Are Brands Living Entities?


As part of a marketing assignment, we were asked whether brands are living entities. The question by itself suggested an answer. It is fantastic to perceive brands as living entities with unique characters. Brands have the ability to communicate, carry reputation, earn loyalty and become friends for life.

Have you ever heard brands talk to you? For instance, BMW instills power in its driver by calling its car an Ultimate Driving Machine, Toyota in turn drives the aspiring class by saying let’s go places. They not only trigger thought but motivate through strong messages. Nike elevates an adrenaline-rush pushing us to just do it, while Reebok invokes confidence by assuring impossible is nothing. Do we care little about these phrases? Or do we care less as they are all just right?

Sometimes – subconsciously though – we are moved by colours that brands wear. Coca Cola introduced a green coloured packaging for its new Coca Cola Life. Research indicated that green as a colour would induce a go signal and project a pro-health appeal. The creamy-white clothing and white interiors on the backdrop of a Dove TV commercial reinstates the milk-cream moisturising message that the soap brand conveys – with a mainly white packaging.

The ‘H’ on the logo of Hyundai and that on Honda surely makes us capture them distinctly.


Brands work hard to earn value over their lifetimes, but some fall prey to self-inflicted trouble.  Without talking much about Enron, let’s look into brands that have had holy communions rather than obituaries. We all know that brands have a life of their own.

Who personifies a brand? A manufacturer uses chemicals, fabric, leather, metal and glue to produce bags; but it is in style, glamour, attitude, prestige and fashion that we embody a Prada. Brands carry a character, making space in our psyche, constantly competing against each other to win our attention.

We may wear Zara, smell Davidoff, buy SuperValu, read Jeffery Archer, drink Guinness, see through Specsave, or wake up to a Clocky..! Brands are everywhere. They ‘‘live’’ amongst us.

Brands are so lively that they have made it to this UCD Smufit Blog in which their fanciful personification has kept you reading it to the end. Wait, do you have an Apple? As in…

Sreekanth Nagabhushana ~ Full-Time MBA

Toastmasters International Pilot Session


The word ‘’Toastmasters’’ was doing the rounds in our school since November. Some knew what it was while some did not. On Monday, the 8th of February, UCD Smurfit had its first Toastmasters International workshop at the Laurence Crowley Board Room. Facilitated by office bearers of ‘Tara Toastmasters’ club, the event had participants from MBA, MSc and PhD streams. So what is ‘Toastmasters’ all about?

‘Toastmasters’ club is one of its kind, with more than 320,000 members in over 15,000 clubs across 135 countries. It is a platform for people to develop public speaking, leadership and inter-personal skills, and heighten their confidence levels. Overtime, members reach different levels of proficiency and participate at national and international forums. How popular is the Toastmasters?


Many MNCs run active Toastmasters clubs. Other reputed B-Schools have their Toastmasters too. Dublin has over 20 registered clubs. Students and working professionals meet at evenings and head for pints. Helps us talk to everyone, both before and after some intoxication. As it is said, ‘it’s a bit of good craic!’

On Monday, in a typical Toastmasters set-up, we heard two prepared speeches followed by ‘Table Topics’ on which the audience spoke. The evaluators, time keepers, and a Toastmaster kept our adrenaline levels high. Although table-topics tingled our bellies, the crowd pulled it off well. Apprehensions became smiles, turning towards the person speaking and wondering who’d be next. Topics such as psychology, business and romance, along with some laughter ended the session in style. Thanks to Orla Nugent – MBA Programme Director and our MBA Programme Manager Yvonne for their constant support. Thanks to the the Services Team and Smurfit Restaurant for their flawless coordination.


”Next is what?” If we succeed in setting up the club in Smurfit, we can all become members here and invite alumni as well to join the club. Hold joint meets with Toastmasters from companies. Show the talent pool in Smurfit. Share presentations that went great in the class. Create networking space through informal talk on business, sports, humour or anything interesting. Search online for ‘’Toastmasters’’ now, share it your friends and click here if you are interested in becoming a member. It’s time to raise a toast..!

Sreekanth Nagabhushana ~ Full-Time MBA

Smurfit Business School & The 30% Club Panel Discussion – Business Imagined Better Together


UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, in conjunction with The 30% Club, will host a panel discussion in The Conrad Hotel, Dublin on Tuesday, 23rd February 2016.

Professor Niamh Brennan will moderate the discussion while panellists Mark Ryan (former CMD Accenture), Ingrid Devin (Dell) and Gina Quinn (Dublin Chamber of Commerce) will discuss the topic: “Business Imagined Better Together – Inclusion, Diversity and Unconscious Bias in Business”.

The keynote address will be delivered by Professor Ciarán Ó’hÓgartaigh, Dean of UCD College of Business.

Event Details:
Date: Tuesday, 23rd February 2016
Venue: The Conrad Hotel, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2
Drinks Reception: 6pm (drinks and canapes served throughout the event)
Dress Code:
Business Attire

Click here to REGISTER for the event

Keynote Speaker: Professor Ciarán Ó’hÓgartaigh,  Dean of UCD College of Business

Ciarán was appointed Dean in June 2011, having joined UCD in 2008 from the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He is a BComm graduate of NUI Galway, qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Arthur Andersen (Dublin) and holds a PhD in Accounting from the University of Leeds. A former Fullbright Fellow at Northeastern University (Boston), he has published widely on financial reporting and on accounting history in international peer-reviewed publications.

Moderator: Professor Niamh Brennan, University College Dublin

Professor Niamh Brennan qualified as a chartered accountant with KPMG, holds a PhD from the University of Warwick and is a Chartered Director of the Institute of Directors (London). Having established the UCD Centre for Corporate Governance in 2002, Niamh plays a leading role in the public discourse in Ireland and internationally on corporate governance. The Centre has provided executive and professional training to thousands of Irish company directors.

Panelist: Mark Ryan, former CMD Accenture

Mark retired from Accenture in 2014. He was Country Managing Director (CMD) of Accenture in Ireland since 2005. Mark spent his career with Accenture in Ireland, the US and UK. Mark was also Head of Accenture’s Financial Services Practice in Ireland. He was heavily involved with the Accenture Corporate Citizenship Programme in Ireland working directly with numerous local community organisations. He also drove major Diversity programmes within Accenture. Mark sits on the Genovate (Gender Diversity) Group in UCC and is also on the Sub-Committee tasked with addressing Gender Diversity at the Abbey Theatre.

Panelist: Ingrid Devin, Dell

With 10 years of regional and global experience Ingrid is responsible for driving Dell’s diversity & inclusion strategy across Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA). She provides subject matter expertise on all areas of diversity and works closely with the EMEA leadership team and HR to implement a strategy focused on leadership and accountability, inclusive culture, and external brand.

Panelist: Gina Quin, Dublin Chamber of Commerce

Gina is CEO of the Dublin Chamber, ensuring it meets its strategic objectives of being the voice of business, Dublin’s best network and inspiring learning and leadership. Working closely with the President and Council, she leads the Chamber team with a clear focus on delivering for member companies. Prior to this role, Gina ran Gandon Enterprises, worked for the Irish Trade Board and Lansdowne Market Research.

Click here to REGISTER for the event

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Marketing & Events 

Global Network Immersion Week – Sauder Business School, Vancouver


As mentioned in previous posts, Smurfit is part of a global network of MBA schools, which offers you the opportunity to sit a course in another business school for a week. It’s a great experience and one worth taking if you get the chance. I chose to go to the Sauder Business School in the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. The course was entitled ‘Clean Energy and Green Infrastructure – Innovation at the Nexus of Politics and Society’. With an MSc in Renewable Energy Development and having worked in the energy sector for 7 years prior to my MBA, I jumped at the chance. It also meant I had an excuse to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in years.


The course really struck at the heart of global economics in the context of global warming, and how greenhouse gases (GHGs) can be reduced or offset. Needless to say, the concepts are simple in principle but incredibly difficult in practice. They require buy in across the board and with many other societal pressures acting on governments around the World, the global warming issue is often pushed down the pecking order.

Carbon taxation, carbon offsetting and market-driven GHG reduction policies were explored. Examples of where these market-driven measures were working were contrasted against regions of the world were no such economic drivers existed. Furthermore it is the developed countries of world that are the largest emitters of GHGs and the developing countries that have the greatest carbon offsetting potential. As you might expect the offsetting concept is fraught with political tensions regarding economic development.

In 2012 China overtook the USA as the World’s largest emitter of GHGs. This is primarily as a result of its enormous fleet of coal fired power stations. The scary thing is that its rate of increase of GHG production is much higher than all other major contributors. In fact the other major contributors are flat lining with the exception of India. So what is the global solution to this global problem? British Columbia and western Canada may play a big role in this over the coming years and decades.


British Columbia and the neighbouring province of Alberta have enormous shale gas reserves and the potential for exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia is very real – shortest distance to market. Per unit electricity produced LNG emits almost 50 per cent less GHGs than coal. With increasing international and national pressure (global warming and air quality), conversion of China’s coal fired power stations to gas fired power stations is one of the front running solutions to clean up China’s contribution to global warming while not impacting on its economic development. For a country on the other side of the Pacific Ocean to prove to be a major part of China’s power solution shows just how interlinked the economies of the World have become. With the Paris summit on climate change just around the corner, this subject is going to become very topical over the next weeks and months.

So that was just a snapshot of my week in Vancouver. A lot more went on that week but as they say ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour!’

Finbarr Coghlan ~ Full-Time MBA

What is the Secret to Being a Successful Entrepreneur?


What is the secret to being a successful Entrepreneur? This is probably the question I am most eager to find the answer to during my MBA programme. So many students raised hands when asked whether they want to start up their own business. I believe they are just looking for the recipe for success like me.

I started to look for the answer by joining the Entrepreneurship Club. The experience of planning and organising the club event was so exciting and I hope to use the MBA Blog as a continuous discussion on entrepreneurship and as a means to promote the Entrepreneurship Club.

I would like to share stories of Chinese entrepreneur legends, founders of the two biggest internet giants in China; “Baidu” and “Alibaba” (Same business as Google and eBay respectively). It might be interesting to the people who are curious about what is happening in China and to people who are looking for inspiration on the way to building their commercial empire.

With the recent world record $150 Billion IPO filing of Alibaba, Jack Ma became the name known across the world. Jack Ma is the founder of the E-commerce giant Alibaba and is a stakeholder at Alipay, its sister company. He is now officially the richest man in China. Alibaba processes more goods than eBay and Amazon combined!

Jack Ma failed the university entrance exam three times, then graduated in 1988 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Hangzhou University (a university has never been notable before Jack became famous). In school, Ma was elected student chairman. He became a lecturer in English and International Trade after graduation.

At first he started building websites for Chinese companies with the help of friends in the US. At a conference in 2010, Ma revealed that he has never actually written a line of code nor made one sale to a customer. He encountered a computer for the first time at the age of 33.


Robin Li (Li Yanhong) is the co-founder of the Chinese search engine Baidu and is ranked as the seventh richest man in mainland China with a net worth of US$9.6 billion as of September 2015. He is ranked as 119th richest man in the world.

Li studied information management at Peking University (the Top one University in China) and the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. In 2000 he founded Baidu. Li developed the Rankdex site-scoring algorithm for search engine page ranking, which was awarded a U.S. patent. He later used this technology for the Baidu search engine.

From the stories of these two achievers in business in China, maybe we can make a conclusion that the education background and the knowledge are not the determining factor for success. Entrepreneurship is something beyond that. It is about grabbing the opportunity, being insistent, and turning an idea into a profitable business.

chu orange

Talking about insistence, I couldn’t forget to mention the most admirable Chinese businessman for me – Chu Shijian.

Mr. Chu is the China’s former “tobacco king” who built a struggling tobacco firm into the country’s largest and most profitable cigarette producer in the 1980s. Chu, however, was jailed for life on corruption charges in 1998. After he was released on medical parole in 2002, Chu started growing oranges on 160 hectares of land in the mountains of southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

The “Chu’s Orange” is named after 85-year-old Chu Shijian. Today, his fruit farm produces 8,000 tons of oranges a year, generating 30 million yuan (US$ 4.95 million) in annual profits. Most of Chu’s oranges are sold online (a sample successful story of e-commerce as well).

I cited this story to show that the success of an entrepreneur could be temporary, failure and setbacks can happen along the way. True entrepreneurs will have the power to re-start and embrace the success again.

Ying Wu ~ Full-Time MBA

There Is No ONE Answer…


My class and I are now nearly half way through Semester 1, Year 2 of the Executive MBA. The respite of mid-term is upon us as we take a breather before the run in of the last few weeks of the semester.

As I reflect on the progress we have made to date, one key learning sticks in my mind. Subjects such as Leading the Innovative Enterprise, Performance Driven Marketing, Strategy (corporate and competitive), Business and Society and Organisational Behaviour have taught me one thing: There is no One Answer.

My background is a technical one – a degree in chemistry and a number of years of experience in manufacturing pharmaceuticals. In those environments, technical problems, investigations and experiments have a root cause, a numerical answer or a concise conclusion. The subjects already mentioned have required some reprogramming of my brain.

As I read case studies and analysed the information, I came to a conclusion. I entered class with my notes in hand confident I had found the right “one” answer.

“Honda’s strategy was sound no luck involved – well planned and executed.”

“Developing a customer relationship by pretending to have a keen interest in thorough bred bulls – no ethical dilemma here, this is fair game in the sales world”

“Flat organisational structures – ideological, can’t work in practice”

As I waited in anticipation, throughout the lecture, for the various professors and doctors to validate my rock solid conclusions I was often disappointed. Why are they not giving us the answer?

As my brain adjusted to this new environment, I realised that me finding that one correct answer was futile. What is important however is the discussion, the insights of fellow classmates, my study group members and the theory outlined in articles and course text books. Eventually I stopped worrying about finding the right answer and more about incorporating the appropriate learning to strengthen my analysis and reasoning.

Michael Collins ~ Executive MBA

Grades Don’t Tell The Whole Story

WordcloudI still vividly remember my first week at Smurfit, how nervous I was about this new chapter in my life, thinking about what I will need to be a success here, and good grades were number one on that list of requirements.

However, after almost two months on the programme, I have somehow arrived at the conclusion that grades are only a footnote in the MBA story. I did not suddenly have an epiphany about this one fine day, rather I gradually realised that our experiences and learnings are far more valuable than any grade that we get, and I am not just talking about my new found ability to read balance sheets and carry out industry analysis. In just seven short weeks this programme has helped me understand the meaning of teamwork, transformed the way I approach asks and taught me how to prioritise and manage my time. I have learnt more outside the classroom than inside. The sheer amount of work that has been dumped on us made me realise that it would have been impossible for us to complete all of it, if we did not have the help of our teams.


The competitive nature of the programme would make it very easy for us to develop a blinkered view of our goals. But the holistic approach of the programme has prevented the development of such views. Although I am not overly fond of being called either an owl or a peacock, I have learnt to put my qualities into perspective and understand their role in the larger scheme of things. I have learnt not to take myself too seriously and realised that I cared more about what I got out of a task rather than what grade I would be securing.

Mind you, given the competitive bunch of people we have here in the programme, grades are important to us and adds to our sense of achievement, but hopefully, all of us have realised that there is more to the MBA than grades, there is a lot of learning, self discovery, relationship building and fun involved along the way which cannot be graded. Hopefully in the years to come, when I look back to my time here, I will be able to give the Smurfit experience an A+.

Arka Banerjee ~ Full-Time MBA

Time Management – The “Hidden” MBA Module


Well, OK, maybe it’s not so hidden, six weeks (yes, six!!) into our first semester but its presence and importance weren’t as clear to me at the start of the semester as perhaps they should have been!

Navigating the mix of group and individual assignments, which differ in content, nature and proportion of overall grade, is a challenge that needs to be met head-on. Add to this the volume of required reading, the need to devote sufficient time to group communications and, let’s not forget, the need to actually maintain a life outside the EMBA (i.e., family and job!) and we now have the framework for a hands-on module in advanced Time Management!

We may not get credits for it but I seriously doubt that success in the other four will be achieved without achieving a pass (at the very least) in this one. Thankfully, we’re all in the same boat and the class is very open about sharing the various tools that are being developed to get us through this challenging element of the course. For me, it’s important that I use this to ensure that the non-EMBA elements of my life don’t dwindle too much, so, while I find myself using all elements of the four core modules at work, Time Management is currently the only one I’m using at home. I’m particularly focused on getting enough time with three young kids who still think it’s hilarious that their Daddy is back in “school” and has to do “homework” – perspective is everything!

Conor Burke ~ Executive MBA 

MBA Foundation Week 2015

Registration & Breakfast
Registration & Breakfast

This morning, we kick started day one of Foundation Week. We have had a busy morning welcoming our newly arrived MBA students to Smurfit Business School, that is the Full-Time MBA Class of 2016 and the Executive MBA Class of 2017. It has been a great morning meeting everybody, welcoming our international students to Dublin, and getting to know one another.

Karan Sonpar - MBA Academic Director - speaking to the newly arrived MBA students this morning
Karan Sonpar – MBA Academic Director – speaking to the newly arrived MBA students this morning

Foundation Week is a week-long orientation session which takes place prior to the academic course. It is designed to assist our MBA students as they return to formal study. Subjects covered include: Communication Skills, Report Writing, Team Building, Leadership Skills, Introduction to Personal Awareness & Personality Type, Multicultural Learning Environment, Networking Sessions, Case Study Analysis, Library & IT Skills and Productivity Management, amongst others.

Full-Time MBA Class Introductions
Full-Time MBA Class Introductions

I would like to wish all of our newly arrived MBA students the very best over the course of their time with us here at Smurfit, the exciting journey starts here.

Best wishes,

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Senior Programme Coordinator

Sunny Day to Volunteer on July 4th!

On Saturday at 10am, six MBAs, three friends, and one Smurfit MSc student joined Volunteer Centre Dublin City to clean-up the Grand Canal. (To volunteer for this, just show up at the Leeson St Bridge on the first Saturday of every month! All are welcome!)


The Smurfit Clean-up Crew were met with the smiles of seasoned volunteers who were delighted that we have decided to join them! So many of us showed up that the Volunteer Centre ran out of vests for us. The ten of us were deployed along the canal with gloves, pickers, and trash bags. Several walkers, cyclists, and drivers along the way told us to keep up the good work as well, which made it even more rewarding!

Our teamwork and organizational skills from the MBA paid off – we quickly implemented a system of working in a team to fish out cans and plastic – Angie had to hold on me as I tried not to fall in while reaching for an abandoned shoe in the canal! She’s smiling from all the fun she was having with me! Pictured below, Niall is expertly using the picker while Maíre collects the items found.

2 3

After two hours of hard work, we were delighted to have a few chats and some treats provided by Starbucks. The coffee and scones were well deserved by all the volunteers. Here is a photo of most of the volunteers enjoying themselves and the beautiful view behind them!


In all seriousness, we were able to collect lots of recyclable materials which  shocked and surprised us at how anyone could let trash get into the waterways. This experience really made us think about sustainability and our responsibilities to the environment. Hopefully we will be more of a positive change in near future and be able to volunteer again next month!

The UCD Smurfit MBA Social Outreach Society aims to give back to society and the local community. We decided to join Dublin City Volunteer Centre for this event because we believe in doing something good, especially when Ireland’s natural greenery provides us with so much. To date we have also supported BizWorld Ireland by volunteering, mentoring, and fundraising for an organization which provide curriculums that inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and empower children between 10-13 years old with business and financial knowledge. We hope that next year’s class can add more initiatives to MBA SOS.

Special thanks to…

Full-Time MBAs: Edel Kennedy, John Haus, Niall Randles, Nhung ‘Angie’ Dao Hong and Prachi Garg

Three MBA friends: Maíre, Jovi and Kevin

MSc in Human Resources Management: Constanze Hoenel

Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full-Time MBA