A team from Unilever visited the University of Nairobi School of business on a cold Thursday afternoon to meet the students. I was in the audience listening carefully to what they had to say this time. Last time I met a team from Unilever was during the Aspire Leadership when I speaking on social media etiquette, personal branding and job search and I shared the platform with Juliet Ziswa who is the Brand Building director HPC at Unilever among others.
Over the last three months; Unilever has come to this campus or invited students from UoN to meet them under the “Meet Unilever” campaign done by their HR to make the company attractive to the students seeking placement after school. As students complain of lack of jobs, Unilever seems to be in a dire need of great talent to join their famous leadership programme ,what is popularly known as graduate/ management trainee programme.
Their mission in campus this time was to pitch the Idea trophy; which according their website is a Unilever on-campus youth development initiative designed to create an "out-of-the-classroom" learning experience that focuses on the development of personal and entrepreneurial competencies amongst Kenya undergraduates. It is a challenging and creative experience, where students from different universities figure out how business works in real life while developing their own skills and competencies. This is where university students figure out how business works in real life.
Sounds cool, right? I have this love-hate relationship with MNC’s; one that isn’t about to end any time soon because of what I have learnt in the last three years. Having worked in the small & medium sized Kenyan enterprises and finally ending up in a digital agency that handled some of the biggest global brands that operate in Eastern Africa I would strongly advise any young graduate out there not to rush to these big firms. On one side of the coin I love what these MNC’s pay its staff but on the other hand I hate a few things about them that I am not going to discuss here today!
Back to the Idea Trophy; this is a very noble idea but here’s my analysis;
It’s a Rip off-
The idea trophy is a con; it’s a game because no matter how hard you work to win the prize they will not give you a chance to execute your idea as a team. That is where it fails first and hence becomes a rip off. Well if as at 2012 Unilever still bets on the strategy and not the people executing it then that is okay with me because they are about to learn some tough lessons from this first edition of the trophy. If our strategies as a team are implemented poorly by the team then P&G still carries the day in the game. When Microsoft did their Imagine Cup a few a go at Crowne Plaza the winners never got just prizes and this challenge appears a con; lure students with the S.A trip and the prizes to do all your market research & come up with ideas thus saving loads of cash that would have gone to Scangroup. I am not in way trying to dissuade you from participating but I think they should respect our "intellectual property" more.
It shouldn’t be handled by the HR
This is where they fail squarely; this challenge is all about ideas and creativity to come up with strategies to breathe life to one of their brands- Rexona. The whole team that visited the campus was from their HR department and at one point they taught us how to write CV’s to get internships at Unilever during the pitch and shared their ‘testimonies’ of how working for Unilever is the best thing have happened to them!!! Well that’s okay, you got a few first years so excited by the way!!
I had a few questions for them about the Rexona brand eg on why they chose Wahu as the brand ambassador, what are Rexona’s LSMs , who does their creative & why they chose did a whole billboard showing a not so happy diva and such. To my amazement the team that was present knew nothing about what I was asking. I didn’t expect some answers I was given because I thought these management trainees were taken through all the departments including the marketing dept in the leadership programme during the three years.
Too Much Focus on Grades
Apparently Unilever doesn’t just want ideas from anyone; they want the participants to have an average of 60+ points. The bulk of the media, PR, Experiential and advertising agencies are made up of brilliant guys who didn’t necessarily have the good grades to join the MNC’s. Do they deliver?? YES! No one went to campus and got A’s in creativity so it’s just sad when they emphasize on grades one has. I am not a dumb guy by the way, I have managed straight A’s & a few B’s in my 3rd and 4th year in campus but my transcripts haven’t really helped me get any job or contract so far. No one asks me for them because I have a track record in anything I touch because I fill roles that match my skills not my grades!
That was really boring until someone took it to another level by telling us how grades matter. Let me tell you why I hate an education system that emphasizes on what grades one gets. Just so that you see sense in what I am saying; is it not their rejects that join the agencies + media and become creatives thus breathe life to their brands while some of their well paid but very ‘uneducated’ hires sit in their marketing department just to rubber stamp all the ideas from these agencies?
Who said that creativity comes from being book smart?? I have met very many smart guys who never cleared school or who never passed well but posses a great set of skills; this is what matters!
If you are interested in participating in this challenge go to Ideatrophykenya.co.ke
I will be participating so see you there!! Meanwhile you can follow me on twitter @KenyanMarketer for more analysis on this!