Big Talks: Brand Edition

Alexandra Greenhalgh
06.05.21 – 04 Mins Read

Inspirational talks with some of the biggest in-industry names.

Big Talks. A series of once-in-a-lifetime events, connecting the student community with the biggest names in the industry and the best brands in the world. Our third instalment of the showstopper series this year was Big Talks: Brand Edition. Done slightly differently during the pandemic, we held the event live on Zoom, for students all over the world to join.

Big Talks offer our students a unique experience. By connecting them with industry leaders and allowing them the opportunity to ask questions, we give them the tools to Begin Big, right from the start of their Vita Student journey.

For this exclusive evening, we had two successful marketers join us to share their learnings and advice gained whilst working for global brands including Red Bull and Coco-Cola. They discussed going from the stability of working as Director and CEO level in the world’s biggest brands, to the challenges of founding a company from scratch. The topic of bricks and mortar stores vs online outlets was also discussed as well as the impacts of the global pandemic on this generation of students and the challenges ahead.

Our first guest and keynote speaker was Tenzing founder, Huib van Bockel, who also worked at Red Bull as a senior Marketeer before creating his own competitor in the market.

Huib spent 8 years at Red Bull as Head of Marketing for Europe and played a key role in the transformation of Red Bull from an energy drink company to a mass media giant. He led many of Red Bull’s biggest projects, including Revolutions in Sound and Air Race Ascot and has also worked for Unilever and MTV Networks, one of the world’s very first social networks, throughout his career. Huib is now seen as one of the new marketing thought leaders and has been voted in the Top 100 CMOs by HotTopics, in the Top 100 marketers by Campaign Magazine and in the Top 100 Innovators by Marketing Magazine, pretty amazing stuff.

Huib focused his presentation on what it takes to start your own business and he openly talked about the transition of getting a meeting with whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted as Head of Marketing at Red Bull, to struggling to get in front of buyers when founding an unknown brand, Tenzing.

He started off with an interesting question for our students. At what age, do people start their first business? We had a lot of guesses… 21, 30, and university leavers at 18, but believe it or not, the average was 42. There was a resounding sigh of relief when everyone realised they had plenty of time!

Huib shared the key advice and knowledge he applied when building Tenzing. ‘Taking on your own Everest’, which included three key milestones –

1. Find your passion & hone your skill.

2. Build a great product.

3. Find a mission to keep you going.

Huib talked passionately about the importance of committing to each, and not to give up. Enlightening our students with a story of how he bagged a meeting with supermarket giant, Sainsbury’s. Not your average pitch as Huib hiked to Base Camp with business partner, Pim van Groeningen, and a Sainsbury’s & Tenzing branded flag. With this picture as proof, they headed back to the Sainsburys headquarters, and requested to meet the buyer, but with no appointment, they were politely declined. Taking out their picture and their flag and they said, “but we have come from the top of the world, and we’re not leaving until we meet the buyer”. It worked and Tenzing was soon stocked in store!

Huib admits that he would not have been able to do this without his passion and having a great product he genuinely believed in and of course the mission itself to keep him going.

As his presentation came to an end, his key message to our students was ‘to never give up.’

Our second guest of the evening was CEO Jeremy Schwartz, the inventor of Coke Zero
during his time as Director of Innovation at Coca-Cola.

Jeremy has experience working with some of the world’s biggest brands throughout his
career. Notably, Jeremy served as CEO of The Body Shop where his focus was leading the business with a socially conscious and he successfully placed The Body Shop as the most sustainable global company in the world. He also worked with other major brands, having been the CEO of Pandora, Managing Director of L’Oréal and is now Chairman of the Kantar Sustainability and Inclusion Practice. Jeremy brought a new, socially aware spin on the consumer industry, markets, and big brands, something that is so prevalent in today’s society.

Jeremy was thrown a huge question to kick off… advice for a student who wants to achieve greatness. He addressed the recent crisis, and encourage optimism, but really what does greatness mean?

Greatness is an incredible word, so putting a slightly different spin on this, but keeping in line with Huib’s presentation he explained that there is a very hot phrase being used in business at the moment, ‘having a purpose’.

Greatness is different for every individual and Jeremy advised it’s about finding that purpose. When you’ve got that for yourself, you can manage that expectation and set ideologies for you to be great against.

Stay tuned to the blog and the Vita Student YouTube channel for more content to help kick-start your career.

Vita Students, it’s time to BEGIN BIG!