Unilever makes students expert comms pros in One Amazing Week

How does one uncover great talent and win PR brownies at the same time? Take a bunch of young energetic marketing students and turn them into world-class communicators in a week. That is exactly what Unilever did in Thailand

Thanita Wanichtanom, senior brand manager, comfort Unilever mentors students

The challenge was simple – to produce a short sharp and engaging video that could capture imagination and had what it takes to become viral. But meeting it was anything but easy. The students had to make it all in a matter of 48-hours – everything from the storyboard to execution.  Unilever’s so-called One Amazing Week experiment kicked off at MIM Thammasat Business School in Bangkok on Fri (17 Oct) as Unilever brought together seven of their senior brand managers and six seasoned Asia-based marketers and for a weekend and turned them into mentors for a group of 42 MIM Masters degree students. Their brief was to guide the students into coming up with a creative marketing video idea and build a storyboard. The role of the mentors was not to provide the ideas but prod students into coming up with ideas and execution plan themselves. Each mentor of was assigned a team of seven students, which they were expected to inspire and motivate.

Khon Thai, Jai Yen Yen ( a Thai must be patient), a student produced video at one amazing week

"One Amazing Week was created specifically for Thailand to drive home the company's beliefs around the power of marketing, power of communication and the power of collaborations among different institutions, and the most important one, the power of Thailand’s young generation " said Nanang Chalid, Leadership and Organisation Development Manager for Thailand and Indochina, Unilever.

The students spent a day with mentors at the historic and architecturally inspiring Museum Siam. Their brief was to make a 3-5 minute video on a semi-rhetorical question - "What makes you…?" It was expected that the students could express their deepest understanding of Thai emotion – happiness, love, sadness and pride – and by doing so connect them with the soul of Thai values and culture.  The objective was that through this process of storytelling the students would learn the art of revealing insights, connecting with people and communicate with an audience through digital marketing platform.

Jonathan Sanchez, MD, STAND delivers a pep talk

"The One Amazing Week campaign has been a truly inspiring experience for me both personally and professionally. By bringing some of Thailand's brightest young minds together with its most accomplished professionals, STAND and Unilever created the sort of energy from which fantastic ideas & relationships inevitably blossom," said mentor Adam Sharpe, founder of CrowdId. 

"In my opinion One Amazing Week will teach these young marketers more in seven days than they would in seven semesters," he told PRWeek.

Think 1 Minute, a short video produced by students at Unilever's one amazing week contest

This week the students have been busy "marketing" across social media, experiential or other channels. One Amazing Week has attracted nearly 3000 visitors to its facebook page since the contest was first publicised.

The results will be evaluated on Saturday (1 Nov) by a jury panel, which includes leading Thammasat University academics and Khun Supattra, CEO of Unilever Thailand.

The winning group will get to participate in the final round of Unilever Future Leaders Program selection to secure a position in a company.

One Amazing Week is the brainchild of Jonathan Sanchez, managing director of brand consultancy STAND, a strategic partner and a co-owner of the programme. The former Unilever comms honcho created the strategic plan, engaged mentors and worked directly with students to set vision and values of the exercise.

"We knew that a regular campus activity programme in Thailand just wouldn’t inspire the students. Beauty salon student pageants, people dressed in dairy cows running riot and senior leaders preaching from the pulpit etc. We all realised we had to think more about what makes Thai students tick - and consuming, producing and sharing creative content was seen to be a huge part of that," explained Sanchez.

Unilever recently celebrated 80 years of its presence in Thailand. The Kingdom has been a centre for marketing creativity in Asia - often taking top spots at prestigious international awards shows like the Cannes Lions. Sanchez told PRWeek that at its height creative services in Thailand accounted for around 10 percent of the country’s GDP.  In recent years, however, political strife has taken some of the sheen off the industry’s shine.