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Prime Branding Panel addresses variety of topics

November 24, 2020

By GREG METZ

 UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State student organizations and alumni have continued pushing through a year like no other in order to deliver a unique, virtual experience that allows students to learn and network from home.

Penn State Prime, in partnership with the Penn State AD/PR Club and LevLane advertising agency, held its annual Penn State Prime Branding Panel earlier this semester. The webinar allowed students to hear from alumni panelists discussing how popular brands are created in their major fields.

The topics included targeting consumers, market research strategies, branding workshops and admiration, leadership, company culture connection, and essential skills for success.

The majority alumni panel featured:

  • Kaleigh Miller - global brands specialist at Amazon
  • Melanie Leszcynski - North American brand manager for Nike Soccer
  • Ashley Vargas - product marketing manager at Google
  • Tiffany Davis - co-founder of Context & Co.
  • Jamie Ehrhart - head of brand marketing at Slack
  • Stacey Britt Fitzgerald – vice president of marketing for IMG Fashion

 Over the course of the panel, speakers emphasized the importance of customer-centric branding and improving the sentiment of their target audience.

“Everything we do from beginning to end is customer focused,” Miller said. “It’s not about branding. The whole intention is to provide an amazing customer experience. Anything that harms that customer experience is an existential threat.”

The panel discussed branding to the needs of consumers and developing a relationship that appeals to current needs.

“A lot of times, now, branding has to come from a place of really, truly feeling connected to who you’re branding to, and understanding that the most compelling story is going to be the one that meets them where they are,” Davis said.

As coronavirus continues to affect workers and businesses across the country, branding strategies have also changed.

“The way people are interacting and the way that people want to consume information has changed,” Vargas said.

The adjustments being made in light of the pandemic was a theme of the webinar and the impacts of it were analyzed as ones that could change the nature of employee interaction and business operations for the foreseeable future.

“Prior to this time, people were fine with the status quo, and [now] there is a huge change for people to think about more effective ways of working,” said Ehrhart. “I don’t know that the broader workforce is ever going to go back to a full on 9-to-5 at an office building.”

This year’s panel was also affected by the pandemic as it went virtual for the first time since it began in 2016.

Isabel Kun, the president of Penn State Prime, said that although the panel was a lot different virtually, it still had an overall positive impact. 

“With the event being virtual, we could expand our list of companies to reach out to, including many on the West Coast that would have not been feasible in person,” Kun said. “This allowed us to expand our attendance past the 100 seats in the Business Building auditorium. We had more than 200 attendees.”

Kun also touched upon the overlying purpose of the panel which is to provide students with knowledge that goes beyond what they learn in the classroom.

“This event really looks to provide students with a first-hand look at the field of branding and gain insights that cannot be shared through a textbook,” she said. “We aim to have panelists that provide a wide array of perspectives to give students a holistic view of the industry, identify the main issues and topics, and understand the process of solving them.”

The event concluded with speakers discussing the importance of retaining a sense of intelligence, dignity, and inspiration in their personal work, while allowing others to flourish around them through constructive leadership.

“I think that if you’re doing your job as a leader, you’re clearing the path for your team,” Ehrhart said, “you’re setting them up for success, and letting them do what they do best.”

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