Sunday, 28 June 2015

RoHo 2014 Campus MBA's last day....

Thursday was the Royal Holloway 2014/15 MBA's last day together on the taught programme, and saw them on a roller coaster of emotions as they presented their capstone management consultancy to Peter Hay and the entire board of global chemical coatings company Norman Hay plc.  

The revised MBA programme has put more emphasis on industry interaction, more detail shown here.

The final taught MBA module, the month long group business consultancy, is lead by Chris Howorth (profile) and assisted by Arlette Parkhurst, who brought her extensive industry background in technology change and project management to bare.  

Images below show suited and booted MBA's preparing for their presentations and then afterwards celebrating in fine style over dinner in the Founders dining hall.

The MBA's had every reason to have smiles on their faces, by the end of the day two had been offered exciting new jobs.  Employability in action.    

The MBA Party is nearly over !

Thursday, 18 June 2015

MBA 2015 sneak peak - where are you all coming from ?

The Royal Holloway MBA programme differentiates itself with the label 'International Management' because not only is the curriculum globally minded and because it is taught by a highly regarded team of academics supported by industry guest speakers but also because year-after-year it attracts a diverse and highly motivated group of work experienced professionals from all-around-the-world.

The infographic above shows the impressive range of countries from the confirmed applicant list for the 21 September starting date of the next MBA programme.

Have we missed your country from this list ? Do let me know if I have..

I forgot to mention the international study visit - this year a week in Berlin.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

MBA Industry conneXions & employment

MBA applicant Vijay asked for an overview on the companies that we work with and appeared more generally interested in learning more about post study employment options and typical pathways taken by MBA alumni.

Industry relationships

MBA students at Royal Holloway get to interact with a range of companies – the refreshed programme puts a much greater focus on embedded guest speakers, field visits & real business consultancies. 

Next year we are more formally embedding our marketing consultancy with Thorpe Park (part of the Merlin Entertainment group who are second to Disney worldwide) we are lucky to have Jack (one of our history masters graduates) as our key contact, we are currently discussing how BT (formerly British Telecom) one of the giants in UK connections technology might offer up a real strategic consultancy project in the term two programme.  

This summer for the group business consultancies we are working with Ricoh (Japanese tech giant) on an exciting 3D printer project for the distance learning  MBA programme, a link that has recently developed thanks to Indian MBA Alumna contact Nitasha, who works for them locally in Staines.  

The full time campus MBAs are working with our long standing global chemical coatings partner Norman Hay for the group business consultancy – they have made a number of job offers to RoHo students in recent years & thus very interesting from an employability perspective. Alumna Moran has acted as the in house consultancy project co-ordination role for two years now and senior change consultant and MBA Arlette has offered her deep industry experience as a strategic angel.  

Additionally, thanks to a relationship brokered by alumna Anna (English), Verizon offer MBA students the opportunity to bid for applied dissertation - they are interested in our MBAs as a try before you buy talent spotting activity – their impressive EUMEA campus HQ is nearby in Reading. We actively encourage MBA students to select real business problems from real companies for their dissertation whereever feasible. We are just starting conversations with global logistics operator DHL, looking at a number of employability angles, where RoHo MBA Vineet is now working too.  

College MBA employability support;

Katharine is the School of Management's newly appointed year in business co-ordinator, her role is to develop strong relationships with national and local employers to identify a range of internship and employment opportunities for Royal Holloway talent.  

Emma is the specialist MBA careers advisor, who uses her industrial psychology and training experience to offer a range of group sessions during the MBA year and offers 121 tailored careers support throughout the programme.  Emma works as part of the University of London careers service - the largest in UK, offering students a huge array of opportunities.  

Rosie in the alumni office is the MBA specialist contact point and one of their exciting new offers is a alumni mentoring offer.  

Embedded gust speakers in 2014/15 included: 

MN5135 Financial Analysis and Markets (McSweeney)
(i) Mazars LLP, Partner in the Corporate and Public Interest Markets Group, on long-term business sustainability and the role of boards of directors in achieving that aim; 
(ii) Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Manager, Corporate Reporting, Financial Reporting Faculty, on relationships between changes in financial reporting standards/practices and financial markets; 
(iii) East London Small Business Centre, Lead Start Up Business Adviser, on different cost-volume-profit management strategies in the retail fashion industry; 
(iv) Information Security Auditor/Consultant on information security and auditing. 

MN5136 Consumers and Markets (Eckhardt)
(i) Kodak, Chief Marketing Officer; 
(ii) SABMiller, Corporate Communications Manager; 
(iii) Future Cities Catapult, Executive Director; 
(iv) British Airways, Revenue Management Senior Manager; 
(v) Thorpe Park Resorts, Education Facilitator; 
(vi) Photojournalist Jeff Widener (best known for ‘Tank Man’, the image of a lone man confronting a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 protests); 
(vii) Royal Holloway Historian Dr Emmett Sullivan on ‘truth’ and revisionist perspectives on public history with reference to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Thirteen Days (2001). 

MN5137 Strategy, Technology and Operations in a Globalised World (Dyerson)
(i) Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI), Consultant on AMSCI as UK initiative with a fund of up to £125m to develop supply chains’ competitiveness, sustain or create new employment opportunities, and create better synergies and sustained collaborative relationships throughout supply chains that participate in this initiative; 
(ii) Prophetic Technology, Strategy Director, on the future of supply chains; 
(iii) Nestlé Waters North America, Senior Manager Business Analytics, on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems; 
(iv) Information Security Group, Royal Holloway, on cybersecurity; 
(v) Prof Heejin Lee, Yonsei University, Korea, on ICT and standardisation. 

MN5138: People, Leadership and Organisations (Howorth)
(i) Ashford and St. Peter’s NHS Hospital Trust, Non-Executive Director, on organisations as systems; 
(ii) SEM Consulting, Managing Partner, on leadership, as the management of meaning and culture, and change, including managing conflict; 
(iii) Hanover Jackson, Director, on motivation and engagement; 
(iv) fasting Training, Managing Director, on organizational culture, business ethics and the management of diversity and difference; 
(v) David Micallef, Entrepreneur and Business Investor. 


Friday, 12 June 2015

BA Record Breaker: Having a bit of fun with safety

Guinness record breakers: World's largest ever flight safety briefing (foto thanks: Jim Sherwood)

You can't have fun with safety can you ?  In the week following a serious roller coaster accident at Alton Towers the notion that safety can also be fun, engaging and uplifting seems rather contrary.

However, on Sunday, with my family, I became a world safety record breaker,  as 352 of us (pictured above in bright yellow, inflated safety vests in the shadow of Concorde) smashed the previous official Guinness world record (250) for the biggest flight safety training briefing.  And it was fun.  More press photos here

Safety is imbibed in the DNA of British Airways employees, but because of its importance and serious consequences it rarely brings the positive associations marketers love.  You never see airlines boasting about their safety records, although QANTAS benefitted from a huge and memorable plug by Dustin Hoffman's autistic character in hit movie Rain Man.  The closest I have ever seen is the 75 whatever year celebrations of operations (e.g. Dutch airline KLM), implicit in a statement of longevity is a sense of safe operations.  Accident prone operators e.g. PanAm/Lockerbie, ValuJet/Everglades and more recently Malaysian tend to fold or re-brand.

Aviation is an industry that offers the safest form of transportation, and where continuous improvement is embedded in to the organisational culture, safety is of central importance and never taken light heartedly.  

So huge kudos goes to the BA comms team who creatively used crowd sourcing to harness and amplify an educational, entertaining and effusive (3e's) centre piece to the British Airways family open day.  

You try and work in a Health and Safety agenda item at your next team away day with this level of positive impact.  It really was fun learning with a serious point that reminded me of the powerful team spirit that exists at my former employer.  Trial runs, before we were encouraged to really set off the compressed gas to inflate our life preservers, were interspersed with educational quiz questions.  Did you know that safety briefings were introduced very early in the 20th Century following the Titanic disaster ?  I didn't, but I do now.  We even got to blow on the whistle on a string, to the tune of the Delibes flower anthem, BA's oral brand identity.  Best of all, we got to bring home the safety card, preserver and oxygen mask - I feel the need for some fun learning during next terms undergraduate marketing lectures.

Several airlines have used  very innovative approaches to their inflight safety briefing videos, beyond British Airways diversity positive animation, linked above.  Regular flyers appear to tune out during the safety briefings, thus efforts to prolong traveller attention and generate some lucrative PR coverage appear not inappropriate.  My favourite, although a little bit risqué, comes from Air New Zealand, who managed to create a social media storm that probably enhanced both their brand awareness and saliency with this "Nothing to hide" campaign.  It's shockingly popular in class.

In lectures it is lots of fun to see the different points at which students realise that these daring Kiwi crew members are wearing nothing but body paints, literally with 'nothing-to-hide' their bare essentials. They did a follow up and the All Black rugby squad got in on the act too.  Awesome, first order viral branding. 
Virgin America, as befits a glamorous Branson sub-brand, also chose a rather unconventional approach to its safety briefing too.  Filmed in a hangar space with just a few cues to suggest an aircraft interior, staff and reality TV micro-celebrities put on a bit more than a song and dance in this super creative video that emphasises the energetic, sexy and flamboyant Virgin brand.  Well done Richard !


If you got this far down the post, you deserve a little extra treat - quiz question - did you spot Justin in the main photo  ?  Front left in a red T-shirt.  

Our neighbours Ben (front left) and Adrian (behind) feature in this shot !

I am told this lady is famous.  

Four final photos linked from here  Nick Morrish/British Airways

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Selling cold Tourism ? Bear Insights from Tromso in the Arctic circle

It was 20 in Prague the week before and at least 15 in London.  The flower show was taking place in Chelsea, a sign surely that spring was well under way ?  You can imagine my surprise when landing at ten in the evening in broad daylight at a busy Tromso airport (pronounced something like Trumsa) to find snow dominating the mountain landscape.  Damn ! I did not have enough warm clothes for the 8 degree temperature that would last for my short visit.  Now I know why Norwegian's like to wear under T-shirts.

Over dinner associate Entrepreneurship professor Elin explained that Norways mountains and fjords, perched on the Atlantic's european border, was believed to be a climatic driving force in a more spontaneous national culture, compared with the more protected Sweden were things are more planned and organised. 

You know you are off the beaten tracks, or I have Viking genes, because every stranger encounter I had started in the Norwegian language.  I was shocked at having to keep repeating that I did not understand. As a not very amazing polyglot, I usually do ok in Spanish, German, Italian and French, but although the written language bares some resemblance to German, orally I was lost, unlike my recent visits to neighbouring Sweden.  Unusually being from London was a positive talking point, I discovered just how popular the English premier league  football was chatting with friendly locals.  I am from southern England - I do not do this kind of thing, not willingly at least.  

With an economic foundation from exploiting the rich artic fisheries and the historic base for Roald Amundsen's polar explorations, this 70 thousand strong community boasts a ten thousand strong university community, just a touch larger than Royal Holloway.

Derek Clark, head of school and my excellent host for the visit.  So what is the link with Polar bears ?  Hunters used to bring back cubs that would have been seen on the streets of Tromso in days gone by.  I was pleased to find out that the never lived in the area.  No rifle required here.

Despite a cold, hard climate, tourism is a key economic factor, as one of the students business idea I learnt about sought to benefit from northern lights tourists, the mystical green light that comes from solar burst activity, visible during the dark winter nights.  24 hour darkness and midnight sun are also unusual geographic features that form part of the tourism body's marketing proposition, with the unAfrican 'safari' term co-opted into package guided tours for whale, seal and bird watching.  The Clarion With hotel offered half board as standard, afternoon waffles and a free self service drinks facility.  Indoor social lingering space abounded, with a Scandinavian design cool that was very welcoming.  You might sense I loved the place.

Norway's five million anti-unionists broke away from powerful Sweden, with twice the population, before the north sea oil made them one of the wealthiest (per capita GDP) nations on earth.  With all the economic benefits of being in Europe's single market (EEA) whilst preserving its political independence, it is hard to see full EU membership coming any time soon.  Even though car registrations now conform to the blue tinged EU standard, a refrain I heard often was being governed by the EU, without having any say in the rules.  Significant infrastructural investments in civic buildings and services are a noticeable benefit from the 4% of oil revenues that are invested, with roads and tunnel networks, which were rather impressive considering the fierce climate, and better than those I bobble along on in Surrey Heath.  You imagine that such surplus wealth wound be diverted south and east if Brussels could get their hands the cash.

Justin has an encounter with a polar bear in the hotel lobby

I had been inspired to visit from the confluence of a random conversation with a Scouting buddy, who had just visited with her mum to catch the northern lights and the new Sky drama, Fortitude, which was geographically identified  as Svaarlbad, an island 40 jet minutes futher north but filmed more in Iceland.  Whilst Royal Holloway's polar bears are painted and depicted on Franklin's ship wreck in Canada, Tromo's ferociuos black skinned bears were all stuffed or in the form of tourist trinkets.  Quite why Coca Cola makes these beasts cute and cudly, I know not.

Tromso uni (UiT) is the world's most northerly business school.  The town also boasts the world's most northerly micro brewery, also visited for purely academic motives.  I spent most of my time at the business schools design thinking (DT) lab and learning about UiT's MSc in Business Creativity and Entrepreneurship programme.  Loved it, cannot wait to go back !

Stunning polished silver facade:  UiT University in Tromso

Missing product placement: Avengers age of Ultron

Imagine how strange it was, for a rather experienced old hand like me to be found googling Audi A3 cabrios, immediately after watching the latest instalment of the Marvel Avengers series, Age of Ultron.  It was a remarkable cinema visit for two other significant reasons; 

(1) both my boys, now 13 & 10, were keen to see the same movie, a rare and beautiful moment beleaguered parents dream of, and 

(2) there is a scene that uses my office building (fleetingly) that I have blogged about and I wanted to experience the movie first hand.  

Of course fraternal bliss could not last long, much of the journey to town was spent arguing, instead, about where to go for lunch, McDonald's or KFC.  Painfully, a Burger King compromise was achieved after some length, but without an excessive dad mediation requirement.  Progress.  

I became aware of some interesting European shaped cars being smashed up early on and began to link this back to the edgy birth of the TTS ad that rather stood out in the pre-feature trailers.  

I wondered if this was a VW group gig, but when the cabrio A3 appeared towards the end of this two hours and twenty plus epic, at a point where my bottom was pretty numb despite an escort visit to the toilets, it was clear this was a futuristic, technological, adrenaline-rush movie that sought to stoke brand desire in the 12+ young adult audience.  And their parents.  And some going to be affluent soon (post student loan pay offs)  young adults.  

So why did German auto giant Audi choose Avengers then ? Sci-fi lovers might be a natural demographic match for premium priced, hi-tech German automotive luxury ?  If (and only if) you have looked at the video link above ponder this - Is there not some irony trying to draw an analogy between Audi headlights and Iron Man - or is it just me ?  

We were on to something when my elder son lent over and mummured "Product Placement", we easily spotted Under Armour and Audi, but felt the adidas running shoe indent was too obvious.  Our hushed conversation in the cinema darkness was very much the inspiration for this post.  But what had we missed I wondered ? - the very subject of a student dissertation I have recently marked.

Overt product placement can easily become cynically viewed as over the top commercialism, perhaps to the point where excessive, contrived and blatant product exposure can engender a negative reaction to the promoted brand or product, rather than the presumed objective of nudging consumers (un)consciously along the path to purchase and eternal brand loyalty, perhaps by way of the AIDA framework.  

Block buster movie franchises such as James Bond have for decades off-set their production costs (& creative integrity ?) by taking large CA$H payments to feature mostly products, rather than rarer services - e.g. Tom Cruise in Minority Report did a memorable American Express feature.      

My favourite section of the marketing curriculum is teaching advertising, but with outstanding colleagues like Professor Chris Hackley in our team at Royal Holloway, I am mostly a bench warmer for our specialist modules in this space.  

My fascination for advertising is perhaps because it taps into common shared experiences, advertising is all around us and nearly unavoidable.  Perhaps because with YouTube it is easy to bring copious exciting shorts into class to encourage real time analysis and allows students to experience tangible examples and some humour too.  Finally, perhaps it is because the theory in advertising is so immature, e.g. The black box concept, you end up speculating around evaluating normative behaviours, rather than bestowing deep rooted "researched" factual paradigms.  Plenty of scope for creative discussion in all that.  

Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action are perhaps one-word single minded proposition statements that can offer a creative focus, although with audience co-creation I suspect Audis multi-product exposure during three minutes of paid  footage could be influencing in a number of different levels, depending on the audiences own context.  Avengers does not really fit in my genre choice, so I had missed the long standing association created with Robert Downey Jr.'s genius techie billionaire Stark character until this 2015 release, and overlooking that the official advertorial video was excruciatingly banal, there is something relevant in the technology association as a long burner.  

In advertising class we often consider the ethics of stealth promotion through subliminal advertising, but this of course is a closely regulated arena, with some interesting research understanding how children develop awareness of paid promotions.  Discussion with permanently head fone wearing elder son during the movie around product placement was a pleasing sign of evolution in our relationship. He spotted the Hulk wearing Beats headphones listening to classical music, as part of his chill out routine, nice !  I spotted the Audi time and time again, it must be working.  

The masculine biased Under Armour spandex tops worn by several characters including Captain America and Quicksilver were bespoke items that lacked blatant branding, however, the UA logo did feature in a rear shot at one point.  

The Samsung/Korea branding for me was too subtle, although a logical association for hi tech that accesses a large, global audience.    Captain Americas Levi jeans placement passed me by too, although with a character tied to the 1940's there are not too many marques with the prerequisite longevity to appropriately be linked here ?  Wrigley's gum ? Heinz  ? Harley Davidson (missed this completely - too American ?  or just not into bikes...)  

The leading American agricultural automotive brand John Deere required a incongruous barn scene and an unbelievable paint job, ummm...but I am not convinced that an aged, broken tractor is necessarily going to drive sales interest, perhaps just reinforcing legendary longevity in Hollywood's key US domestic market place is enough ?

None of the co-branded images appear in the carefully selected images offered up by the studio in their PR media assets, which makes selecting images for this blog pretty tricky, however, having spotted adidas running shoes I then mis-attributed Quicksilver's Danish Hummel track suit for a new adidas version, so I picked the arm of arrows image here. We have seen brand recall mis-attribution noted for big spending brands at the Olympics and FIFA (forgive my unethical lexicon) World Cups. 

Of course, for me the web commentators missed the "product placement" of the Royal Holloway scene, although strictly it was probably paid for (modestly) as a location to give Stellan Skarsgard's mad professor character a cameo context.  It did include a powerful on screen textual name check. Within the universtiy community this feature has caused quite a ripple of excitement, and the real reason I wanted to see the movie !  

When was the last time you went to the movies to look at your own office building ?