strongKatie Prisco-Buxbaum, Beacon Staff/strong
For 17 years, Emerson alum Michael Mendenhall had what many marketing students might choose as a dream job: executive vice president of global marketing at Disney Parks and Resorts.
At a lecture Tuesday night, Mendenhall advised students to consider the leadership of potential employers when accepting positions, citing his experience with three mentors, including the late Steve Jobs, whom he says were true visionaries in the field.
“Choose your bosses wisely,” said Mendenhall. “Pick your leaders, pick your brands and entrepreneurs. Just go for it.”
Mendenhall, who graduated from Emerson in 1984, returned to his alma mater as the 2011 Irma Mann Stearns distinguished lecturer, an annual event hosted by the marketing communication department. About 250 students packed the seats in the Paramount Mainstage.
“This is where it all began,” said Mendenhall of his time at Emerson. “The skills I achieved as a student allowed me to hit the ground running and get the experience. Most schools teach theory; you get experience here.”
Aside from his time with Disney, Mendenhall was a senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Hewlett-Packard, and now works as the president and chief operating officer of LIPMAN, an advertising consulting agency. Some of LIPMAN’s current and past clients include Lord amp; Taylor, Burberry, and Diane von Furstenberg.
Mendenhall spoke about the macro trends in the global economy that he says are fueling innovation in the marketing field, particularly mobility, community, personalization and customization, and corporate social value. He said the effect technology has on both the consumer and corporate level is ever changing.
“The Internet has democratized the playing field,” Mendenhall said. “It has created authenticity in brands, products, and services. Companies can’t hide anymore.”
Good advertising, according to Mendenhall, has to acknowledge the trends of the global marketplace and integrate storytelling with marketing tactics.
During the lecture, senior marketing communication major Ngawang Choney asked about Mendenhall’s extracurricular experience during college and how it translated to his success.
Mendenhall, a performing arts major turned business communication professional, said he never had any internships in his field during his Emerson career.
However, he served as president of the Student Government Association for two years. He said that this is where he learned his ability to manage and influence.
Mendenhall said working with the organizations on appeals to allocate SGA funds helped him gain a lot of the vital leadership skills that followed him into the professional world.
“I feel like, for me, it shows that I can’t have a fail mentality,” said Choney. “If he can go from being an acting major to being one of the biggest names in the marketing world, it gives me hope for all of us.”
Mendenhall advised seniors to take advantage of every opportunity, citing his father’s advice to always do what is asked of you, because you won’t be asked twice.
“It wasn’t like I planned when leaving Emerson,” said Mendenhall. “I just took advantage of whatever was in front of me.”
Mendenhall said that the Disney corporation had offered him the opportunity to travel to Europe to open the new park in France, but said they could not promise him a job when he came back. He decided to take the offer, and after four years and subsequent travels to Asia for the opening of the parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai, he was recruited by Hewlett-Packard.
Kate Hefler, a senior marketing communication major, said Mendenhall’s advice didn’t make her feel any better about the uncertainty of the job market.
“The job market was different in the 80s,” said Hefler. “However, I think a lot of seniors should take into account his advice to never say no to an opportunity. So many of us have rigid life plans, and it calms me to think that I should take every opportunity rather than depend on life plans I made when I was 18.”