“If you’re going to go into investment banking or you’re going to be a financial analyst or even if you’re going to be in hedge funds, you have to understand how business works.”

Wharton began teaching and researching marketing before the field even existed. Today it’s widely recognized as one of the most important components in the success of any business.

“Everyone needs a little bit of marketing,” said Barbara Kahn, the Patty and Jay H. Baker Professor and Director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center.

“If you’re going to go into investment banking or you’re going to be a financial analyst or even if you’re going to be in hedge funds, you have to understand how business works.”

With the largest, most cited, and most published marketing faculty in the world, Wharton’s Marketing Department offers some of the most sought-after resources and opportunities for students who want to sharpen their marketing acumen.

Prof. Kahn recently sat down with Vice Dean Peggy Bishop Lane to talk about the foundational role marketing plays in a Wharton education. Here are her five reasons why studying marketing is important for any field:

1. Understand the Customer

In today’s landscape, understanding the motivations of the customer is crucial for anyone in business. “If you don’t understand the customer and you don’t understand the marketing focus of a business you’re going to be missing a big part of the understanding of the overall business,” Prof. Kahn said.

She and her colleagues teach the importance of the “Five Cs of Marketing” — the customer, competition, company, context, and collaborators.

“Understanding the interplay and how all that works and how marketing strategy has to take into account a thorough analysis of each of those components is important to understanding the fundamentals of business,” Prof. Kahn said. “Everyone needs at least the core marketing course.”

2. Take Stock of Your Brand Equity

Brand equity is the concept that bigger and better brands are easily remembered, more resilient, and can charge higher prices for their products. It’s especially important if you are the leader of a firm, a CEO, or an entrepreneur making strategic decisions about the direction of a company. To succeed, you need to learn how to measure that equity and how you can harness it.

“If you don’t understand the value of your brand and you do something to sacrifice that brand equity, you’re going to regret it. Better to learn in advance what to do and not to do,” says Prof. Kahn.

Professor Barbara Kahn discusses the focus of her consumer decision-making research with Vice Dean Peggy Bishop Lane.

3. Experience the Global Marketplace Firsthand

Prof. Kahn travels to Milan with students to introduce them to the world of Italian luxury brands in her Global Modular Course: Luxury Branding and Retailing in Italy and Beyond.

Between guest speakers from Italian luxury companies, such as Bulgari, YOOX, and Luxottica, and site visits to industry leaders like Versace’s headquarters and Ralph Lauren’s flagship store in Italy, students have an immersive learning experience that can’t be replicated in the classroom.

“We can tell you what it is. We can explain it you and you can intellectualize it, but until you need see it to understand it. I think you get a feel for luxury [companies] in a way that I don’t think you could if you didn’t go.”

4. Enhance the Omnichannel Experience

The rapid disruption in retailing (think Amazon) is changing the face of the industry. The resources Wharton brings to the classroom, from cutting-edge research to industry leaders will put you at the forefront of this change.

“The consumer now is agnostic about whether they buy online or buy in the store. But from the retailer perspective, we want to make that a seamless experience across all of these different channels,” Prof. Kahn said. There are ways to harness technology to link in-store behavior to the online experience.

5. Go Behind the Perceptions

Most of us are aware that the way a product is packaged and marketed can influence the consumer’s purchasing decision. But what is behind that decision-making process? “When consumers make decisions it’s not on truth. It’s on what they perceive to be the truth,” Prof. Kahn said. “We can affect perceptions in some surprising ways.” By going deeper into your marketing studies, you can begin to understand how presentation, design, and branding sway a consumer.”

— Mike Kaiser

Posted: January 5, 2017

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