Marketing Summer Session Course Prepares Students for Internships and the Workplace

In 2011, at the suggestion of her students, “Marketing Management in the Government, Business and Nonprofit Sectors,” was developed by visiting professor of government, Constance Rossum P'01 P'08. At the time, the students told Rossum that these skills would enhance their performance in summer internships and their belief that as future leaders (as “walking billboards” for their organizations), they needed to understand basic marketing communication concepts.

The course introduces students to customer-centered marketing concepts that focus on results. Rossum uses case studies–– ranging from Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to “Market New York City,” the collaboration of eBay and the U.S. Postal Service, Zappos’ service orientation, Ford Fiesta’s use of social media, and Pepsico’s “Pepsi Refresh” campaign to highlight marketing successes and failures.

Rossum notes that one only needs to read the headlines to see the range of marketing, political, and policy challenges that leaders are facing: the government’s unprecedented promotion of the Food Stamp Program results in record users, but many are unqualified; the highly regarded Susan B. Komen Foundation’s decision to discontinue funding Planned Parenthood is met with passionate donor reaction (on both sides) and the resignation of a valued staff member; the beloved Penn State coach Joe Paterno and the university president are forced to resign after the revelation of Jerry Sandusky’s years of the sexual abuse of young athletes; and, who has forgotten the Tiger Woods incident? Or, she says, “Has it been overshadowed by Lance Armstrong’s admission of drug use?”

According to Rossum, these organizations and individuals have powerful “brand equity,” earned after years of hard work by many individuals on behalf of their customers. She predicts that most organizations and public figures will face customer, employee and media scrutiny. Her course reviews the steps needed to restore trust and value to the “product” when reputation is damaged, as well as how to develop and nurture–– upfront ––what McKinsey executives have concluded: that we are all marketers now.

Rossum will be offering this class as part of CMC’s Summer Session. Hers will be a three-week intensive, happening May 22 through June 12.

We talked with her about marketing strategies––what works and what doesn’t–– and some of the best advice she ever received.

CMC: Marketing courses are usually connected with business schools. Why do you believe students in the liberal arts, government, leadership and nonprofits can benefit from this study as well?

Rossum: Marketing communications is the business of anyone who wants to get his message across effectively. President Obama was named “Marketer of the Year” in 2008 by Advertising Age, largely for his ability to connect with various voter segments and his brilliant use of social media. (The Ford Motor Company was chosen as winner in 2010.) BP’s CEO was criticized for his poor crisis management skills following the oil leak. World Vision’s president, Rich Stearns, succeeded in crafting a rationale to wary donors that helped support its new Project Hope AIDS initiative in Africa.

Peter F. Drucker, the “father of modern management” described management as “one of the liberal arts.” He taught that the first responsibility of leaders is to “define the mission and communicate it clearly” to their primary and supporting customers. So, whether you are trying to influence customers to purchase a particular product, vote for a specific candidate or ballot measure, or convince individuals to change their destructive behavior, effective marketing skills are needed. Understanding marketing can also make us better consumers and informed citizens.

CMC: What would be some good examples of ethical problems in marketing?

Rossum: Besides those described earlier, there are many questions that lead to interesting discussions. For example, is it “unethical” to market to children (e.g., a toy in a McDonald’s Happy Meal)? Or, is it an extension of the experience parents choose to give their children?  Consider that word-of-mouth, even among children, is a powerful influencer. Clothing brands and make-up for tween girls are promoted by the users themselves.

Consumers are led to believe that the “truth in advertising” standard applies to all advertising.  While commercial companies are restricted from making false claims about their products or their competition at significant risk, candidates and elected officials are not held to the same standards. Their statements and advertisements are considered “political speech” under the protection of the First Amendment. The ethics of marketing a position take on even more complexity when you are trying to sort out the “truth” of the dangers of global warming or the benefits of Obama Care. And, as public relations has become an increasingly important part of what we call “integrated marketing communications,” how the media presents rival positions significantly affects public perception.

CMC: What aspect of your summer material do you most look forward to sharing with students?  What changes, if any, do you plan to make in course content this summer?

Rossum: Last summer, I was asked by Dean Brock Blomberg of the Robert Day School to develop and teach a course on marketing and innovation for students from The Claremont Colleges participating in the new Silicon Valley internship Program. Interestingly, about half of each semester’s class were assigned to a marketing department at their respective companies, and the others interfaced with some aspect of marketing communications. I assigned marketing cases centered on innovative organizations like Google, Apple, IDEO, Zappos, as well as Procter & Gamble. We were able to attract speakers to our Saturday classes from these organizations, as well as from CodeforAmerica (described as a “Peace Corps for Geeks”) and from Goodby, Silverstein and Partners (an award winning marketing services agency, e.g, Got Milk?). I am excited to share the new lessons learned from these experiences with this year’s summer school students.

CMC: Is there a big, demonstrable difference in marketing strategies for for-profit companies and nonprofit companies, or are the principles the same?

Rossum: The principles are the same so far as effective marketing strategies are research-based, customer-centered, and focus on delivering value. We used to talk about the 4Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Today, given the importance of the service sector, we recognize at least three additional “P’s”––People, Process and Physical Evidence. All of these are touch points for effective marketing.

CMC: Tell us about your own marketing experiences. Are there successful campaigns with which you have been involved?

Rossum: As an account executive at Leo Burnett Advertising, my job was to help introduce Chicken McNuggets. Students today do not know of life pre-nuggets, but it was truly a new product/form that McDonald’s developed and our agency needed to introduce successfully. I tell a lot of behind-the scenes stories in class, including why McNuggets were almost “killed” early on, despite their popularity. One I can share is that McRib, not McNuggets, was supposed to be “the star,” but our research indicated that McRib was more an occasional taste and not one we could justify selling daily. Our recommendation then––and a tactic still practiced today––was to reintroduce McRib at different times throughout the year for an extra sales bump.

As director of marketing for Marriott-Host International, I was part of the team that helped reconfigure airports (we serviced 55 major airports) to improve the food service offerings and merchandising. Our goal was to enhance the airport experience. Over the years, we needed to work around deregulation, embrace the increases in passenger traffic (no longer primarily the business traveler), union issues, security challenges, and the rise and fall of various airlines (e.g., Hello Southwest and Virgin; goodbye Eastern, TWA and Pan Am).

I have very fond memories of working with the late Ruth Fertel (the “Ruth” of Ruth’s Chris Steak House) and her staff in developing their national marketing plan. Part of the lessons learned for marketing students is the necessary evolution of a marketing plan as the social, cultural, technological environment changes. (I share this case in class so students can understand how research among key segments leads to informed decisions and effective marketing plans when each group has a very different idea on how to proceed.) The plans we developed are still in use today.

As a consultant, I have worked over the years with more than 100 nonprofit organizations––introducing them to strategic planning––leading to the development of successful marketing plans.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to know Peter and Doris Drucker; he served as an advisor on my Ph.D. dissertation, which built upon my work developing what is known as the “Drucker Tool.” In 1997, I received the Drucker Management Center’s Alumni Award for Outstanding Entrepreneurship. My CMC Management and Leadership classes have introduced students to Drucker’s “Five Most Important Questions” as a framework for organizational planning and accountability. This summer course shares lessons learned from years of consulting on how organizations in the public, private, and social sectors can improve their marketing effectiveness.

CMC: Why are Peter Drucker’s Principles of Management so important in a marketing course?

Rossum: This is best explained by reviewing Drucker’s Five Most Important Questions: What is your business? (mission); Who is your customer? (primary and supporting); What does the customer consider value? (not what you think he ought to value); What have been the results (of the way you have been managing/marketing the enterprise)?; What is the plan? (Given the way you/staff/board have answered these questions, what are the next steps?)

Drucker acknowledged that these five questions were “simple, but not simplistic,” and that they took a great deal of thought to answer. Consider that before organizations––business, government or nonprofit–– develop a business and marketing plan, they need first to have thought through these important questions and agree on each before developing specific programs, products, campaigns.

CMC: In your view, what is one of the better marketing campaigns in recent years, whether broadcast or print and why?

Rossum: My students’ favorite include Ford’s U.S. introduction of the Ford Fiesta, using social media techniques among their target youth audience. It was a brilliant campaign for careful planning, execution, and the results it achieved. And, we can’t ignore the success of Obama’s re-election campaign. Like Ford Fiesta, it became a “movement.”

CMC: With the proliferation of enhanced technology and modes of marketing (blast e-mails, tweeting, etc.,), what do you say to people who sometimes feel the importance placed on different modes of marketing communication overshadows the message being marketed? Is there any validity in such a statement?

Rossum:  Marshall McLuhan said nearly 50 years ago that “The medium is the message.” But, we can get so caught up with the new methods of delivery and we fail to consider the differences among audiences, especially in the “global village,” a term he coined.

CMC:  Given the challenges that graduating seniors face entering a tough, global job market, what advice would you give to those students? How can they be more competitive? And, is there an advantage that a CMC education affords them?

Rossum: A CMC liberal arts education provides what employers value: critical thinking and strong writing and presentation skills. The rest, frankly, is on the job training. My teaching at a number of institutions reveal that CMC students compete very well against business majors from other institutions who lack a serious liberal arts curriculum and these basic Socratic skills.

I have six suggestions for students preparing to enter the job market:

–      Take advantage of your summers and plan to work/volunteer or intern for at least two organizations–– in the U.S. or abroad.

–      Don’t wait until second semester of your senior year to get begin a serious job search.

–      If interested in earning an MBA, delay graduate school until you have at least 3-5 years of work experience.

–      Networking is important. The CMC experience results in life-long friendships

–      Choose your senior thesis topic carefully and take it very seriously. It can be the springboard to your career, positions you as strategic thinker, and can showcase your written and oral communication skills during the interview process.

–      If you leave a job, never burn bridges. In my past lives, I have worked for three companies, each two or three times, given mergers and acquisitions and frequent (family) geographic moves early in my career. This is the advice we gave to our two sons, Brent ’01 and Pierce ’08, and both are doing well.

CMC: In a nutshell, what’s the best bit of instruction you, yourself, ever received about marketing either on the job or in class?

Rossum: There are several. The first is from Leo Burnett, the founder of the major Chicago- based advertising agency for which I worked, twice, that bears his name. Our mission was “reaching for the stars,” a customer-centered ethical approach to marketing for our clients–– including P&G, Kellogg, McDonald’s, United Airlines, Pillsbury, Green Giant, etc. As Leo put it: “We may not actually reach the stars, but we won’t end up with a handful of mud either.”  (His was the folksy, Midwestern approach––the anti-Mad Men of Madison Avenue that is popularized on TV today.)

Next was Bill Marriott’s constant reminder that “If we take good care of our employees (internal marketing), they will take good care of our customers (superior service.)” While he recently retired at the age of 80, he still visits the kitchen staff and the laundry rooms when he stops by any Marriott hotel.

Finally, there is Drucker’s definition of marketing: “To make ‘selling’ superfluous.” If you need a good example, consider AFLAC. The duck opens doors for the field staff who do not have to explain who they are and what they do.