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.
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.