Vice President of Latin America Marketing for Converse Inc. and graduate of Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business Andres Kiger (GSB ’95) visited the MSB on Wednesday evening to discuss the building of iconic brands in today’s market.
Kiger started his presentation by documenting his personal journey from studying at Georgetown to working for Converse including his seven years in Hong Kong and five in China, working as the director of integrated marketing for Coca-Cola Brazil and acting as the vice president of North America marketing for Converse. According to a Georgetown University press release, Kiger’s current responsibilities center on designing and executing platforms to expand the brand and building markets in Latin America, a budding region for shoe sales.
When asked about the differences he observed between marketing in Latin America and in North America, Kiger said there is a distinction between emerging markets and established markets.
“North America is a lot more structured, a lot more controlled,” Kiger said. “It is concerned with how a brand and how a company should behave.”
According to Kiger, Latin America, in contrast, focuses on improvement and modernization.
“There is a lot less structure and more entrepreneurialism and innovation,” Kiger said. “The next step isn’t written, so we focus on what we could be.”
Kiger offered invaluable insight about marketing and the general career-advancement opportunities he experienced throughout his career, especially while working with Converse. He stressed the importance of learning how to listen while knowing when to talk and share ideas, providing various examples from his personal experiences.
Kiger also spoke about how Coca-Cola Brazil handled Brazil’s 7-1 loss against Germany in the 2014 World Cup, emphasizing how Coca-Cola Brazil listened to fans and consumers.
The company’s most successful marketing campaign ever followed this event: a simple tweet. The tweet was a photo of a Coca-Cola bottle with a knotted straw inside. The caption below this image was written in Portuguese, but loosely translates to: “One feeling: a knot in the throat.” The tweet capitalized on Brazil’s unexpected loss and allowed the brand to relate to its consumers in a way that a multi-million-dollar advertisement during a World Cup commercial break could not have.
The concept that Kiger emphasized the most, however, was the importance of iconic brands in business and how they remain iconic. Kiger told Converse’s story, explaining that the brand stands for personal expression through skate, art and music. Converse’s recording studios, Converse Rubber Tracks, are examples of the company’s dedication to its original heritage and musical values. Up-and-coming musicians of any genre are eligible to apply for free studio time at any of the 12 studios and maintain full rights to their music.
Undergraduate and graduate students responded positively to Kiger’s emphasis on companies like Converse maintaining their traditions to strengthen their brands. Stacey Blanchard (GRD ’17) attended the event because of her interest in marketing and left with a new perspective on the field.
“The biggest point he made was to stay true to your iconic brand heritage,” Blanchard said. “Making sure that you have that one vision always in the back of your mind and making sure that your customers are always aware of that vision.”
Christine Zhang (MSB ’19) agreed and also cited authenticity as the most important topic Kiger addressed.
“I think when people think of the business world they just think of cold-hearted people just trying to make money,” she said. “But business should be about the community and helping people and really believing in your brand so I thought his message was really powerful.”
Additionally, the marketing mogul offered business hopefuls advice on what to focus on in their undergraduate educations. According to Kiger, business is less about the hard facts and more about a way of thinking, which he said Georgetown instilled in him.
“It’s not any particular subject, it’s the sum of all of the parts,” Kiger said of his education at the MSB. “It taught me collaboration and delegation. Life is about groups; you need to work with people you like and people you don’t like.”
Kiger also praised the MSB’s focus on teaching students business through case studies.
“That’s how every single problem is resolved,” Kiger said. “You have to dissect the problem from the beginning, figure out a couple of alternatives and then come up with a recommendation.”
Kiger ended the presentation with general advice for the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“Dream big. At the end of the day, don’t let yourself hold yourself back,” he said. “You’re never going to be fired for dreaming big.”