Poole College’s Jenkins MBA team projects bring value to Consumer Innovation Consortium partners

The first cohort of graduate students in a new consumer innovation practicum (MBA 590) offered by the Jenkins MBA program in the North Carolina State University Poole College of Management received high marks from their company sponsors. The course is led by faculty in the college's Consumer Innovation Consortium (CIC). 

Working in teams during the spring 2013 semester, the 16 student researchers designed and completed research projects ranging from the anthropology of environmental care product usage to a trends analysis of textile consumption in the next decade. The team members presented results of their work to their project sponsors at an end-of-semester meeting at NC State’s Hunt Library on Centennial Campus.

While most of the team members graduated in May, four returning students will be taking the practicum again in fall 2013, to gain additional research experience. One of the spring semester students received a summer internship appointment from her team project’s sponsoring company.

The practicum project sponsors – AmerisourceBergen Corporation, Bayer CropScience, Burt’s Bees, and Cotton Incorporated – are inaugural partners in Poole College’s CIC, led by Dr. Stacy Wood, Langdon Professor of Marketing and CIC executive director, and Dr. Colbey Emmerson Reid, CIC director. Ashton Woods Homes has recently signed on as a new partner to begin in fall 2013, Wood said.

MBA students apply ‘cool hunting,’ other market research methods, theory 

Peter Jardine, market segment manager for pest control at Bayer CropScience, mentored the team that conducted an anthropology of environmental care product usage. “Our experience with the CIC has been fantastic,” Jardine said. “Our student researchers did terrific work and helped us gain a valuable perspective and insights on which we are now taking action.”

Cotton Incorporated also reported gaining value from its semester-long project. 

“We are extremely pleased with the results of our partnership with the CIC and the stellar work provided by the students in the program,” said Latoya Williams with Cotton Incorporated. Williams and Kim Kitchings, vice president of corporate strategy and program metrics at Cotton Incorporated, mentored the student team.

“Our division has incorporated several of the final ‘Cotton Cool Hunt’ trends in recent corporate publications and presentations,” Williams said. “We have noticed that the results of this research project has been comparable to and in accord with insights provided by professional trend forecasters. We are positive that the results from this project can be used throughout our company and will inform our efforts for several years.”

Caroline Chamblee, one of the Jenkins MBA students on the Cotton Incorporated’s practicum project and a graphic designer, discusses cool hunting on her blog, where she includes a link to an archived New Yorker article on the topic by Malcolm Gladwell. (Read more about cool hunting)

Sorting the data

One of the MBA teams used a white board in the Jenkins MBA student lounge as they sorted through their research findings. The photo above shows Scott Barnes and Annie Bishop working on their project.

"The sticky notes each represented a trend we observed in society, a new discovery we read about in scientific journals and articles, or current media such as movies, artwork or music," Chamblee said. "We organized those concepts into trends and subtrends to paint a snapshot of culture as we  observed it. This exercise further opened our discussion up to find the correlation between our experiences, and it provided a framework for our final trend book," she said.

The Jenkins MBA analysts also performed regression and mediator analyses to help one of the companies determine how and whether consumers’ claims about their values corresponds to willingness to pay for them, and made analysis recommendations to another company regarding how to quantify the effectiveness of a corporate-wide service innovation in inspiring customer loyalty.

Providing real-world solutions through action learning

“The CIP is a remarkable opportunity for MBA candidates, because they get to put their education into action—it’s an opportunity to pull together everything they’ve learned as students,” Reid said.  

Dr. David Henard, Poole Board of Advisors Professor of Business Management, said he “was pleased to see students on the AmerisourceBergen team incorporate material from our MBA course into their presentation, as well as the research and practicum proposal. That included using current course content on the influence of personality and social styles on individual decision making and customer satisfaction to augment a host of additional research findings.”

"The student teams learned to use consumer-centric research techniques that went far beyond the typical MBA curriculum,” Wood added. “And, even in a short time, we can already see that this kind of specialized knowledge is making our students stronger candidates in the job market," Wood said.

Project leads to internship

For example, Annie Bishop – who just completed her first year in the Jenkins MBA program – was one of the student consultants on the Cotton Incorporated team and is now a summer intern for the company.

“The Consumer Innovation Practicum was an invaluable experience for me,” Bishop said. “Being able to apply the consumer behavior theories and research methods learned in class on a real-world project has been a wonderful learning experience. The project has also given me experience in the field, and I am able to talk about the skills and abilities I’ve gained on my resume, during job interviews, and at networking events. I plan on taking the practicum again in the fall,” she said.

The student teams used a number of the facilities in NC State’s new Hunt Library for their presentations as well as for their consulting sessions with partner companies’ representatives and when conducting a public survey of innovative consumer-centric marketing research methods.

Attending their final project presentations, in addition to CIC partner company representatives, were Dr. Ira Weiss, dean of Poole College; Dr. Steve Allen, associate dean for Jenkins Graduate Programs and research; a number of Poole College’s Department of Business Management faculty, representatives from prospective CIC partner firms, and future NC State University faculty collaborators.

The student analysts received high marks from the other members of the college’s marketing faculty who attended their presentation sessions. Dr. Jon Bohlmann, associate professor of marketing, observed one team’s private presentation to Bayer CropScience. He said the students were “thorough and rigorous” and had offered “good and novel insights.”

Dr. Stefanie Robinson, assistant professor of marketing, said, “I think the Burt’s Bees group did a great job with their presentation. They seemed very excited about the project and I could tell they spent a lot of time working on the analyses, which I thought were very sophisticated.”

Dr. Michael Stanko, assistant professor of marketing, gave kudos to the Cotton Incorporated team members for their approach to presenting their trends analysis of textile consumption in the next decade; they used an illustrated book form. “I’ve seen magazines that weren’t laid out as nicely as that book,” he said.

Ashton Woods Homes is joining CIC in fall 2013

Looking ahead to the fall, Reid said, “The CIC is delighted that Ashton Woods Homes is joining us. They will allow students and faculty interested in user-centered home and interior design to explore the marketplace potential of their studies. The consumer culture of domesticity is a particular research passion of mine, so I’m especially enthusiastic to see what the next round of projects will uncover.”

Graduate students applications can apply now for practicum 

The consumer behavior research practicum is taking applications from graduate students in the Jenkins MBA program and other graduate programs at NC State; students are admitted to the course upon approval of the instructors.

Wood developed the practicum course as an extension of her research to provide NC State’s graduate students real world experience with the methods and theories in this evolving field of research. Wood and Reid provide academic leadership for the student teams, helping them to discern the most effective approach to issues of interest to the CIC partner companies.

About the Consumer Innovation Practicum

The Jenkins MBA consumer research practicum is part of the marketing concentration in the Jenkins MBA curriculum. Poole College’s graduate and undergraduate marketing courses are taught by faculty in the college’s Department of Business Administration Marketing Group. The Consumer Innovation Consortium is one of several centers and initiatives based in the department that provide industry-academic engagement opportunities, including research and applied learning experiences.

About the CIC Partner companies

  • AmerisourceBergen is a global pharmaceutical services provider serving both healthcare providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers in the pharmaceutical supply channel. Ranked 29th among Fortune 500 companies, AmerisourceBergen handles approximately 25 percent of all pharmaceuticals sold and distributed in the United States. “This business unit, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, is striving to be a leader in promoting customer-centric service innovations,” says Dr. Stacy Wood, Langdon Distinguished Professor of Marketing and CIC founder and affiliated researcher.  
  • Ashton Woods Homes has built award-winning, high-performance new homes that enhance people's lives by balancing lifestyle, design and healthy-house features with energy-efficiency. As a platinum level Environments for Living™ and Energy Star® builder, Ashton Woods Homes has received the most coveted local, regional and national awards.
  • Bayer CropScience is responsible for the agricultural business of Bayer AG, a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of healthcare, agriculture and high-tech materials. CIC researchers will collaborate with Environmental Science, a division of Bayer CropScience LP that strives to foster healthy environments where people live, work and play. “The fit between the CIC and Bayer is ideal, given the commitment of NC State to sustainability and a long-standing relationship between the two organizations,” says Dr. Colbey Reid, CIC director.
  • Burt’s Bees is headquartered in Durham, N.C., and is one of the area’s and nation’s premiere designers of natural and sustainable personal care products. “Burt’s Bees is a pioneer in understanding the relationship between a thriving community and good business sense,” Reid said.
  • Cotton Incorporated is a global thought-leader in the use and promotion of one of history’s most important crops, cotton.  With offices in Cary, New York, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Osaka, Cotton Incorporated is a global resource for the entire cotton supply chain, with the mission of increasing the demand for and profitability of cotton through research and promotion. “The company’s partnership with the CIC is particularly meaningful for NC State, as it expands the longstanding relationship between Cotton Incorporated and our College of Design and College of Textiles,” Reid said.

About the Jenkins MBA Consumer Behavior Research Practicum and the CIC

The Consumer Behavior Research Practicum is taught by faculty in the Marketing Group within the NC State University Poole College’s Department of Business Administration. The Consumer Innovation Consortium (CIC) is one of several industry-academic initiatives based in the department. These initiatives support the academic curriculum and the industry by providing discipline-specific opportunities for real world experience for students, a channel for partner companies to engage in research and executive education in collaboration with Poole College faculty and the college’s Executive Programs team, and through networking opportunities with students and the college’s career development team to help strengthen the industry’s talent pipeline.

About the NC State University Poole College of Management and Jenkins Graduate School

The NC State University Poole College of Management focuses on management education for a technology driven global marketplace. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in accounting, business administration and economics, as well as custom and open enrollment programs through North Carolina State Executive Education, LLC. The college’s Jenkins Graduate Programs comprise the Master of Business Administration, Master of Accounting, and Master of Global Innovation Management programs, including a Global Luxury Management option. Masters and doctoral degree programs in economics are offered jointly with NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Corporate engagement opportunities are available through the college’s centers and initiatives that support academic and outreach programs in biosciences management, consumer research, enterprise risk management, in­novation management, supply chain management, and technology entrepreneurship and commercialization. Poole College’s accounting and business programs are accredited by AACSB International.

Faculty contacts

Dr. Stacy Wood, Langdon Distinguished Professor of Marketing and executive director, Consumer Innovation Consortium 

Dr. Colbey Reid, director, Consumer Innovation Consortium and professor of practice, Department of Business Management

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