We’ve passed the halfway point in my six part MBA reflections!  If you missed it, here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  I am full time working on my heritage travel startup Radici Travel as part of the 2015 Soaring Startup Circle so the final three installments will likely come once a week.

First Year: Fourth Quarter

Global Capitalism, Culture, and Ethics

This class was case-based and examined a number of ethical issues related to globalization.  Because of the way scheduling worked, everyone had to take this class but the two sections were essentially divided into marketing people and finance people.  A couple of times I had to go to the alternate section for one reason or another and the general sentiment was often markedly different.  For me, there are a couple of lasting impressions:

  • The banana industry is brutal!  We must have read 3 or 4 cases about it, including the aptly titled Blood Bananas, and the issues ranged from spurious propaganda, to inciting military coups, to tax fraud, to human rights abuses.  Chiquita has actually changed its name multiple times to try to hide its own brutal past.
  • Most people are afraid to take a stand- One thing that really surprised me was how unwilling many people were to take a firm stand on an issue, both the actors within the cases but also students in the class.  It often seemed like people would make serious leaps to attempt to provide a justifiable reason for something in the case because of the economic upside.  After what we have seen, however, this kind of bending and stretching can lead to ruin and good ethical business tends to pay dividends in the long run.  If you are looking for a simple, doable way to set yourself apart in the business world, take a stand on ethics…you’ll be glad you did!
  • Unintended consequences are always there- Understanding this allows you to anticipate and mitigate some of them, but more importantly, you need to equip your people with a framework for dealing with the unknown when it inevitably comes.  This framework should include your company’s ethical code and a chain of command for making these calls.

Marketing Research

This class was led by the same professor as our marketing survey class, but the experience was much different.  It was a well-oiled machine that was very prescriptive and did a ton to help teach how to effectively apply statistical analysis to marketing in a meaningful way.  I had this class concurrently with the consulting project and used what we learned constantly in that project.  A few key take-aways continue to inform how I approach marketing research:

  • Interviews tell us what is important and surveys tell us to what extent- This is why it is crucial to do depth interviews first and base your survey on those interviews.  This will help you determine what attitudes are shared across your market and which are limited to a unique subset.
  • Use Likert scales whenever you can- Seven point scales asking to what degree are much better than ordinal scales, yes or no questions, or fill in the blanks because you can perform far more statistical analyses on the data and they allow users to express degrees of comparison.
  • SPSS- I am a big fan of the value of knowledge, hard or soft, but it is nice when finishing a class allows you to add a hard skill to your resume.  For me, this was the statistical analysis tool SPSS. Not only is the tool itself valuable, but being familiar with it changes how I think about data collection and has made it easier to learn other tools such as R.

Strategic Brand Management

With Jerry Smith at the helm, you could be sure that everything we did would have the word “strategic” out front.  While I like to joke about “strategic” blog posts and “strategic” naming conventions, etc. the implication is that everything is connected and when you do anything related to marketing, you should first make sure that it fits strongly within your overarching strategy.  There are a few things I learned in the class that I continue to use regularly:

  • Segmentation Frames- This is an incredible framework to set the groundwork for user personas-a key aspect of any successful marketing.  In the frame you put attitudinal variables on the left and actionable variables across the top.  This begins to suggest groupings that you can work from to create your personas (more here).  I’ve used this framework in every major marketing project I have done since.
  • You can quantify almost anything if you try (and you should)- Between Return on Marketing Investment, Share of Voice/Share of Market, and Brand Equity, you can arrive at rough formulas to quantify even the softest of concepts.  These won’t be perfect but it helps to have a ballpark idea.
  • Frameworks, Frameworks, Frameworks- We learned a ton of these in class and not all of them are universally applicable but they provide a great starting point for thinking about a problem and keep you from having to reinvent the wheel every time you have a new problem.


Mary Cronin has been around a long time and she doesn’t look like the person you’d expect to be teaching about new trends in Technology and E-Commerce but looks can be deceiving!  She knows more than anyone I have ever met in the space and even writes her own cases about contemporary companies like Boston’s own Hubspot and Wayfair.  She also brought in fantastic and relevant guest speakers.  So what has stayed with me a year later?

  • Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report- This was the first time I had seen it and now I have no idea how I missed it!  The 2015 report just came out.
  • Hype Cycle- We used this Gartner framework to determine the lifecycle of many trends and technologies.  It is a great lens through which to look at the space and I love the term “trough of disillusionment”.
  • Programmatic Marketing- We had a speaker from Choicestream come in and explain programmatic marketing.  It was the first time I ever really understood what was going on and it totally changed my understanding of the digital marketing landscape.