EKTA 2009

This entry is a bit overdue, but I couldn't skip blogging about the EKTA 2009 show that I am so proud to have been a part of!!

EKTA is the annual cultural showcase put on by the HBS South Asian Business Association (aka SABA) featuring a mix of Asian dances, skits, musical performances and a fashion show. Last year I was blown away as I watched from the audience's perspective: all of the numbers were so high energy and the movements were beautiful, not to mention the fun Indian rhythms. As soon as I found out that people of non-south Asian descent were welcome to participate I said sign me up! And thus, I became a member of the awesome EC BHANGRA 2009 team!

Our group of 20+ students and partners rehearsed for about a month prior to the show and put on a rocking 10 minute number featuring a mix of four Indian tunes. We competed against a group of 20 RCs who also did a bhangra number and we won according to audience applause! Doing the actual dance was SUCH an adrenaline rush. The crowd was on their feet, the music was loud and they energy in the room was ridiculous! Even aside from the dancing, it was an awesome experience to "try on" a different culture. As you can see from the photos, I got to dress up in a traditional Indian costume, complete with a bindi (the dot in the middle of the eyes)! Best of all was the appreciation I got from countless people who thanked me for adding some "color" (or, should I say lack of color with my pale skin) to the show. Case in point:

Hahaha, this text made me laugh when I first received it, and it still makes me chuckle now. I hope that I inspired other white girls to get out there and show what they've got!

In addition to the bhangra, the show featured two Bollywood numbers, including a tribute to actress Madhuri Dixit, two types of classical dance called Dheem and Bharatanatyam, an Indo-Western Fusion number, a poetry reading, a musical performance, and as I mentioned, a fashion show. And in keeping with tradition, the show sold out all 600+ seats in the massive Burden Auditorium.

Right now, there isn't a video record of our actual performance (shame on us in this high-tech world!), but some RC posted a video of our first dress rehearsal that you can view here on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlAgtzRf-Nk. Keep in mind that this does little justice to our actual performance. People aren't fully in costume, are still unsure of the steps AND we didn't perform any of the awesome stunts that got people on their feet during the actual performance. However, it should give you a tiny glimpse into the magic that is EKTA!

2009 Marketing & CPG Conference: Breaking Through the Clutter

For those of you who didn't know, I am a Co-Vice President of Marketing/Social for the HBS Marketing & CPG Club, and this year, I got to spearhead the collateral creation and design process for the club's annual conference. Our theme: the ever relevant idea of "breaking through the clutter." The date: November 8, 2009. The result: success!

The day began with a keynote address by Russ Klein, the president of global marketing, strategy and innovation for Burger King. I have to admit, I wasn't initially thrilled at the prospect of hearing Russ speak. The only marketing campaign that came to mind when I thought of Burger King was the "burger King" with his cheesy grin and plastic face (not one of my favorite marketing tactics, I must admit). But Russ was surprisingly compelling and he outlined some BK initiatives that I actually thought were quite creative. For example, he told us about how BK changed around the Kid's Meal to make it more healthy by cutting apple slices into the shape of french fries and serving them in a french fry container. That's a pretty original way to make eating healthier fun for kids. He also highlighted the "Whopper Freakout" campaign, which was pretty funny (it involved BK declaring that the Whopper was discontinued in one town and taping people's insane reactions), although it definitely highlighted the less-than-classy clientele that tend to support this type of establishment. Russ also threw out a few "gems of wisdom" that he says BK staff live by:

  • Sometimes it's more important to be provocative than pleasant (nothing tugs like tension).
  • Speed matters: fail fast, succeed fast.
  • Turning your brand over to the consumer is taking control.
  • Formulas are for scientists: shedding your skin frequently can be rejuvenating

Interestingly enough, Russ stepped down from his position at Burger King today: http://adage.com/article?article_id=140426.

In the afternoon, the conference featured four panels, of which I attended Innovation in the Lifecycle of a Brand and Reaching Consumers Through New Channels (the other offerings were Power of International Marketing and Connecting Meaningfully with Different Consumer Segments). Breaking up the panels was a networking lunch, in which I got to sit with our second keynote speaker, Porter Gale, who is the vice president of marketing for Virgin America airlines.

Porter was a very interesting woman to sit down with -- she really knows how to sell the Virgin America brand. It was especially enlightening for me, as I'm currently a loyal JetBlue customer, and VA considers JB to be one of their biggest competitors. I promised Porter that I would give Virgin a try, since they're launching Ft Lauderdale Intl Airport next week, but as long as they continue charging for checked bags and snacks (JetBlue gives first checked bag free and unlimited free snacks and beverages), I'm not sure my loyalty will be switching.

Some highlights from Porter's talk:

  • Those who are brave may not live that long, but those who are timid don't live at all.
  • Connect, don't market.
  • Think like a marketer. Act like a CFO.
  • Look for avenues to get the word out that don't cost money. Virgin America benefitted highly from generating PR buzz, participating in reality shows and leveraging social networks. Their marketing budget is a measly $12mm in comparison to Southwest's $200mm, but that doesn't mean you can't get good coverage.

Overall, I feel like I learned a lot at the conference. Now it's on to planning for the spring HBS Entertainment & Media Club conference. I never stop! Stay tuned for another blog post this weekend as I'll be posting tons of photos from the EKTA show that I'm participating in!

Time Flies

There are only 24 days of class left in the fall semester. That's less than 5 weeks. How did this semester go by so quickly?

I know it's been a while since I've written a full entry. I'm lacking inspiration right now! Stay tuned, though, because I'll definitely be blogging after the 2009 Marketing & CPG Conference that takes place on campus next Sunday (I helped with the marketing/goody bag orders!). And then the week after that, I'll be sure to blog about the South Asian Business Association's EKTA show, in which I'm dancing the bhangra! Lots to come soon!