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

Kelley School Entrance

CASE STUDIES VS REAL-WORLD PROBLEMS

While much of business school is working through case studies on old problems that have already been resolved, Kelley practicum students are working on problems their brand managers are now facing. There is a possibility that students’ ideas will be implemented by the companies they work with.

For example, Kelley senior Caroline Collins worked with Stressless, a Scandinavian furniture company, last spring on two separate problems: One, getting millennials (as opposed to mainly baby boomers) to adopt its recliners and other models; And, two, put more butts in the cushiony seats. The company was confident that once people tried their chairs, they’d want one of their own. Collins later recognized some of her team’s messaging and strategy ideas on the Stressless Instagram page.

“In this class, everything started from scratch. We had to put our ideas in action and offer ideas that would be feasible for Stressless to use. It was more like an internship than a college class,” says Collins, who is co-majoring in marketing and digital/social media business applications.

Caroline Collins, Kelley School of Business senior

Caroline Collins, Kelley School of Business senior

Collins took several social media ideas, lessons in creating brand personas and other techniques straight from the practicum to her summer merchandise internship at Abercrombie and Fitch.

“It was, by far, the most beneficial class that I’ve ever been in,” she told P&Q.

MULTI-DISCIPLINED TEAMS

In addition to business students, the practicum is open to applicants from IU’s Media School and the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design. This helps create student teams more closely aligned to those you’d find in a professional setting with a variety of perspectives and talents. This includes designers, creative thinkers, business specialists, and more.

“The real secret sauce is bringing those three schools together. I think that’s what makes it really unique,” King says.

King begins each semester with a four-week crash course on brand strategy, product position, buyer personas, and brand storytelling. Then, teams meet with their professional brand managers and are assigned their problems. She also invites other branding experts to give guest lectures. These include best-selling author and business consultant Mark Schaefer, professionals from companies like Facebook, and motivational business growth speaker Jay Baer.

“My dream is to make it bigger and to serve the clients in a real, meaningful way,” King says. “The dream is to have real paying clients like they do in some other universities, who actually hire us because we are a legit brand center that can provide consulting services.”

Samantha Loeffler, brand manager The Clorox Company

Samantha Loeffler, The Clorox Company

‘YOU’RE THE BRAND MANAGER’

So, back to the Clorox problem. Loeffler presented the problem to her Kelley team this week and will work with the students for the remainder of the semester. She wants students to present strategies that will protect the leadership position and dollar share of the Clorox heritage brand product even as new, innovative competitors enter the product category. It’s a classic challenge brand managers face every day .

Her task for students: “You’re the brand manager. How do you grow this brand?” Loeffler says. “Pick two big ideas and consider things like product innovation, new marketing campaigns or messaging, licensing, new influencer or other partnerships.”

Loeffler, who graduated from Kelley in 2013 with a degree in marketing and international business, was among the first brand managers King reached out to when developing the practicum. The experience was so positive, she wants to continue as long as she has viable, challenging business problems.

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