The numbers are in: Marketing analytics course makes measurable difference

Contact: Amy Coughenour
Left to right, Kimberly Campbell, Jill Puckett, Anastasia Metros, Dr. Ann Veeck, Nathan Browning, Becca Sly, Sam McGrath, Lucas Frizzo

Alumni judges with Dr. Ann Veeck, left to right, are Kimberly Campbell, B.B.A.’18; Jill Puckett, B.B.A.’18; Anastasia Metros, B.B.A.’18; Veeck; Nathan Browning B.A.’18, M.A.’20; Becca Sly, B.B.A.’19; Sam McGrath, B.B.A.’20, MBA’21; and Lucas Frizzo, B.A.’18.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—As Dr. Ann Veeck, Western Michigan University professor of marketing, prepared to teach her fall 2022 food marketing analytics class, she realized it was almost the fifth anniversary of the inaugural marketing analytics class. Launched in spring 2018, the class was initially offered as an elective with 22 students enrolled, representing a variety of majors ranging from marketing, to advertising and promotion, to sociology and statistics.

Veeck wondered how those graduates were doing in their chosen careers. Her curiosity took her to LinkedIn where she discovered that, of the 22 students in that initial class, quite a few of them had careers in data analytics. She recognized that this added up to a unique opportunity for her current students to learn from these young alumni.

“Recent alumni are great, relatable role models for current students,” Veeck explains. “Students could see how quickly the careers of these recent graduates have taken off. It makes a career in analytics seem within reach for current students.”

As Veeck planned the details of the final case competition for her class, she reached out to some of these alumni to see if they would be willing to serve as judges. All of them jumped at the opportunity to give back to WMU. Becca Sly, B.B.A.’19, says, “It was an honor to be asked back to judge and exciting to see what talent the next class of Business Broncos will be bringing to the workforce.”

For the final project, students in the class were tasked with making a recommendation for an existing company, using data to analyze market opportunities and provide strategies. On the big day, the alumni panel listened to student presentations, deliberated on scores and then presented the winning team with the coveted “Ring of Excellence,” which has long been a symbol of success in Veeck’s classes.

Students were excited to have alumni judges on hand, and their presence contributed to a celebratory atmosphere on the final day. Candy Lim, senior majoring in food and consumer package goods marketing from Malaysia, says, “Each alum on the judging panel had worked in various professional roles and industries using analytics in different ways. They provided valuable feedback that we could not get from our peers.”

Seeing these alumni who had combined classroom knowledge with their passions and strengths enabled the current students to see how learning data analytics could stack the odds in their favor as they embarked on their career paths.

Lim says, “This class has positively influenced my thoughts about analytics. I really enjoyed all aspects of the project: creative thinking, collaboration, secondary research, and presentation creation. Most importantly, I can see myself doing this in the future on a daily basis. That is what influenced me most—I found my passion in this class.”

Even students who didn’t have data analytics on their radar gained an appreciation for the crucial role it plays in every industry. Senior Gage Hammock from Battle Creek, Michigan, says, “Prior to taking this class I had little to no interest or understanding of marketing analytics. I knew that there was a place in the marketing department where individuals would crunch numbers, but I lacked the understanding of just how important identifying trends in order to develop products to meet market demand is.” 

Faculty at WMU Haworth work hard to incorporate experiential learning opportunities like this into each course. For many students, like the alumni that Veeck invited back, taking one class in a subject that interests them can help clarify not only their major, but launch their future career.

Alumni judge Sly, who currently works as a market research analyst at Western, said that taking food marketing analytics in spring 2018 helped solidify her career choice. “When I saw the outcome of our final class project, it was a game changer for me,” she says. “It showed how research and statistical findings could spark creativity and be turned into a powerful narrative that inspires innovation in a company. It also didn't hurt that my team won the coveted Ring of Excellence.”

Food marketing analytics is now a required course for all food marketing and general marketing majors and is invaluable to their future careers. “Every semester, students in this class develop a love for analyzing data and express an interest in pursuing a career in marketing research or analytics,” Veeck says. “In 2023, every marketing graduate will be analyzing data as part of their job responsibilities.”

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