Shaun KaneLooking back at my three semesters in the program, there has been a great breadth in classes. Selecting my favorite has been somewhat difficult, and has had very unexpected results. Coming in to the program, I was most looking forward to the quantitative classes. Syllabi that included learning a formula, methodology, or a statistical software were sure to make their way into my schedule. But our classes also offer a variety of focuses including qualitative research and strategy. 

It was one of these qualitative classes that has surprised me in its applicability and how engaged I have been in the topic. The class is Brand Strategy taught by Tom O’Guinn. After taking the core marketing class, I went into this class thinking that most of marketing was pulling various levers to drive sales. My perception of marketing was strictly that you could alter your distribution or release a promotion to impact sales.

The Brand Strategy course opened a whole new window into marketing. The class started with marketing concepts I understood and knew were planned by the brand manager. Things like a jingle, or repeated brand attribute were familiar. The goal of these tactics was obvious, engrain the brand into your mind to increase purchase. The ground-breaking part is when we went beyond mind-share and started to learn about brand identity and understanding conflict.

The required reading for this part of class was a novel called "Bobos in Paradise". This book describes current consumer trends that combine Bohemian and Bourgeois tendencies, coining the term Bobo. Reading the chapters of the book, it felt like the author was in my living room. To me, my decision to pair my sectional couch with a coffee table made from reclaimed soda crates felt authentic and individual. This book was showing me that my living room design was not unique, it was predictable. I started to examine other recent purchases using the same lens; high-end pasta maker and industrial bar stools. They both check the Bobo box.

The important take-away and how I will continue to use these lessons going forward is in the understanding that marketing isn’t just pulling levers. Instead, I will be looking for what currently feels authentic and trying to identify the conflict that leads to that authenticity.