Marketing analytics: What is it good for? Part Trois

Yancy D. Edwards

As promised in my column last month, I am about to expose a dirty secret of marketing programs at colleges and universities.

I mentioned how marketing departments have upped their quantitative course offerings to fill a void in employees with marketing analytics skills in the corporate world.

But I also mentioned how marketing programs were reluctant to fill that void in the first place.

Why?

I base my answer on 17 years in academia advising marketing students and teaching marketing courses. Some of my colleagues will vehemently disagree with me, but oh well, here it is:

While marketing is the straw that stirs the drink, most marketing majors first start as finance and/or accounting majors.

This makes sense. Accounting and finance people are at the top of the business food chain. While these students pass these foundation courses (they have to), they find the time value of money, financial decisions, debits and credits ledgers, and spreadsheets is not for them.

All of a sudden, they realize they are a people person and want to do marketing. In the back of their mind, they are hoping they have seen the last of anything more complicated than where a business calculator is needed.

They find out quickly when they take marketing research that they have jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. I have no doubt that if marketing research were an elective course, very few marketing majors would take it.

Thank God most colleges and universities, including mine (Shippensburg University), still have marketing research as a required course in the major. For my department, we even require marketing research for the marketing minor. Yes, really!

Marketing departments have been somewhat complicit by doing things like only requiring one statistics course when they used to require two. Courses in the marketing major have kept the level of quantitative rigor down to descriptive statistics and basic math.

To be fair, some marketing courses have started incrementally upping their quantitative elements. Maybe a t-test. Regression? No way.

The result: Marketing and management vie for the most majors. Marketing majors have been ill-equipped to vie for a marketing position requiring some comfort working with data.

Business needs business people, marketers in particular, who are comfortable analyzing data to optimize decision-making. If they cannot find it where it should have been all along, they will look elsewhere.

And so we have come full circle. Marketing programs have finally answered the call. We are offering marketing analytics courses. Next year at this time, my university hopes to invite students into the marketing analytics concentration.

But this is not “Field of Dreams.” Just because we build the course offerings does not mean students will come.

While the marketing analytics medicine does not go down smooth, it is good for them. Marketing faculty need to encourage their students to stretch themselves, for the rewards are there.

Perhaps in a few years, marketing programs will require their students to take at least one marketing analytics course. In fact, some programs have already done just that.

Concerning marketing analytics talent, I believe businesses are well on their way to this being a nonissue. Just as I ended my very first column on this topic a few months ago on a positive note, I want to end this one on the same hopeful tone: Those firms committing that 198% increase in marketing analytics allocation to their marketing budget over the next three years, and are truly committed to the marketing analytic process, will reap the rewards.

Yancy D. Edwards is an associate professor in the Department of Management, Marketing, & Entrepreneurship at the John L. Grove College of Business at Shippensburg University.