Rick Sterling of the Sterling-Rice Group came to educate Wittenberg students about his life in the world of brand marketing in last week's Executive-In-Residence program. A 1969 graduate of Wittenberg University, Sterling was responsible for the foundation of his marketing firm out in Boulder, Colorado which now works with some of the most well-respected brands in the food and beverage industry including Frito Lay, Heinz, Starbucks, Pepsi Co and more.
Through the Executive-In-Residence program, Sterling first met with a select group of students for a luncheon, discussing how his experience at Wittenberg created a foundation for his current success in branding. Later that afternoon, Sterling delivered an outstanding speech to a broader audience of faculty and students in which he explained his life journey from Wittenberg all the way to his current executive position in the Sterling-Rice Group.
During his time at Wittenberg, Sterling worked with the athletics department to implement a varsity lacrosse team, and was also a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. Coming out of college, he explained that he was "the poster child of it can work out" for people who are indecisive about their future endeavors. Regardless, Sterling continued to work hard, and after completing his graduate degree at Michigan State University, he landed a job in branding with Quaker Oats.
He explained that his years at Quaker Oats were vital in his development as a master brand strategist. With the explosion of media in recent years, it has been difficult for consumers to truly understand and differentiate one product from another. But Sterling firmly stated that "brands are the pathway…and a promise" for consumers, aiding in their ability to make the right purchase decisions.
With this knowledge of brand strategy, Sterling founded his company, Sterling-Rice Group, in the mid 80s. Since then, his list of clientele has grown dramatically as his firm has grown in reputation. They have now worked with over 100 different companies, mainly in the food and beverage industry, but branching out to companies like Frontier Airlines, UBS, and even consultancy work with Wittenberg University.
Sterling's presence among students and faculty provided both with exceptional opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. He closed his speech by asking the audience how they will brand themselves as they make their way out into the business world, and the importance of that brand they will portray—a great way to end his lecture, and great thought for students, especially those pursuing employment as we near summer.