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Indiana University Bloomington

Center for Brand Leadership

Kelley Advantage

The Center for Brand Leadership is a close-knit group of top MBA students, faculty, alumni, and corporate partners who share a wealth of industry knowledge and contacts.

Kelley MBA Markets Major Brands

Nicci Pannier MBA'11

Nicci Pannier

“Relationships matter. You never know who can help you with a problem.”

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Nicci Pannier’s Kelley MBA experience started on a plane. Traveling for her job as educational leadership consultant for Kappa Alpha Theta, Pannier started chatting with a fellow passenger, a Kelley MBA alumnus. She mentioned that she was thinking about earning her MBA, and he urged her to check out Kelley.

“I never got his name, but I’m very happy we had that conversation,” says Pannier. “It inspired me to come to Kelley for a visit day, and what really sold me on the program was how interested they were in me.”

As one of Kelley’s youngest MBA students with just two years of work experience (the average is five years), Pannier is grateful for the connections and expertise she gained at Kelley, especially her time in Kelley’s Consumer Marketing Academy.

“So many things about consumer marketing are interesting to me,” she says. “I enjoy getting to interact with consumers and see what they think. This field is a nice blend of analytic, creative, and strategic thinking.”

In addition to improving her technical marketing knowledge and consumer research skills, Pannier credits her Kelley experience with boosting her “soft” skills such as working with and managing people.

Employers are noticing.

Pannier worked at Nestlé USA in summer 2010 as a brand management intern with Toll House Cookie Dough. (Yes, she still has cookie dough in her freezer.) In addition to analyzing and forecasting data and researching new consumer targets for the product, Pannier took the lead on the Spooktacular Baking Contest, a Halloween-themed event asking consumers to find creative uses for cookie dough. (Think edible witch hats.) She was responsible for everything, from developing the contest, its prizes and timing, to working with five different ad agencies to create the promotion strategy and creative materials to launch the brand’s first social media campaign. The results? She increased Toll House Cookie Dough’s Facebook fan base by 133 percent, just in phase one. She also met Nestlé USA CEO Brad Alford, a Kelley alumnus.

“That was a big highlight,” she says of meeting Alford. “The company flew me out to its U.S. headquarters in Glendale, California, to meet with Mr. Alford and other interns. Actually, the whole Nestlé experience was really good. I got to work with passionate people on a fun product.”

Her appetite for food marketing whetted, Pannier turned her cookie dough success into a full-time job as an associate marketing manager at General Mills in Minneapolis, one of the world’s largest food companies. Cheerios, Trix, Progresso, Pillsbury, and Yoplait are just a few of the brands under the General Mills’ umbrella. Pannier’s ready to begin her new life in the Twin Cities—one lesson, learned at Kelley, will guide her: “Relationships matter. You never know who can help you with a problem.”

Even a friendly passenger on a plane.

Published April 11, 2011