Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2007Kellogg School of Management
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Ian Leopold
Ian Leopold (Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board) shows off a KR Alumni Club T-shirt in New York.

Brand brings them together

Kellogg-Recanati competition shows power of 'chaos theory' to build alumni connections

Five years ago, leaders of the Kellogg-Recanati Alumni Club asked our members what they wanted in their organization. They told us they wanted our club's board to help increase Kellogg-Recanati brand recognition, locally and internationally.

To give our alumni what they had asked for, we decided to provide each of them with the tools to help enhance the club brand: quality KR-branded goods we would distribute to alumni attending our events.

Since then, we have given more than 2,500 KR-branded items — including t-shirts, sweatshirts, sports bags, beach towels, camping and beach chairs, key rings, DVDs and umbrellas —to KR alumni.

To fund the initiative, we turned to our club's biggest asset — our alumni — for sponsorship. We quickly learned that we just had to ask and many alumni will help. As a result, our "alumni-helping-alumni" culture was born in 2003. Since then, the culture has grown and today more than 40 Kellogg-Recanati alumni have sponsored a total of 65 times, enabling our club to organize larger and more sophisticated events where we have given away thousands of dollars worth of branded items to our members.

But like any good marketers, we wanted to know more about our customers, so feedback proved essential. How were our alumni actually using these items?

Ido Dan  
Ido Dan KR-09 entertains Ethiopian children in the northern shelters during the summer 2006 war.  

With this question, we launched the Kellogg-Recanati Photo Branding Competition last summer. First prize: a weekend for two in the luxurious Hilton Queen of Sheba Hotel in Eilat. Consistent with our growing alumni-centric culture, the prize was donated by Ronen Shay KR-01, the hotel's general manager.

We challenged Kellogg-Recanati alumni to submit photographs of KR-branded items being used creatively, worn or displayed in public places to enhance the club brand. More than 50 photos were submitted, featuring KR alumni in Israel, the United States, India, Spain, Vietnam and elsewhere, with captions ranging from the serious to the humorous.

Ayelet Oron KR-06 earned the first prize and was presented with her "weekend in the sun" in front of an audience of 350 at our "Celebrating 10 years of KR" event on Dec. 3. Second, third and fourth places went to Ido Dan KR-09, Ian Leopold '88 and Avi Shai KR-04, respectively.

Looking back, it was the core decision to assess our alumni's needs that initiated our five-year journey. The journey started with a comprehensive alumni survey, which in turn generated a KR-branding initiative. That decision gave rise to our new alumni-helping-alumni culture, which attracted more volunteers to the board, enabling the funding and organization of larger and more sophisticated events. These ambitious events provided the platform for distributing thousands of Kellogg-Recanati-branded items — and subsequently the idea for a photo competition — which resulted in the KR logo proudly displayed on several continents. Ultimately, this chain of events resulted in Ayelet being presented with an exclusive weekend vacation in front of a large audience of alumni peers.

If there's an analogy here to chaos theory's "butterfly effect," where the flapping of a butterfly's wings in China can, over time, change weather in New York, then the decision to understand the needs of our alumni was our butterfly and our recent 350-attendee event was our sunniest day.

Club leaders: Listen to your customers, develop products to meet their needs, secure continued market feedback and adjust accordingly. In doing so, you might even affect the local weather. You are guaranteed to create a more powerful, and enjoyable, alumni network.

Stuart Ballan, President, Kellogg-Recanati Alumni Club

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