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MSLCE Students Build Marketing Plans with Professor Rick Kolsky

By Charlie Wein

On the first day of class, Professor Rick Kolsky asked the MSLCE students: “What is marketing?”. Various answers were given: “showcasing a product” “building a social media strategy” “designing advertisements”. After several answers, Professor Kolsky replied with a resounding “No!”. From there on, students spent the next 10 weeks with Professor Kolsky as he challenged our ideas of what marketing really is.

More than anything, we learned that marketing is not about the product, but about the customer. Demographics is always a keyword that quickly comes to mind when discussing customers- you are looking to bring interest to your product or services. However, what we discovered was more important were the Psychographics. It’s not about where someone lives or their household income, it’s about discovering what problems they have that your product/service can fix (even if they aren’t aware of the problems themselves).

Through case studies, mystery shopping assignments, and guest speakers, students learned how to develop “customer insights”. From there, it became about using those insights to pinpoint the problem and how to fix it. Words such as Orthodoxies, Sustainable Competitive Advantage, and Profit Levers became commonplace in class discussions.

The importance of the concepts became clear when the students jumped into their final project of the term, which involved building a marketing plan for a company. Some groups worked in tandem with real companies, face to face, such as The Floating Museum, Northlight Theater, and the local Chicago band Spacebones.

Student Chad Hewitt, who recently began his summer internship at WeWork Labs in New York City, reflected on his experience in the marketing class. “Our final project helped synthesize all of the concepts I’ve learned throughout the term by applying them to a marketing plan for a real creative enterprise. It was thrilling to see how uncovering key customer insights made it possible to make substantial recommendations for our client. I’m much more conscious of how I am constantly being marketed to and how this will affect my decision making.”

Creative organizations rely on marketing as much as any other industry, and with a term of learning marketing strategies with Professor Kolsky, the MSLCE students are ready to jump into their internships aplomb.