Course Meeting Times
Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session
Nature and Purpose of the Course
The course focuses on the role of marketing as creating value for customers. Emphasis is placed on creating and capturing value, identifying customer needs and understanding purchasing processes, forming target segments, positioning the product, and managing brand equity. Topics to be covered include advertising and communicating the product, distributing the product, pricing the product and market research. In addition, the course will focus on electronic commerce and the Internet.
We will use cases, discussions, readings, guest speakers and a computer simulation to provide a mix of theory and hands-on problem solving to a variety of marketing issues. In order to move through managerially relevant material, it is assumed that students have a basic understanding of statistics (e.g., mean, variance, correlation) and economics (e.g., marginal cost, marginal revenue, elasticity).
The course is designed to be an introduction to the theory and application of marketing.
The course draws upon a Reading Packet containing cases, required readings, and background readings. There is no required textbook for this course. For a basic textbook on marketing, including marketing terms, examples, and a general taxonomy of issues we recommend: Armstrong, Gary, and Philip Kotler. Marketing: An Introduction. 6th ed. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. ISBN: 0130351334.
Course Projects, Tasks, and Grading
The course is organized so that each class revolves around a case discussion and a theory discussion. Copies of the slides for the theory discussions will be available on the lecture notes page.
During the semester students are asked to:
- Participate in active discussion during class.
- Demonstrate understanding of the weekly case by pointing out three of its major concepts. This should be done prior to each case discussion, and submitted to the Instructors via email.
- In groups of three or four analyze, improve, and test one advertisement (newspaper, radio, magazine, TV, Internet, etc). In this project you will be asked to use what you have learned in the class to provide a detailed analysis of an ad in terms of target audience, the benefits it provides and the way it works (think about an ad as a tool and describe its function). Based on your analysis, suggest an improved version of the ad and test the new ad on the appropriate target customers to see if indeed it is better. Note this is a fuzzy task and the parameters are not well specified, which is true about most aspects of life. Submit a short paper (up to 10 pages) and prepare a 5-minute presentation for class.
In this subject, as in all subjects at Sloan, our goal is to help you learn the material so that you can become a better manager. There are many ways to succeed in this course, so please do not become overly focused on the grade.
Contribution to class discussion, both to the case analyses and the regular class sessions, is an integral part of your learning experience. Students will not be directly graded on participation but in case of ambiguity in grading (for example, your average is close to an A- and you could be “bumped up”), participation will be used to resolve this ambiguity. Evaluation of this is necessarily subjective, but will be heavily weighted in terms of the quality of your input. Sheer quantity of comments with little depth or relevance to focal issues will not be rewarded. Finally, there will be a 2.5% penalty for each class you miss, and late arrival is unacceptable. Past experience indicates that it is difficult to do well in this course if you do not attend class on a regular basis.
Marketing is a very broad field. Often, we will be covering in one or two class sessions a topic that many people spend their lives trying to understand and master. Clearly, we will not have time to cover the nitty-gritty details of every topic. As such, it is critical that students do the readings for each day before you come to class. In class, we will go beyond the readings to highlight critical aspects of each topic. If you have not done the readings or case preparation for the day, you will not get much out of the lecture and discussion and your participation will suffer.
The case is meant to facilitate the discussion of marketing problems in real situations. You should read the case carefully and come to class prepared to discuss how you would handle the situation. One or two students will be asked to start the discussion by identifying the primary decision problem and their recommended course of action. You should therefore come to class prepared to respond if called upon to open the case. If you cannot make it to class or cannot prepare for the case discussion, please let the instructors know 24 hours in advance.
Once a case discussion begins, be prepared to provide constructive input as the class works together to address the issues of the case. The situations in the cases are complex. Rarely will there be a single right answer, although there may be wrong answers. It is also rare that the class will come to a consensus because the appropriate response often depends upon which assumptions are accepted. Real learning takes place when you see how others address a problem about which you have thought carefully. Therefore, the more prepared you are, the more you will learn.
Students will be asked to turn in a few exercises related to the topic of the day. These exercises are intended to enhance your understanding of the material.
There will be two exams, a Midterm and a Final. The exams are designed to tap a student’s understanding of basic marketing terminology and concepts. The exams will be composed of a single question (e.g. what are the three most important marketing concepts and why) and a case analysis.
Tips for Success in this Class
Preparing for Case Discussion
In preparing for class, we recommend that you read the case three times. The first reading should be a quick run-through of the text in the case. It should give you a feeling for what the case is about and the types of data it contains. Your second reading should be in more depth. Many people like to underline or mark up their cases to pick out important points they know will be needed later. Your major effort on a second reading should be to understand the decision problem and context. For example, analyze the case with respect to customer behavior and trends, competitor’s behavior and trends, and the firm’s strengths and weaknesses.
On your second reading, carefully examine the exhibits in the case. Usually the case writer has put the exhibits there for a purpose, although some exhibits will be superfluous and some may even be inconsistent – just as real data are. But mostly, the exhibits contain information that will be useful in analyzing the situation. You will often find that you will need to apply an analytical technique to an exhibit in order to benefit from the information in the raw data. Averages, ratios, break-even analyses, and comparisons with other exhibits are often helpful.
On the third reading you should have a good idea of the fundamentals of the case. Now you will be searching to understand the specific decision problem. Part of the case analysis process, as in real life, is identifying the real decision problem amidst lots of data and information. It is your task to figure out what decision(s) must be made (if a decision needs to be made at all), make action recommendations, and consider how you would specifically implement your recommendation.
Sometimes students will get thinking questions about the cases. Before the third reading you may want to review these questions to stimulate your thinking and highlight issues that you should have a working knowledge of before the class discussion. These questions are not necessarily “tips for a successful case solution,” but rather are meant to insure that everyone understands the basics of the case and the discussion can begin “on the same page.”
During the class discussion, you should be prepared to share your thoughts on the real problems and issues of the case and present a persuasive summary of your recommendations. Be prepared to explain why you rejected any obvious alternative courses of action and provide vital facts supporting acceptance of your recommendation. Your goal is to convince the class that your recommendation is the best. However, a rigorous approach will consider both sides to every recommendation. You should be up-front about potential problems you might expect in implementing your recommendation.
Finally, an important concern in any discipline is the ethics of its practitioners. This is certainly true in marketing and advertising. Ethical issues will arise in the case discussions and lecture discussions. Indeed, some managers in the cases act in ways your might not consider ethical (and in some situations these actions are mentioned in the case specifically to raise ethical issues). We encourage you to address these issues in class discussion.
Quality Class Participation
Quality class participation is:
- Input that maintains the continuity of class discussion. This rules out off-the-wall comments or comments that switch the discussion to an irrelevant topic.
- Input that may be perceived as controversial, yet reflects intelligent comments that suggest an understanding of the issue, will be well received.
- Discussion that demonstrates an in-depth analysis of the issues being considered so that follow-up questions by anybody in the class improves our collective understanding of a perspective.
- Finally, civility and respect in the give and take of a heated discussion is a requirement.
Quality class participation is not:
- Class attendance. Simple physical presence in class is not the same as participation (on the other hand, not coming to class is a good way of ensuring no credit for class participation).
- Simple responses to questions, or expressing an uninformed opinion does not count as quality participation.
On occasion, circumstances or situations arise which may affect your preparation for class or the class schedule. Aside from our time in class, the next fastest and most efficient mode of communication will be email.