A recent Consumer Behavior class project on the A.C. Nielsen Center helped me see the numerous advantages the Center has over the competition. The project also taught me and my classmates the importance of Alumni referrals and class presentations

Background

This past semester three current A.C. Nielsen Center students, Kelly Goldthorpe, TR Synder and I were tasked to work with a small local business for a semester-long project in our Consumer Behavior course taught by Professor Amber Epp. We unanimously decided on a local Madison organization that we were all passionate about: the A.C. Nielsen Center. Over the course of the semester, we mapped out the entire student application process for prospective A.C. Nielsen Center students by interviewing all 1st year students currently in the program to hear about their application experiences. We also spoke with three students who were accepted into the A.C. Nielsen program, but chose to go elsewhere. Our in-depth interviews, coupled with secondary research led to a number of interesting findings about the program.

Findings

The biggest takeaway from our research was that the A.C. Nielsen Center continues as a differentiated, appealing program for those interested in marketing research. For instance, most MBA programs only have a single advisory board for the entire MBA program. This means that most MBA students at a top 30 MBA program have very little, if any, interaction with their board members. In contrast, the A.C. Nielsen Center has board meetings twice a year with more board members than students! Students also emphasized how much they were impressed by the project assistantships available. Although a number of top 30 MBA programs offer financial scholarships to students, the A.C. Nielsen Center stands out by offering Project Assistantships that provide relevant, valuable marketing research experience as well as financial support. Kelly, TR and I were happy to find out that there were no significant issues in Wisconsin’s application and recruiting process. Rather, the biggest opportunity was simply creating more awareness of the marketing research industry and the A.C. Nielsen Center grow the number of qualified applicants. Once students realize how appealing a marketing research career can be (for instance, Market Research Analyst was ranked as the #1 business job in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report), they are much more likely to consider and matriculate into the A.C. Nielsen Center.

Recommendations

To grow awareness of the marketing research field, we made a number of recommendations for the A.C. Nielsen Center. First, we recognized that alumni referrals are important for growing the A.C. Nielsen program. We found that students who become aware of the A.C. Nielsen Center are much more likely to apply and matriculate into the program. Because of this, the A.C. Nielsen Center has recently waived the application fee for prospective students who are referred by alumni. If you have friends, relatives or coworkers that are interested in a marketing research degree or an MBA, please let Kristin know!  Second, class presentations to undergrads are critical to generating awareness of marketing research and of the A.C. Nielsen program. Because of this, we recommended that current students and alumni be encouraged to give presentations to undergraduate classes. For instance, I will be giving a presentation next semester to my alma mater discussing my marketing research career thus far and the value of higher education. I hope that the undergraduate students who hear the presentation will be intrigued by the MR field and perhaps apply to the A.C. Nielsen Center in the future. If you would like to share more about the marketing research career field, please reach out to Kristin for updated slides on industry trends, and salary information.