white cards with text "Marketing" on it scattered on a blackboard surface.

Breaking Down Barriers to Marketing Concepts

By Elizabeth Williams

To help international learners more easily understand marketing concepts, I ask each to choose a brand at the beginning of the term and to become the class expert on their brand.

Transcript – Breaking Down Barriers to Marketing Concepts (click to open)

Hi there! I’m Elizabeth Williams and I teach Marketing and Marketing Communications in The Business School, and most of my learners are graduate students who are in the general Global Business program, or sometimes in other more specific programs, and they come from literally every corner of the earth.

And, so one of the challenges of teaching an introduction to marketing to international students is that they often haven’t heard of, or worked with, or interacted with the brands that are are in our textbook. And that can be a bit of a challenge. And so, things like, you know, they’ve never heard of Mark’s Work Warehouse, they’ve never bought anything from Joe Fresh, they don’t know what Motomaster Auto Parts are. And then a second challenge, which is common, really, to anyone learning marketing, is applying some of the more esoteric concepts like pricing, product management, branding, demographics, that sort of thing, to the real world.

And so, one of the things that has worked for me on this is I developed a deck of cards, and I put all these different brands into my deck. I have about 100 of them, this is Microsoft and Coke and Dyson, and I have all the all the car brands in there, and a few universities, and you know airlines and things like that. And so what I do on the second day of class is I put these on a big table and I ask each learner to come and just pick a brand from the deck of cards. And it can be a brand they really love, some of them pick a brand they really hate, or just one that they are curious about and they want to learn more.

And so, for the rest of our term, they are the class resident expert on that brand. And we start with our first individual assignment, which is an essay that they have to write on the first few chapters, and I asked and just focus on the one brand that you picked, and then each lesson, as we as we sort of reflect at the end of each lesson about the concepts, we go around the room we just say well how do you think that would apply for your brand? And we ask them to reflect on that and share it. And they really like it because it helps them sort of stay focused, it helps them put the concepts to work, and it helps them, you know, ask better questions. And one of the things I’ve also seen is, when one learner asks a question, often our brand experts will just weigh in and say, oh well here’s how, you know, here’s how Coca-Cola does package design, and here’s how Dyson does product management. And it’s been, it’s been really just a ton of fun watching everybody apply it, and go out and do their research, and really get to know these brands on a more intimate level.

And then I guess one of the side effects I’ve also had of this is, it’s also reduced some of our academic integrity issues in our classroom because everybody’s working on a different brand. And, even in the exams, and the short answers, I ask them to respond based on the brand that they’ve been studying all semester long. And so, it’s really improved both the student experience, my experience, the way we learn and apply things, and academic integrity. And if anybody wants, I actually have these little cards, I made them in powerpoint and I’m happy to just share that powerpoint with you so you can print it off and cut it up and make your own deck of brands. And that’s it! Thank you very much!