Friday, June 22, 2012


I might be tempted to call my undergraduate Marketing class the most useless class I took in college, but that honor goes another class coming up the following semester. I'll get to that later.

First I want to show a couple examples of the kinds of things we didn't cover in my Marketing class. These are commercials that are just worth watching, partly because they're almost not commercials. Sure the basketball thing is more staged than surprising, but it's still enjoyable to watch. The fear on the guys' faces in the other video is pure surprise. There's no overt salesman in plaid yelling at you to buy their products. It's just building awareness of brands.

My undergrad marketing class was a four week summer course. Like I've said before, I love summer classes. Four weeks and done. All my business core courses were those shortened workshop-style courses, which suited me fine. Being a summer course, they had an adjunct teach it. I'm not sure where they got the guy, but while I'm sure he knew something about marketing, it wasn't something he was all that keen on sharing with the rest of us.

There are two things I remember from his class. For part of the class we talked about mission and visions statements. We wrote our own personal mission and vision, which he sent back to us via mail several months after the class was over. Yes, this was a few years ago, but not so long ago that we weren't saving files we typed up on our own computers so we probably still had a copy of what we had written. So that's where he was on the technology spectrum. That said, I'm sure I have neither the printed nor the electronic version still, which is unfortunate. The other thing I remember was him talking about his wife buying tons of stuff at Wal-Mart and that every time he went into town, she sent him with a pile of things for him to return. I'm not totally sure how that connected with marketing other than something along the lines of having liberal return policies makes people feel more comfortable making purchases or maybe something regarding the customer always being right. I'm not sure, and I don't care.

More than anything, this class highlights the specific danger of adjuncts and the overall wider danger of allowing professors to "design" their own courses. Without adjuncts and grad students performing a large percentage of the instruction that happens at universities, few students would ever be graduating. Tenure track professors teach a fair share, to be sure, although some more fair than others. But that's really a different discussion altogether. The important part is that you have part-timers come in and out without any real stake in the outcome of their students other than that in order to get another contract to teach again next year, they have to keep their teaching evaluations high.

Vastly inconsistent experiences for students that depend 95% on the instructor you happen to get lined up with that semester is just not right, whether or not they're on the tenure track. How much of a disadvantage was I at not having ever heard of Michael Porter until hitting my MBA program? If Porter is important to talk about in an undergrad marketing course, then the undergrad marketing course should have a fairly standard unit on his contributions to the world of business strategy and marketing, no matter who teaches it. The individual instructor adds his or her flair, of course, but stories about returning shoes to Wal-Mart do not flair make. The Pine Sol lady has flair. Uncle Drew has flair. Don't forget the flair, but only after you've built a foundation on the standards.

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