This Course Lets Undergraduates Act As Brand Managers — And Solve Real Problems

Indiana University Kelley School of Business

How does a major company grow a well-known heritage brand in the face of new, innovative entrants? If you’re Clorox, you might take the problem to a class of enterprising undergraduates at Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

Clorox is one of five major brands working with Indiana Kelley students in this semester’s Brand Management Practicum, an immersive hands-on course in which students work on real business problems facing real-world companies. Students get professional feedback and a look at what a brand manager of a consumer packaged goods company does day-to-day. Companies get a fresh look at their products from a demographic that can be hard to reach.

“Clorox targets millennials but also Gen Z, but I don’t think we necessarily have any Gen Z employees. To get these students’ perspective is just really helpful,” Samantha Loeffler, brand manager innovation at The Clorox Company, tells Poets&Quants.

‘PROBLEMS MY PEERS & I ARE ACTIVELY WORKING ON’

Kelly King, Indiana Kelley adjunct lecturer, and practicum creator

Loeffler is presenting this Clorox problem to her team of Kelley students this week and will work with them throughout the semester. “I’m literally giving them problems that my peers and I are actively working on, so you probably couldn’t get much more lifelike than that.”

This semester, practicum students will work with brand managers from Clorox, Beis Luggage (an innovative influencer brand), Ferrara (maker candy, cookies, and all things sweet), Maytag, and Procter and Gamble. While hands-on, practical experience courses like this one are common in MBA programs, they are much less so in undergraduate business schools.

“This is what students want,” says Kelly King, adjunct lecturer, and course creator. “I mean, they are just dying for real-world experience.”

‘LAUNCHING BRANDS, LAUNCHING CAREERS’

King is the founder and president of 80/20 Agency, a marketing and brand agency in Bloomington, Ind. One of its driving philosophies is to “launch brands and launch careers,” and its Golden Ticket Internship gives interns practical results-driven experience for their resumes or job interviews. King, who lectures at the Kelley School and IU Media School, wanted to offer some of that experience to her students as well.

She developed the practicum in fall 2020, and it is now in its third semester. It started with three teams working for three different brand managers and has since grown to five teams per semester. Enrollment is capped at 20 students, though about 50 students applied for the latest session.

Why has the course become so popular in such a short time?

“No. 1, working with and taking feedback from professional brand managers is invaluable for these students. No. 2, it gets them the job,” King tells P&Q. “A student who was on the Gillette team in a previous semester now works at Conagra, and she gives this course all the credit. She got in there without her MBA, and everybody else who was hired had theirs.”

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