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teaching & learning

Specializing in marketing, consumer behavior, advertising, and sales, I have had the privilege of teaching full time at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, MN for the last ten years. The professionalism, diversity, and opportunities NHCC offers students and faculty create a wonderful environment in which to learn and grow.

Personal Branding and Dramatic Portraiture at North Hennepin Community College

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to speak to North Hennepin Community College’s newly formed Entrepreneurship Club about personal branding. I realize that personal branding has become a bit of a buzz term and often used to describe a wide variety of personal improvement strategies. However, when speaking to a group of students in this age range, I focus primarily on the importance of starting to develop a personal branding strategy and understanding the perceptions (both positive and negative) students may be projecting. The biggest eye-opening moments are typically when statistics are discussed about how future employees use social media to screen applicants. We also discuss many of the most commonly used personal branding tools. After the short session, I offered to take headshots of any students who wanted an updated a profile picture. The lighting I used for these photos was fairly dramatic, but it would be a stark contrast from a cellphone “selfie.” Here are a few of my favorite photos from this quick session. Brady Prenzlow is a full-time business and marketing instructor at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park,...

The Psychology of Price and Our Lazy Brains

Why is developing a pricing strategy within a marketing plan so difficult? On the surface this would seem like one of the easiest elements of the marketing mix. There are not the development costs of the product element, there are not the relationship requirements of the distribution element, and there are not the persuasive and creative elements of the promotional element. However, human brains are lazy and price is often the easiest shortcut in evaluating the entire product or service. According to the American Marketing Association, price is the “formal ratio that indicates the quantities of money goods or services needed to acquire a given quantity of goods or services.” However, we all realize that the perceptual element of pricing makes it much more powerful than this definition suggests. Research indicates that even the most trained sommelier will mistake a lesser wine for a high-end vintage wine if the price tags are swapped. This price heuristic is how we can quickly make judgements about everything from a can of paint to a haircut. Without these short-cuts like price, our brains would need to cognitively engage in all of the thousands of decisions we make every day. Just think how long a trip to the grocery store would take if we weren’t making quick and habitual decisions based on branding, packaging, and price. When establishing a pricing strategy, like all elements of the marketing mix, a marketer must focus on the target market and defined objectives. However, understanding how the target feels about price is often easier said than done. Observational research or experiments may be more effective than survey data...

What to Consider if You are Marketing a Service Rather Than a Good?

According to the US Census Bureau, in 2013 revenues grew in each of the 11 service sectors in the United States. It’s no surprise that we live in a very service-based economy. Since we are more likely to work for, work with, or own a service organization than ever before, how does marketing a service differ from marketing a good? Whether I am working on marketing tactics for my own service-based photography business (Prenzlow Photography), consulting with a service owner, or teaching students about marketing services, I have always started with the discussion of the Four “I’s” of Service Marketing. Intangibility—can’t touch it. Inconsistency—can’t do it the same every time. Inseparability—can’t separate it from the provider. Inventory—can’t hold onto it. Every marketing strategy for a service should begin with these differences. However, the tactics used to better manage these differences can vary widely. Branding: In this era of media clutter and short attention spans, branding is more important than ever for every organization. However, it is even more crucial for intangible services. How can a service share its story and develop a connection with consumers? Tactics may include everything from logo design, to social media content, to a charismatic spokesperson. Since consumers make most decisions emotionally, a service provider needs to continuously consider how to transform its intangible offerings into feelings and memories that consumers can connect with. Pricing: Why is a $100 haircut better than a $10 haircut? Objectively it may be no different at all, but perceptually it sure is. Properly pricing services should not only increase the tangibility through perceptual value creation, but also manage the idle service capacity that arises from the inability to hold...

Principles of Marketing. Why is Market Segmentation so Important?

After teaching marketing for over 10 years, I have started to recognize a few concepts that students in a Principles of Marketing class tend to have difficulties applying. One of these concepts is the technique of market segmentation. “Why would we want to ignore certain customers and not capitalize on as many sales as we can?” students remark when we begin working on cases that involve industries requiring some level of segmentation. I tell them that “if your product or service is not differentiated in the minds of consumers in at least some way that it will fade into the clutter of options all consumers now have at their fingertips.” I ask, “Would you even have the resources required to reach a mass market of diverse consumers?” Slowly lightbulbs begin to turn on and students can see the value of using demographic, geographic, psychographic, and behavioral segmentation criteria to develop groups of consumers with similar needs for a specific categories of products. However, like many areas of marketing, this is one area that is quickly changing. Where demographic and geographic descriptions may have been adequate ways of describing a target market and directing a market strategy in the past, this is becoming less and less true. Over the last decade we have been experiencing a confluence of consumers demanding customized treatment and organizations tapping into data mining and analytics technology that allows them to do just that. It is my opinion that companies will continue to move beyond the more descriptive psychographic and behavioral identifiers and approach much more emotional triggers when segmenting markets of consumers. That being said,...

What are SMART Goals and How Do You Use a SWOT?

These are two of my favorite topics to teach at the front-end of a marketing course. There is nothing terribly complex about either topic, but I love to see the lightbulbs go off when students are asked to apply these concepts within group cases and individual marketing papers. After teaching marketing for over ten years, my hope is that students think back to lessons like these when a sales manager or executive asks for SMART Goals or for them to be part of a strategic development team. I have seen plenty of instances in my experience where these have been used incorrectly or not at all. I will never forget when a colleague asked if we could change the “Weaknesses” section in a SWOT to “Concerns” instead. Nope! I refused to complete a SCOT Analysis ;  ) I would like to start describing the TOWS Grid in more detail. It’s a little beyond this course, but I think it helps put the SWOT Grid into...

Marketing Environment vs. Marketing Mix

I have fallen behind in recording my mini lectures for my online sections of Principles of Marketing which means I need to crank a few out over the weekend. I wasn’t sure if I was going to record and produce this topic, but enough students have had questions about the marketing environment in the past that I thought it would be a good idea. This is nothing revolutionary on its own, but it should create a nice foundation for my next mini lecture on SWOT analysis as nearly all of the external opportunities and threats are part of the marketing environment. This was also a good opportunity to begin discussing the marketing mix. I am becoming a little more efficient in the recording and producing process and have hopefully become slightly more natural and less stiff in front of the camera. I am still enjoying the experience. We’ll see how I feel in...

Features, Advantages, and Benefits. Why do we care about FABS?

On the first day or evening of one of my seated sections of Principles of Marketing I typically bring up and discuss the concept of Features, Advantages, and Benefits (FABS) while introducing the concept of the marketing mix. I have always felt that it was a straight-forward way to get students to begin thinking about products as more than just a bundle of features. I always wish I would have had more of this mindset when I began my first job is sales. However, for how much I have discussed this short topic in class, it took much longer to get it on video than I thought it would. As I watch it back I’m still not 100% happy with it, but there will be plenty of opportunity to make tweaks and adjustments in the future. In addition, I am predicting that forcing myself to create these videos should also have a reciprocal benefit to my face-to-face...

Principles of Marketing Online and Instructor Bio

If I ever had any visions of being a television anchor or personality, producing these short videos have made me realize that I made the correct career choice as a teacher. Even though I speak in front of groups of students nearly every day, this experience is much different. The lack of two-way interaction and the pressure to make these perfect have led to several, I mean SEVERAL, takes. I plan to produce 20-30 mini lessons this semester, so I hope this gets easier and I get better. However, I definitely have a new respect for the “talking-heads” on television. Principles of Marketing Online (Course Info.)   Prenzlow...

What is the Difference Between Needs and Wants in Marketing?

For the last 10 years I have primarily taught within the marketing program at North Hennepin Community College. Each semester at least one, but usually two, of my five classes have been taught completely online. Even in the beginning I felt that my classes were well-organized, interactive, and created a synergistic learning experience for my students. However, I have always found it difficult to completely replicate the energy I provide in the classroom in a virtual learning environment. Over the last several years I have recorded the audio of all of my in-class lectures over PowerPoint using Adobe Presenter. Even though I received positive feedback from students about these presentations, the lack of non-verbal communication made these presentations relatively flat. Earlier this semester we learned that instructors would need to transition from Adobe Presenter to another mode of delivery, so I am taking this opportunity to go in a much different direction. I will be creating mini YouTube marketing lectures that are not based on specific chapters, but areas that I have found students find difficult to understand without additional clarification. I do not plan to lock these videos down or make them private, so I realize I’m opening myself up to much broader public dialogue and/or criticism. However, this is now the world we live in and this process aligns directly with the content I teach. I plan to document the ups and downs of this process here. Here’s my first attempt at creating a mini marketing lesson on the difference between needs and wants in marketing. I felt this would be a relatively straight-forward area in which to begin. However, even this short presentation required quite...

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