz) worked in marketing and product management for several Kraft brands and helped launch a campaign for Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  She explained that Kraft entered Brazil through a joint venture with Sadia (a Brazilian food company), because even though joint ventures are rare for Kraft, it was one of the only ways help ensure a successful entrance into Brazil.  And Brazilians had a completely different frame of reference for cream cheese than consumers in the U.S.   So the team in Brazil had to adjust the marketing strategy from the U.S. to the consumers in Brazil.  Simply lifting the angel commercial into Portuguese wasn’t growing sales of cream cheese.  Not only were consumers lacking a connection with the brand, the commercial made cream cheese appear expensive and special…not an everyday item.  So they revamped their marketing strategy to show consumers the many uses of cream cheese as an ingredient within everyday life situations.  The campaign includes many things in addition to commercials, but I won’t go into too much detail…check out the commercial below.

Another presenter comes from Havaianas.  Although Havaianas aren’t common in the Midwest, they’ve taken off around the globe.  These sandals were born in 1962 in Brazil and were targeted to low-income consumers.  They are very cheap and very simple flip flops.  In fact, the Brazilian government used to regulate the price of Havaianas back in the day because they were considered similar to a commodity such as rice!  That blows my mind.  In the 70’s and 80’s, growth was steady and after revitalizing the brand in ’93, Brazilians of all ages and income levels began wearing them.  Although they don’t pay for celebrity endorsements, celebrities are constantly spotted sporting Havaianas which just adds to their global popularity.  And they’ve done a lot with their brand to stay current and innovative such as new product formats, trendy designs, build-your-own store concept, etc.  Fun fact: Havaianas has some of the biggest production in the world…10 pairs every second!  Fun fact #2: Approximately 190 million out of 200 million Brazilians own Havaianas.  That is nearly one pair per person!  I’m not surprised that Brazilians are so proud of this brand.  Check out this commercial.  And it has English subtitles, so no excuses!

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One Response to Accounting and Economics and Strategy, oh my!

  1. Elias says:

    Love your blogs, Rachel! I feel like I’m getting a free education here! 🙂

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