Original Ali H“What do consumers think about Snapple Straight Up Tea?” the associates from Dr Pepper Snapple asked the class of incoming MBA students. It was only the fourth day of orientation at the Wisconsin School of Business. I was feeling nervous, excited, and ambitious as I shuffled off with my group to the nearby CVS to interview a local college student about her preferences in the iced tea category. I had been on campus for less than a week and I was astonished to find that I was already practicing marketing research for a prominent player in the food and beverage industry.          

Pursuing a career in marketing research was something that I had considered for many years, and I was confident that by the end of the two-year program, the Wisconsin School of Business would help me reach my desired career path. Prior to the program, I had anticipated learning the majority of the marketing research foundations through the rigorous MBA coursework; however, to my pleasant surprise, the learning opportunities provided to students through partnerships with alumni and EAB members have had the greatest impact on my first semester at the Wisconsin School of Business.

In addition to the interviews that the A.C. Nielsen Center students conducted for Dr Pepper Snapple, we also had the opportunity during the first week of orientation to better understand the role of shopper insights at grocery stores. With the help of Nathan Schaff, Procter & Gamble associate and A.C. Nielsen Center alumnus, students went to the Fresh Madison Market to look at the store through the eyes of a marketing researcher. We discussed how to optimize shelf space to ensure your brand is the focal point of the aisle, the different costs associated with where your product is on the shelf, and how to strategically place complementary items near items you are trying to sell. After this quick visit to the grocery store, not only did I have a better understanding of the science behind the brand placement in stores, but it also opened up a new realm of marketing research to which I previously had little exposure.

One of the initial reasons I was drawn to a specialization in marketing research was because of the variation of career paths one can pursue within the field. By partnering with different companies throughout the semester, not only have students gained exposure to the many different realms of marketing research, but we’ve also learned about how companies differ in their research methodologies and approaches. This November, the A.C. Nielsen Center went on a field trip to Chicago to visit two very different companies, Conversant and PepsiCo. At Conversant, we learned about the role of advanced analytics in marketing research. In class, we had briefly examined big data and machine learning, but our visit at Conversant allowed us to actually see how a company uses machine learning and analytics to strategically deliver personalized advertisements to consumers within milliseconds. We then visited PepsiCo, and we were able to see the role that marketing analytics plays within the consumer packaged goods industry.

Surprisingly, the experiences with Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Procter & Gamble, Conversant, and PepsiCo are only a few of the many opportunities A.C. Nielsen Center students have had to interact with various companies throughout the first semester of business school. In our current topics class, we’ve also had presentations from Burke, Maru/Matchbox, SC Johnson, and Qualtrics. These presentations all covered important topics in the marketing research field that generally aren’t covered in textbooks.   

I knew when I decided to go back to school that the University of Wisconsin A.C. Nielsen Center would help me achieve my desired career in marketing research. What I didn’t realize at the time of my decision was the impact that the alumni and EAB members have on the program. While I only have one semester of graduate school under my belt, I’m incredibly thankful to be part of such a strong network of marketing researchers. The lessons from company visits and program alumni have without a doubt been the most meaningful part of my first semester at the Wisconsin School of Business. I look forward to the experiences to come in the remaining three semesters of the program.