The Future of Mar­ket­ing in High­er Edu­ca­tion: Bridg­ing the Gap Between The­o­ry and Industry

Dr. Gillian Brooks — King’s Busi­ness School, King’s Col­lege London


This ses­sion will dis­cuss how aca­d­e­mics can suc­cess­ful­ly bridge the gap between the­o­ry and indus­try, illus­trat­ing inno­v­a­tive ways that hands-on mar­ket­ing prac­tice can be used in the classroom.


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Gillian Brooks 0:00
Hel­lo, hel­lo. Today I’m going to be talk­ing about the future of mar­ket­ing in high­er education.

What we’re going to be look­ing at more specif­i­cal­ly is how we bridge the gap between the­o­ry and indus­try to real­ly ensure that today’s stu­dents who are pur­su­ing Eco­nom­ics and Man­age­ment, Inter­na­tion­al Man­age­ment, Busi­ness Man­age­ment, are real­ly get­ting the most thor­ough and holis­tic under­stand­ing of the mar­ket­ing industry.

So here we have just a few top head­lines from the last week that are real­ly fun­da­men­tal­ly illus­trat­ing how the mar­ket­ing cur­ricu­lum is chang­ing. So at the top here, we have mar­ket­ing T lev­el launch­es to prep stu­dents for jobs of tomor­row. Kick­ing off in 2025, the T lev­el in mar­ket­ing will offer stu­dents on the job train­ing equiv­a­lent to three A lev­els. Anoth­er head­line says future mar­keters need to know more about the mod­ern indus­try land­scape. And then final­ly, from Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­ni­a’s Whar­ton School of Busi­ness, we have a matchup, mashup sor­ry of mar­ket­ing and neu­ro­science. Whar­ton’s visu­al mar­ket­ing course exam­ines the real world appli­ca­tions of visu­al cog­ni­tion and its influ­ence on con­sumer behaviour.

So I pulled these up to real­ly illus­trate how not only is the high­er edu­ca­tion dis­ci­pline, and the mar­ket­ing field try­ing to sort of meet in the mid­dle some­where to make sure that mar­ket­ing stu­dents are the most pre­pared for the for the real world. But it’s some­thing that we can actu­al­ly use a vari­ety of tech­niques and plat­forms for, as I will show here in today’s presentation.

So when you think about mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, or at least teach­ing mar­ket­ing 101, we talk about search engine opti­miza­tion, con­tent, email, social media, web­sites, you name it. But more and more stu­dents and actu­al­ly peo­ple in the indus­try are real­is­ing that once they actu­al­ly get into a mar­ket­ing agency, either work­ing at an agency or in house for a com­pa­ny, there is a lot more than just these spe­cif­ic fac­tors that we see here. And that’s real­ly what I’ve tried to do, in terms of my lat­est course, Influ­enc­ing Con­sumers to illus­trate specif­i­cal­ly how stu­dents can grad­u­ate from their degree with real world applic­a­ble skills.

Hon­est­ly, I think the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence between being a pro­fes­sor who uses a text­book and one who does­n’t and sort of looks beyond that for more applic­a­ble skills, is real­ly look­ing at the need to inno­vate beyond the famil­iar and I think so often, many aca­d­e­mics sort of get stuck in a bit of a rut where they’re just teach­ing, you know, the basic ele­ments of mar­ket­ing and not real­ly look­ing beyond and inno­vat­ing beyond to real­ly help their stu­dents. And that’s real­ly what I’ve strived to do dur­ing my time at Kings.

So real­ly the first step I think, in try­ing to bridge this gap between sort of the­o­ry and indus­try is com­ing up with a real­is­tic ped­a­gogy. So I’m a lec­tur­er cur­rent­ly in mar­ket­ing at King’s busi­ness school where I teach mod­ules at a vari­ety of lev­els. How­ev­er, regard­less of whether I’m teach­ing under­grad­u­ates, post­grad­u­ates or exec­u­tives, my main val­ues focus on pre­pared­ness and rel­e­van­cy, all in all focus­ing and pri­ori­tis­ing inno­va­tion with­in these two realms. So with regard to pre­pared­ness, which is what I will dis­cuss today as one of my key ped­a­gog­ic themes is that I devel­oped for the first time a final year mar­ket­ing under­grad­u­ate course, that focused on teach­ing stu­dents about con­sumer behav­iour and influence.

And the rea­son I decid­ed to present this course was because not only do stu­dents think they’re very well aware of sort of influ­encer mar­ket­ing and per­sua­sion from the pletho­ra of influ­encers who are on their social media feeds. But it’s extreme­ly impor­tant to see how dig­i­tal natives, to be hon­est, so gen­er­a­tion Zed, or Gen­er­a­tion Z, have real­ly been grown up grow­ing up in a space where their dig­i­tal flu­en­cy has often been tak­en for grant­ed by firms and com­pa­nies. And so it’s extreme­ly impor­tant that they under­stand the per­sua­sive tech­niques and influ­en­tial ways in which com­pa­nies try to not only use their data, which we know, but actu­al­ly sell them spe­cif­ic items and change their con­sumer behav­iour. So after I devel­oped this course, I then decid­ed to devel­op a final assign­ment that would real­ly cre­ate sort of imme­di­ate val­ue for stu­dents by pro­vid­ing them with cut­ting edge indus­try expe­ri­ence with­in the con­fines of the class­room. And I can assure you, that is not an easy, an easy task. And it real­ly did rely on a great indus­try part­ner to make this worthwhile.

So I need­ed to sort of come up with a moti­va­tion. So what was real­ly going to be my moti­va­tion to allow for a more rel­e­vant, cut­ting edge expe­ri­ence for stu­dents so that they’re more ready for the indus­try than pre­vi­ous­ly? They had been. So feed­back from oth­er stu­dents when I was try­ing to design the course Influ­enc­ing Con­sumers. They were say­ing that yes, we’re com­ing up with all this great the­o­ry, but we actu­al­ly don’t have the prac­ti­cal skills that we need from day one. So we can hit the ground run­ning when we start up at an agency or in any sort of indus­try. So I want­ed to then cre­ate an assign­ment that pushed the bound­aries of what was pos­si­ble in mar­ket­ing cours­es, and real­ly pro­vide a unique skill set for my students.

So the first thing you have to do is obvi­ous­ly find resources. So I applied for an edu­ca­tion and an inno­va­tion grant from King’s Col­lege to pay for access to this incred­i­ble pro­pri­etary, pro­pri­etary sor­ry, tool devel­oped by Goril­la. So goril­las tool was called shop builder. And for those of you who are unfa­mil­iar with it, it allowed users to test con­sumer deci­sion mak­ing hypothe­ses in a real­is­tic online shop sim­u­la­tion. Shop builder resem­bles a typ­i­cal online shop. So what I’m think many of you are prob­a­bly aware of, and hope­ful­ly, not on right now, while we’re doing these pre­sen­ta­tions, but it’s actu­al­ly an impres­sive lab, in the back­ground used by eco­nom­ic psy­chol­o­gists, and con­sumer behav­iour sci­en­tists. So at the front, you just looks like any type of shop like Ama­zon. But behind the scenes, tru­ly, there’s loads going on, to fig­ure out exact­ly how we can sort of nudge con­sumers towards spe­cif­ic projects.

So here we have just an exam­ple, the sort of the front end expe­ri­ence, where you have par­tic­i­pants look, basi­cal­ly, in a nor­mal online shop to max­imise eco­log­i­cal valid­i­ty, right, you want to make sure that this actu­al­ly looks like a legit­i­mate shop. And peo­ple know, they’re not part of an exper­i­ment. The back end, how­ev­er, is the behind the scenes where the whole world of research tools are being used to sort of illus­trate this lab type set­ting where you can add spe­cif­ic nudges to change the behav­iour of your poten­tial consumers.

So after I part­nered with Goril­la, I thought, Okay, well, this is an amaz­ing plat­form, but how am I going to make this work in the class­room. So I decid­ed to make a lit­tle bit of a com­pe­ti­tion going. So I had stu­dents work in teams, and they end­ed up com­pet­ing against each oth­er to fig­ure out which team could earn the most prof­it by nudg­ing con­sumers into pur­chas­ing var­i­ous prod­ucts with­in their own shop. This whole course, of the had gone on from Jan­u­ary to April, was look­ing at a vari­ety of the­o­ret­i­cal con­cepts, con­cepts sor­ry, that real­ly do illus­trate notions of choice archi­tec­ture, per­sua­sion tech­niques and nudg­ing. So it was their job not only to apply these the­o­ries that we’d learned in the class, but actu­al­ly see if they actu­al­ly would work in this lab set­ting in sort of a real time scenario.

So just as an exam­ple of sort of how we start­ed to show you the time­line, the term began in Jan­u­ary. So stu­dents were right off the bat and intro­duced to goril­la and goril­la was incred­i­ble, and actu­al­ly host­ing office hours where stu­dents could come online, could we did it over over zoom, or teams, and they could come online and ask ques­tions to goril­la about how to set up their spe­cif­ic exper­i­ment, how they can set up their shop. And as you can see here that they had from Jan­u­ary 25, to march 22, to real­ly put this shop togeth­er and not only put the shop togeth­er, but col­lect their data, com­plete the data, and then sum­marise their find­ings and write up a very con­vinc­ing doc­u­ment illus­trat­ing how the tech­niques and the con­structs the­o­ret­i­cal con­structs learned in the course, can be applied to their shop.

And then they had to sort of explain to me well, what worked and what did­n’t, and why did they think these con­cepts worked? Or, or of course did­n’t. So to begin with it, we had to cre­ate a rea­son like why else? Why do we have the shop? Well, the rea­son we had a shop cre­at­ed was because every indi­vid­ual, every group was try­ing to buy a gift, if you will, a 21st birth­day gift for Sophie. So I put togeth­er this very nuanced rep­re­sen­ta­tion of who I thought Sophie was talk­ing about her her social media, work, the type of plat­form she likes, what she likes to do on the week­ends, the shop she likes to shop at, the tele­vi­sion show she likes to watch. And I real­ly want­ed to illus­trate the lev­el of detail that indus­try is now using to come up with per­sonas to rep­re­sent var­i­ous demo­graph­ics in the con­sumer space. So we know now from

you know, the vari­ety of research and lit­er­a­ture that it’s not just about the demo­graph­ic ele­ments of a con­sumer, they look at psy­cho­graph­ic tech psy­cho­graph­ic traits, geo­graph­ic traits, emo­tion­al traits. Now with big data, they can actu­al­ly look at your dig­i­tal foot­print. So hav­ing us infor­ma­tion about Sophie and this sort of lev­el of detail, was actu­al­ly not far off from what a bunch of con­sumers have. Sor­ry, indus­try has prob­a­bly on many of you con­sumers. So Alpha Man­age­ment, who you’re going to hear from or you already have heard from, they were extreme­ly strong team in this course, and they did an incred­i­ble job nudg­ing par­tic­i­pants towards the Miss Dior perfume.

And so this is just a sam­ple from their final assign­ment. And so they wrote, they focused on nudg­ing par­tic­i­pants towards the Miss Dior per­fume to prime users and dis­sent­ed beau­ty prod­ucts be exper­i­ment ini­ti­at­ed with a blog and a social media task. And only then is the user wel­comed by a land­ing page that is equal to the store’s beau­ty sec­tion. And with the help of var­i­ous nudges through­out the web­site, so things that we learned in class in terms of labels, rat­ings, descrip­tions and swaps. They were encour­aged towards the prod­ucts specif­i­cal­ly of Miss Dior per­fume and away from oth­ers. So again, not only did these stu­dents have to devel­op their own shop, work in it as a lab in terms of fig­ure about how peo­ple can actu­al­ly pur­chase spe­cif­ic items, but they have to sort of apply a very crit­i­cal think­ing lens to illus­trate how the con­cepts from the course could actu­al­ly illus­trate whether their nudges worked or didn’t.

Final­ly, the last bit of the last sort of stage, I would say, of con­nect­ing indus­try and acad­e­mia is real­ly mak­ing sure that these stu­dents had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to both par­tic­i­pate and wit­ness how con­sumers make deci­sions with­in ecom­merce. So through this ini­tia­tive, I want­ed to ensure that stu­dents were push­ing the bound­aries of what’s pos­si­ble in mar­ket­ing cours­es. And I want­ed to pri­ori­tise build­ing this very unique skill set that they can gen­uine­ly use when they go in inter­view with var­i­ous firms, com­pa­nies to sort of illus­trate that they have their fin­ger on the pulse, if you will, of the true mar­ket­ing land­scape and not just what they read in a text­book. So I want­ed to thank you so much for a very brief run through here of how I believe it’s impor­tant to inno­vate beyond the famil­iar in acad­e­mia specif­i­cal­ly in mar­ket­ing, and real­ly pro­duce grad­u­ates who are obvi­ous­ly well read and know the the­o­ries like the palm of their hand but are gen­uine­ly able to walk in the on the first day of their job and ful­ly under­stand the nuances of the mar­ket­ing field and the cut­ting edge tech­nol­o­gy that goes with it. Thank you.

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