I locked my eyes with the blonde girl next to me in the parking lot who, like me, was obviously a nervous intern that arrived too early on her first day on this hot June day. We sit in our respective cars, waiting for a respectable time to walk into the building of Reckitt Benckiser in New Jersey (I like to say New York City area sometimes, but it’s really just New Jersey).
Reckitt Benckiser (RB): an international consumer packaged goods (CPG) company whose well-known brands include Lysol, Finish, Mucinex, Air Wick, Airborne, Durex, and more. I’ve memorized this pitch really well from repeating it to everyone who’s asked since Reckitt Benckiser isn’t a name that usually jumps into people’s minds right away. I was arriving on my first day at my internship as a Trade Marketing intern, excited and nervously tapping my fingers on the car door while I waited for the clock to hit 8:15 am.
You may be asking yourself, what is trade marketing? I wasn’t quite certain either. I’m a rising senior studying Business and Cognitive Science and saw marketing to be the perfect intersection of my interests: combining liberal arts knowledge of how the mind thinks with action-based strategies that can impact real-world businesses. Though I’ve done marketing internships at start-ups in the past, I was really excited to gain experience in the CPG industry and work on some huge, international brands.
Rebecca, the girl in the car next to me and I walk into the building together, bonding over our nervousness. I was relieved I had someone to sit next to during the opening presentations, just like the first day of school. Though I didn’t know them well, there were 4 other University of Michigan interns at RB and over 40 interns overall, including MBAs and those in other functions.
After a whirlwind morning of introductions, talks by RB’s President of North America, Frank Hofs, and onboarding by HR, we finally met our teams. Byron, a tall young Australian guy would be my manager for the summer and I would be interning with the Air Wick team. We went on a tour around the building, then met the whole team at lunch, including the three other interns who would be on Air Wick with me.
I learned that trade marketing sits at an important cross-section between sales, strategy, and brand management, in charge of increasing demand at the retailer level, like for Wal-Mart. If a product isn’t even on shelves, how could a customer find it to purchase it? Even though it differed from a classic brand management role, it shared a lot of the same characteristics and I was excited to learn as much as I could from this internship.
After receiving my project for the summer, we spent most of the first week onboarding and learning about the business. As I got to know my team better and as I ate more lunches with other interns, including Rebecca, throughout the first weeks, my nervousness around began to dissipate. As a more introverted person, I can take a while to be comfortable around people, but it was easy to start breaking out of my shell at RB.
The first day went by with a blur, and before I knew it the entire first week was gone. As I pulled into the parking lot for my second week, I jump out of my car eagerly, excited to see what the next week would hold for me.