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Haas leads the way in
teaching marketing strategy
in a data-heavy world.
By Cyril Manning
Are you willing to transform your business from a bus into a taxi? That’s the first question Haas Professor Rashi Glazer might ask when evaluating your firm’s marketing plan.
Glazer has nothing against the bus. It’s a perfectly respectable business model, as long as you have customers willing to ride on your schedule, to destinations along your route. But when customers’ needs change, the bus doesn’t respond. It plods along the same streets, making all the scheduled stops, even when no one’s there.
A taxi, however, is only in business when a customer hops in and tells the cabbie where to go. As Glazer describes it, a taxi service is “smart” because it’s a partnership with the customer. For him, “smart markets” break down the traditional roles of producers and consumers by creating true partnerships between firm and customer.
"Increasingly, the customer is the most important asset of any business," says Glazer. In this data-rich age, he adds, "firms are going to look deeper into information about customers as the way to win in the marketplace."
Glazer's trailblazing theory about smart markets–which he first introduced in 1991, years before the Internet boom–is one example of how Haas has long been a marketing thought leader. While Haas may be more widely known for specialties such as entrepreneurship or nonprofit leadership, the business school has built a powerful marketing franchise. Rigorous coursework and path-breaking research have led as many as 20 percent of full-time Berkeley MBA students to take jobs in marketing each year after graduation–a higher percentage than Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management in some years.
“Historically, marketing has been done at the gut level,” says Teck-Hua Ho, co-chair of the Haas School's Marketing Faculty Group, explaining what sets Haas apart. "But we are interested in how the firm’s strategy links to the marketing strategy, and how the marketing strategy helps the firm to grow and become more profitable."
This strategic view of marketing permeates the school's course offerings, from Glazer's core marketing course to Ho's pricing class, which are both among the school's most popular classes. If there is a mantra to Glazer's course, it would be "every strategic decision a company makes is a marketing decision."
"I still rely on the insights I learned from Professor Rashi Glazer's Marketing class," says Patrick O'Neill, MBA 05, brand manager and recruiter at Del Monte Foods in San Francisco. "Marketers can get caught up in the latest technology; he kept coming back to the need to develop products and services that meet unmet consumer needs."
Haas interns come to Del Monte with that same view. "Interns arrive understanding that marketing is about more than being a product manager with a timeline to meet," O'Neill says. "They have a strategic understanding of how individual products play in an overall growth plan."
Ho helps develop this mindset in his Strategic Pricing course. "My vision is to have students leave my class with the ability to think strategically about pricing and with the practical tools they need for their future careers," says Ho, who won Berkeley's top teaching award earlier this year.
Students see marketing in practice through assignments with real companies, whether it's in the school's flagship Haas@Work experiential learning program or class projects. LaLoo's Goat Milk Ice Cream Co., for example, asked students in Ho's class if it should lower its prices to generate more sales. After conducting surveys and testing prices at different stores, the students found limited brand awareness–not price–was to blame for slow sales.
LaLoo decided not to lower prices, and students learned an important lesson. Explains Ho: "When things are not selling, the first reaction shouldn't be cut price."