Business Schools

Managing a Brand: Concept to Product


This Georgetown MBA talks about a typical day as a Unilever brand manager and how important it is to be passionate about your work

I work for Unilever (UN), which is one of the world's largest consumer packaged goods companies. (Some Unilever brands you might recognize are Country Crock, Q-Tips, Slim-Fast, and Vaseline.) As brand developer for the beauty brand Dove (see BusinessWeek.com, 8/17/05, "From Reality TV to Reality Ads"), I am currently working on the initial stages of a new product concept that will enter several foreign markets in a few years.

That means that I work on everything from developing a product and packaging it to creating a retail marketing strategy with the help of a cross-functional team made up of international, regional, and local research and development, market research, promotions, finance, legal, supply chain, and sales teams.

Jason I. Levin

Associate Brand Development Manager

Unilever

Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, Class of 2006

Working on a new technology from scratch is very exciting for me because I am going to help mold a concept developed in a lab and turn it into an actual product found in stores. With luck, my product's launch will be successful and consumers will be dying to purchase it.

My interest in business was first piqued in high school, when I watched Michael Douglas play his infamous role as Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street. From that moment, I was hooked on following the stock market. In the articles I read about business leaders, many of them had MBAs and seemed to have a wide range of career opportunities. Getting my MBA seemed like a great way to have a dynamic business career.

MOVE TO BRAND MANAGEMENT.

I sought an MBA program that emphasized strong marketing and general management competencies with an international focus, and after visiting the campus and meeting current students, I knew the Georgetown MBA program was the right fit for me. The students are fun, bright, and (unlike Gordon Gekko) not "cutthroat".

Following five years of pre-MBA work in consulting, communications, and sales, I felt ready to move into brand management. I really wanted to help create a product with a team. For me, brand management offered the analytics of consulting, the creativity of communications, and the people-interaction of sales, plus a wonderful way to work across a wide array of functions and see a product from beginning to end.

I chose to do a summer marketing internship between my first and second years at Georgetown with Unilever Sri Lanka. During that summer, I focused on how to enlarge the size of the oral-care category across the island. Living in a developing country was a real challenge: I did not speak the language and I had never been to Asia.

However, my Sri Lankan colleagues were very supportive, introducing me to Unilever, getting me acclimated to the local culture, and helping me understand the local marketplace. I loved my entire Unilever summer in Sri Lanka, and I knew Unilever in the U.S. would be my first choice upon graduation.

Here's a typical day in my life:

7:00 a.m.—I'm up and in the shower. Breakfast is Golden Grahams, a glass of OJ, and a fish oil tablet. Gotta have the Omega-3s!

7:50 a.m.—Out the door and walking to Grand Central Station (it only takes me eight minutes on foot) so I can make the 8:04 train. The great thing about "reverse commuting" is that many of my Unilever colleagues live in New York City, so there are many familiar faces on Metro North. I use the time on the train to read magazines and catch up on world events.

8:50 a.m.—The train lets us off and I begin the 10-minute walk up Greenwich Avenue to the office. Greenwich, Conn., is a really beautiful suburban town. I notice some of my colleagues coming off the train and we compare notes on our weekends. Then we start talking about the issues we face on different projects, because sometimes we face similar issues on different brands...

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Levin, an associate brand development manager with Unilever, is a 2006 MBA graduate of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

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