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Ann Feyerherm teaching in workshop

How I Built This

Submitted by Cristel Russell

My experience integrating podcast analyses into a marketing course

Although new to Pepperdine, I have been teaching for many years and always tried to maximize experiential learning, to find novel ways to incorporate current events and hot trends into my marketing courses, to do more fun things. For this transition, I wanted to do something different. I was willing to try something a little risky. One week before the syllabi were due, it just came to me: I love listening to business-related podcasts, from the daily Marketplace to the weekly Freakonomics or Planet Money (NPR has great podcasts but the BBC, CBC, and ABC have some really awesome ones in English as well). I had often used examples in class from the podcasts I listen to. What if I asked the students to subscribe to one and really used it as a learning tool? I did not know the students … would they be receptive? Given the LA traffic, I thought, if anything, this would be a great way to be efficient on long commutes! So, surely, I could ‘sell’ this assignment. So…. I jumped.

I asked the BSM Marketing Management students (MKTG 473) to subscribe to “How I Built This,” a very educational and fun NPR podcast. In this weekly podcast, Guy Raz discussed, via interviews, the entrepreneurs behind how many successful brands got started. Guy Raz is a fantastic interviewer…. even my 13-year old daughter knows of Guy Raz….. what???

The “How I Built This” podcasts focus on the motivations, struggles and eventual successes of entrepreneurs like Jake Burton (Burton Snowboards), Daymond John (FUBU), Selina Tobaccowala (Evite), Tony Hsieh (Zappos). The podcasts are based on interviews with these entrepreneurs and touch on what aspects of marketing they struggled with, what challenges they faced, how they eventually succeeded.

I developed a series of assignments based on these podcasts: 1 team presentation and 2 individual write-ups. I tasked the students to analyze the company’s story in terms of marketing strategy and apply the concepts they are learning in the course. For instance:

  • What needs did the entrepreneur identify in the marketplace?
  • What were the company’s key strengths/weaknesses?
  • What were the main opportunities / threats?
  • What elements of the 4 Ps (marketing mix) were the most challenging at first and how did the company address them?
  • As the company grew, what growth strategy/strategies did it use?
  • What is the company’s orientation toward the marketplace?
  • How do you think the company will continue to succeed in the marketplace?

After 6 weeks of this experiment, the students were really getting into it, thinking how they too might eventually become as successful as the entrepreneurs we were listening to. And I could just see how this analysis provided a really current and relevant context in which to apply the central concepts of the course. The students find it really engaging to hear these entrepreneurial adventures. Some even went to the retail locations featured in the podcast: here is a photo of my student Henry, who does not have much hair and yet went to visit a Dry Bar to better understand how their blowouts empower women! All this for an assignment only worth 10% of their final grade.

Man standing next to drybarSee a few comments collected from one of my ‘exit surveys’ about what they are learning in the podcasts:

“Learn Entrepreneurial thought process and their road map to success which starts with a unique idea, how to take an idea and turn it into hundreds of millions dollars of sales.”

“I've learned that in the early beginnings of a business, whether the entrepreneurs know it or not, they are marketing. Customer Centric Marketing is nearly used by all of them. They develop products for their customers first and continue to develop their customers over time.”

Bottom line: the podcast assignment was working.

Then: the coolest opportunity surfaced: a Shark Tank-like event was happening in February on the very same evening that our class was scheduled, at WLA. I jumped at the chance to take this podcast experiment to a new level: we all attended the Graziadio Alumni Network Pitch Event where MBA alumni pitched their business ideas and then were ‘grilled’ by a very impressive panel of LA Angels. The Alumni Engagement Office who organized this 3-hour ‘PitchForce’ event graciously ensured that all my students could attend (for free and with food: win win!). The students were tasked with the same mission: could they draw from the concepts they are learning in the course and their growing knowledge of what makes a start-up successful to identify the winning ideas?

See photos of my students at the event (talking with the entrepreneur who actually won and getting their photos taken!)

Man at computer teaching students

Pepperdine students and staff

That evening made it clear how much my students were learning in the podcast analyses: the students were so critical of the ideas, of the pitches, of the need for marketing research to support this whole Process. Here are a few comments I heard from them after the event: “most did not even do their analysis of the market potential”, “what was their competitive advantage?”, “where was their data on their target market demographics or psychographics?” “their slides were way too busy’.

One of my students has summed up in this feedback on the event: "It was a total transformational experience for me".

Most of them were struck by the connection between being passionate about business and being super ready:

“You have to be passionate/ excited about your business idea and ready to share it with everyone (you never know the connections that someone might have or who you might be talking to about your business idea).”

I now believe that not only does this group of students understand marketing better but that their entrepreneurial spirit has been lit!

Pepperdine staff and students

Pepperdine students and staff

Hot Topics by Jim Salas

The assignment is called Hot Topics. The assignment shifts the learning responsibility to the student as opposed to be a passive recipient of information.

I ask them to work as an individual or in a small group then research a topic of their personal interest. It can be anything as long as it pertains to the course they are enrolled. They should then conduct research to become an authority on the subject matter and then create a multi-media presentation. I ask them to record and post in a discussion forum in Sakai. It can be a voice-over power point, Voice Thread, or a simple video they record with their phones, it must be multi-media. I try to limit the material to 4-10 minutes. After they post their original post, I ask them to view at least two of their classmates and comment on the at least two of their classmates material.

I like it because there is no better way to learn something than to teach it. It also allows me to expand the content of my courses into areas they are interested in pursuing. I am also placing some of the learning outside our class time, online, so it forces them to learn in a different medium. Students enjoy it and really have fun with it. I have seen amazing high production videos and some great videos with animation that are of high quality.

Instructions to Students:

Hot Topics

Find a classmate and in teams of two complete this assignment. You will be responsible for finding current event topics relating to marketing that is of interest to you. It can be on anything as long as there is a marketing angle to it. Research your topic and prepare a multimedia presentation that you will upload in Sakai under forums to share with the class. You can use up to 4 minutes for the presentation. After you upload your presentation/video, please view and comment on at least two of your classmate’s presentations/video.

Your group will be evaluated by the following criteria:

  • Topic
    • Is it interesting and does it capture the viewer’s attention?
    • Does the presentation tie in key class concepts?
    • Is the topic relevant to marketing?
  • Knowledge
    • Does the presentation advance the class’s knowledge of marketing?
    • Are group members knowledgeable of the topic and context?
    • Are there practical tools shared to be of value in practice?
  • X Factor
    • Having fun
    • Energetic
    • Above and beyond
  • Comment on classmates’ presentations/video (at least 2)