The Importance of Brands and Self-Reflection
By Maria McKay and Ashley Walker, Telfer MBA candidates
Sunday, 29 April, 2012
Here we are in beautiful Leuven Belgium. We’re members of the current Telfer MBA class on the annual Europe trip, led by Dr. Mike Miles and Danielle Bennett. We’re here to learn about high-performing companies in the European Union, and are excited about the opportunity to meet with senior executives at seven top organizations to talk about their current strategic issues.
The day unfolds as follows:
9:00 am: Team presentations at the Vlerick school of management on the companies we will visit during our trip: Accenture, Alcatel-Lucent, Deloitte, Google, Ivanhoe Cambridge (formerly known as SITQ, L’Oreal, and Nike.
3:00 pm: Self-guided tour of Leuven, Sodexo case preparation, and a trip to the annual local beer festival
7:00 pm: Telfer dinner at Ristorante Aquasanta
11:00 pm: Nightcap under the stars in the city square
We had two big takeaways from the day. First, we realized that throughout the course of our MBA program, brands have become infinitely more meaningful. During our walk through the streets of Leuven we were reminded of many companies we’ve learned about this year.
We happened upon a store that sells Camper shoes, a famous family-owned business from Spain we learned about in Greg Richards’ Management Consulting class. Had it not been for the course, we would have walked right past the window and not given it a second thought.
Total, the French oil and gas company, was front and center as we travelled by train to Leuven. Had it not been for Nour El Kadri’s governance class, we would have seen it as just another gas station.
Finally, we found a retro Mountain Dew can front and centre in a local Leuven convenience store. It was in Mike Mulvey’s marketing class where we learned all about the brand, and had the opportunity to evaluate marketing and sales materials produced by Coke for Mountain Dew. The soda is no longer just a soda; it’s a story now.
The second big thing that happened is that we were reminded that self-reflection never stops. If you’re open to feedback, you can learn a lot about yourself. During our team dinner, we had a conversation about speaking French.
Although many Anglophones in the class took French growing up, some folks are nervous about speaking the language. During the Telfer meal, we were encouraged to try it out on some of our fellow students. We got corrected many times.
At first it was a bit embarrassing, but then we realized we were being helped, not criticized, and everything changed. It was a mini-version of Richard Clayman’s “Stop, Start, Continue” feedback exercise; Stop worrying you’re going to sound stupid, start trying new things, and continue to push yourself.
Word of the day: Beginning in Flemish = “Begin”
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