University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Episode 164: Marketing and the Art of Storytelling with Helen Woodham, Grace Crain and Coleman Davis

March 02, 2022  |  By Matt Waller

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This week Matt sat down for a special episode with three full time MBA students who built their own custom track in the Walton MBA program. The track is called marketing and the art of storytelling and it explores the creative side of marketing in addition to the traditional science as well as the power of storytelling for marketing and leadership.

They also discussed other innovations within the Walton College including the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, McMillon Innovation Studio and Venture Intern Program. Finally, they touched on the viral Coinbase superbowl ad and analyzed why it was successful and "sticky" with a variety of consumers.

Learn more about the Walton MBA program and the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Episode Transcript

Grace Crain: 00:00:00

In the world of marketing, we cannot regard it solely as science, but we also have to regard it as an art and as a creative process, because people connect with art.

Matt Waller: 00:00:11

Excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality. These are the values the Sam M. Walton College of Business explores in education, business and the lives of people we meet every day, I'm Matt Waller, Dean of the Walton College and welcome to the Be Epic Podcast. I have with me today, Helen Woodham, Grace Crain, and Coleman Davis to discuss the marketing and the arts track, which is a custom track in the MBA program. And they're all three MBA students. When you have a custom track, you have to have a faculty advisor, and the faculty advisor for this is Professor Jeff Murray, who's a longtime professor in the Department of Marketing. So thank you, Grace, and Coleman and Helen, for joining me today on the be epic podcast.

Grace Crain: 00:01:04

We're happy to be here. Thanks for having us.

Helen Woodham: 00:01:06

Yes, thank you.

Matt Waller: 00:01:07

I think you all know, recently that the Wall Street Journal had a ranking that came out, that essentially said that our MBA programs are 11th in the country out of 600 programs that were ranked, 11th, based on ROI, and that ROI is based on how much they had to spend to get the degree, and then how much they're making two years later. So it's, it's kind of a neat ranking, because it's very objective. But I'd like to know a little bit about your experience in the MBA program. And then what led you to be interested in creating this custom track with Professor Jeff Murray.

Grace Crain: 00:01:52

As a junior in the Walton College of Business, I had a professor approached me Dr. Vikas Anand, who was unfortunately no longer teaching here but he had a huge impact on my education. He meets with each one of his students one on one and one day after class, he told me, he thought that the accelerated MBA program would be a really great fit for me. I always wanted to get my MBA and I had a little bit of extra time in my schedule. And so the accelerated program just allows you to begin graduate coursework during your senior year of undergraduate studies. And so that's what Helen and myself are a part of right now. It's been a great program. And we've made a lot of friends in our cohort as well. So that's why I'm here today and pursuing the MBA program. And yeah, definitely encouraging and exciting to see it ranked 11th just shows that, you know, the time and energy and money that I'm spending on this program is worth it and it's going to be great setting me up for hopefully a long, successful career.

Helen Woodham: 00:02:43

So as Grace mentioned, accelerated MBA, I'm still technically a senior in undergrad, but starting my grad education right now. And it was something that I knew of a peer that was doing it. And I thought, you know, I've got some time in my schedule, I want the MBA, potentially, you know, a PhD or something after that. And so I thought, if I can go ahead and get the MBA, it'll be a good use of my time and money. And it's just been the best experience. I loved my undergrad time here just for the community of my peers and my professors here at Walton. And that's just continuing over into grad school. And I think we have 40 people in our cohort and just getting to connect with them and be with people from all different walks of life and know that I have friendships and network connections that'll go long beyond these two years, it's just been the best experience. And so, yeah, it's definitely something I'm so thankful for and recommend to anyone, it's just been great.

Coleman Davis: 00:03:26

I wasn't really thinking about doing any sort of grad school. I was really just hoping to get a job right out of undergrad. However, my dad got his MBA when I was when I was a kid, he went to Northwestern, and was really just influencing me saying I should consider this especially, me not knowing what I really wanted to do career wise. I had interest in small business I had done corporate internships, kind of just gotten a variety of different experiences. But because of him, he kind of pushed me to apply. I had a lot of support from my friends and family to do so as well as Dr. Stoverink. I had him in my undergrad leadership class. And he was super helpful with prepping for interviews and really aligning with my values with what the MBA program was looking for. And since then the program has been really really great. As the girl said, like finding new friends I've gotten to meet people that did not know in undergrad coming into the program. I didn't know any other classmates. And so that was really cool for me to find people my age, people older than me that I've been able to learn from and get different experiences with.

Matt Waller: 00:04:28

Coleman mentioned, Professor Stoverink. He's also the director of our MBA programs and really doing a terrific job of of leading the programs. So let's talk a little bit about this new concentration, this custom concentration.

Coleman Davis: 00:04:50

Going into the MBA program I had chosen to focus on entrepreneurship. My father had a little bit of background in entrepreneurship. I grew up around it a little bit. So the idea interested me of being a self starter. But however, as I moved on into the first semester, we were in Jeff Murray's class. And he taught the MBA marketing course. And his course was really great. It got a lot into consumer behavior, psychology, brand stories, how brands built their brand, essentially. And that was something that we just didn't have a lot of exposure to in undergrad, most of our undergrad was global marketing, more so how to execute things versus the psychology of consumer. And that was a huge interest to me. So I approached Jeff, of how can we incorporate some sort of independent study? How can I work with you, Jeff, so I can get more experience in this in this general idea. And after doing a couple of assignments in this class that were writing based, he proposed an idea that we create a custom track. We decided to call it marketing in the arts, which I think all three of us would agree is something that going into undergrad we wish we would have had more exposure to was a more creative, more graphic design, more advertising based marketing, instead of the retail marketing exposure that was provided in undergrad. And so that's really where the idea came from Jeff and I collaborating on what would be best for us and what would be most interesting.

Matt Waller: 00:06:12

For those of you listening, Professor Jeff Murray as I said earlier, he's been around a long time. But he has an unusual orientation from a research perspective, in particular, in marketing, he does a lot of work around semiotics, abduction, and phenomenological, interviewing, and those kinds of methods that many of these methods actually come from anthropology, and that's one of his unique contributions to marketing. But I remember I used to run our Executive MBA Program in China back in 2008 2009. Although I was running the program, I would sit in on the courses and I loved sitting in on Jeff's. He's a great storyteller, isn't he? But in addition to that, I remember he said, he said, you know, great brands don't come from people sitting around a table and saying, let's come up with a great bread, they emerge from a story. But I found his approach, really fascinating. You know, it's easy to think, well, that kind of theoretical approach may not be very useful. But it actually is very useful. Because as a manager, or leader, you can see opportunities for branding, where there is a story in where something is already emerging, rather than trying to start from scratch.

Coleman Davis: 00:07:48

Yeah, and I think part of what Jeff was able to offer was with the semiotics and with the brand story, and finding the purpose of your brand was really to instill in us, whether you're doing some sort of venture, whether you go corporate, it's what problem does your brand solve. And that's really the key theme behind the whole course was, you can have all these awesome stories but ultimately how is your brand going to help the consumer?

Grace Crain: 00:08:15

Dr. Murray is definitely a fan favorite both within our cohort and all who have come before us. And I think that's because of his really interesting perspective, based off of what he studied when he was a student. He taught us brand stories of Google and Starbucks and how Starbucks relates back to the novel Moby Dick. And I had never learned that before. And learning that gives me a whole new perspective of their brand, which I think is really cool. He also talked about the different paradigms, the cognitive, behavioral, and cultural paradigm and I learned so much in his class and from taking his class and loving it so much is what made me really excited to begin this new track with Coleman and Helen.

Helen Woodham: 00:08:52

And I think my experience with this wanting to do something a little bit different goes back to when I was a sophomore in undergrad. So I started in the Walton College as a marketing major. But having done some journalism work in high school, I really wanted to get back to the creativity of the writing in the design as well as the execution that I was learning. And so I went and talk to people in the Fulbright College and I added a major in journalism, advertising public relations and so

Matt Waller: 00:09:16

You double major in marketing and

Helen Woodham: 00:09:19

and journalism ad PR. Yes. So one of the kind of creative aspect from Fulbright, which was, you know, lots of design, very writing heavy, and then the execution of okay, how do I understand the consumer and put together a plan, which was what I was getting in Walton and so for me it combining those two has been just such a great experience. Even since I was a freshman. I've been involved in cross college education. I did some work with engineering college freshman year in the honors innovation experience and just love this idea of bringing people together from different mediums and different areas of study. And so when Coleman was telling me that he was working with Jeff Murray, and kind of proposing this new track, I thought that it sounded like the perfect combination of creativity and that business execution. And so, you know, I was looking for something didn't know what it was. And when he was telling me about it, I was like that was it. And so I talked to him about joining. And, you know, he was nice enough to let me join. And then I told Grace about it. And she kind of had the same idea. And so also just going back to kind of the network and the community that we have, it's been so fun for the three of us to get to do this together. Because, you know, we are in an art history class right now that our other classmates aren't. And so it's just really cool, because even within the larger group, we've gotten really close.

Matt Waller: 00:10:27

You mentioned that when you were a freshman here, you took an innovation course, that included students from both engineering and business professor from both

Helen Woodham: 00:10:39


Matt Waller: 00:10:40

And that's a real innovative class. It's about innovation, but it's also an innovation, per se. Yeah, it's a really terrific opportunity. Did you enjoy that?

Helen Woodham: 00:10:51

I enjoyed it, it was fantastic. And I think that a lot of what we did in there was coming up with products or services. And then, you know, the engineers would do kind of the design and the write up. And then the business students would look at the finances and the marketing plan. And then there was a symposium at the end of the year, we all competed against each other. And even in that, it just relates back to what we've learned in Professor Murray's class of brand story. And identifying problems and meeting consumers where they are. And so you just for me, in my time at the University of Arkansas, and all the different colleges I've had, you know, experience with, it's just been so great to see it all come together and really set me up for success in my career.

Matt Waller: 00:11:24

You know, there's a lot of innovative things like this in the Walton College that, for example, and I don't know if any of you participated in the McMillon Innovation Studio.

Helen Woodham: 00:11:34

I've worked with the Office of entrepreneurship and innovation, their venture intern program where they matched interns with small businesses in the area. I did that for two semesters, and it was fantastic.

Matt Waller: 00:11:43

Well, I love that program, as well, you all are hitting on some amazing things here. So for those that don't know, there's something called the McMillon Innovation Studio, that started in the business school, but we allow students from all over campus to participate. And in fact, I think more than half of the students now are from outside of the business school. But it really the McMillon Innovation Studio, helps students learn about things like product management, meaning using an agile approach, understanding the customer journey, empathy mapping, those kinds of things, design thinking applied to these problems, as well. But you, you mentioned another program that I love, and that is the venture intern program. This is a remarkable program. And we've had it for just a few years now we keep doubling the size of it. But would you mind talking just briefly about that, before we get into the specifics of this concept?

Helen Woodham: 00:12:46

Yes, for sure. So I was a sophomore at the time. And I was wanting some work experience and something that I think that Walton does really well. And just the U of A as a whole, is really equipping students for learning opportunities outside of just education. And so it was a program where I applied and for 15 hours a week, I worked with a non profit or a startup or a local community leader that was trying to do something. And so I worked with Jerra Nalley at leisurlist, which was an idea to kind of do an eat, see and do in Northwest Arkansas. And so through that got some data analytics experience as a sophomore. And so that was just a really unique experience, because it really put me out there and made me get outside my comfort zone. But it also allowed me to get some stuff on my resume earlier than most people do. And so participated in that, and then went back the next year to kind of help run the program with Deb Williams, who organizes it. And it's just been the best thing. And I think that, like you mentioned, it is just cross college. And it's not just Walton, it's not just one area of U of A and I think that it's so important to continue to foster programs that do combine people from different backgrounds, because in the real world, we're forced in to situations where we have to work with different people. And so I think that that and the storytelling track has just been so amazing, because it really prepared me and prepared us well to work with people that are not just business people and you know to know how to communicate with people that are from different backgrounds. And so all of these things have just been great.

Grace Crain: 00:14:06

Absolutely. That's one thing that I've been learning in our art advertising history course, which is taught by Dr. Jennifer Green Hill. I've never taken an art history course or anything like that before. And in fact, most of the students are art students. There are only four business students in the class and all of us are MBA students. And just the opportunity to get to sit down across from artists and fine artists once a week, every week and talk for a couple hours about advertising specifically in the period of the 1880s to the 1940s and talk about how art plays a role in that, how we should view it and how it helps business and helps us accomplish our purposes. It's really changed my perspective of advertising and of business, but just that synergy that Helen was talking about, about different departments coming together and talking and learning to understand each other, I think has been really important. And I think that my favorite thing about the MBA program so far here almost a full year in is the flexibility and the freedom that they give you to innovate. And I think that's the reason that we're here today. Because there are four traditional tracks, there's Supply Chain, Finance, Entrepreneurship and Marketing. And that marketing is grounded in science and data. And I learned a lot of that during my internship with Colgate Palmolive where I work right now. And so I wanted to take that and combine that data with creativity that Helen was talking about, and with storytelling, and since I've decided to pursue this track, I've seen storytelling everywhere. I've read several articles about it, and how Gen Z especially really desires to connect their personal values with a brand. And they want to see that brands have a higher purpose and a why. And so I think that learning how to be able to communicate that is really important and a super valuable skill.

Matt Waller: 00:15:48

There's so much here I want to unpack, I want to talk about the internship with Colgate. In our MBA program, we do internships while we're going to school, which I think is good. But you mentioned the art history course you're taking right now. And I'd like to say just a little bit about the art program here. We had an art department at the University of Arkansas, like many universities have an art department, we now have an art school. And the art school was endowed by Alice Walton with a I believe it was a $120 million gift that has allowed us to hire some of the best art professors and administrators in the country. And it's allowed us to as well develop our art history program within the art department. I'm thrilled to hear that the endowment that was provided by Alice Walton is impacting our MBA program as well. So I'd love to hear a little bit more about that.

Grace Crain: 00:17:06

So on the first day of class this semester, Helen, Coleman and I made the journey across campus to an unfamiliar place that we'd never been before, which is the fine arts building. We actually got lost, never been there before in all of my four years of involvement across campus. And since I've been there, my eyes have truly been opened to something I have never learned about before. This is completely unfamiliar uncharted territory. But looking at where I am now, about four or five weeks into this semester, compared to where I started, I'm looking at advertisements differently. I'm looking at how they were created, what processes were they using when they created it? What was the artists thinking at this time? And what does the artist want me to take away from that? I'm learning concepts such as color coordination, which I had never thought about before. And I think that in the world of marketing, we cannot regard it solely as science. But we also have to regard it as an art and as a creative process. And I think that our art should be informed by our science. The example of Colgate Palmolive comes to mind. They just recently had a Superbowl commercial with their brand Irish Spring, I don't know if you saw it or watched the game. But that commercial was completely informed by science and research that the company had done. So in this example, Irish Spring had discovered that men who buy their body wash buy it to smell better. They don't buy it to get clean, they don't buy it for its other benefits, they buy it to smell a certain way. And so they centered this commercial around the smell. And so I believe that that science and that data research then informed the art that they produced in this commercial. And so my perspective has just been entirely shaped throughout this class. And through this process, and sitting across from peers every week who come from such a completely different side of campus and whose brains work differently. It's been really exciting. And I think that this experience will translate well into what I want to do with my future career. And this past week, we had an executive from Saatchi and Saatchi come in. And it's just exciting to hear someone in an industry that I would love to be a part of talk about the concepts that we're talking about in class and seeing the value of them and then getting me excited for the storytelling track that we're a part of and really just affirming that it's an important part of business and something that's really evolving and becoming prevalent right now.

Coleman Davis: 00:19:25

In regards to the art history course itself. One of my favorite aspects of it is the classroom layout. We are at a big oval shaped table. And it is just completely discussion based, which is really cool, very different learning environment than we see in the Walton College where it's more lecture based. Everybody's got their laptops out, taking notes, but in this class, you know, we have the freedom to close our laptop stand up and talk about what we learned in the reading this week or get opinions and I think a different value that comes out of a course like this for us as business students us as business leaders is that I now have a better understanding of how an art student, a future art professional would work in a in a working environment, whether it's, you know, building graphics, building websites. They have a much different background than we do and have different terminology and have different ways of working. And myself, and all the other students in the class are learning that and learning how to communicate efficiently with art students who have just a totally completely different background than us.

Matt Waller: 00:20:32

Well, that's really interesting that one benefit of having business students take art history, or art in art class, is what your you're saying, Coleman, that when you're out as a leader in business, you will now know the rest of your career, how to bring artists into the business environment, there's a lot of business people might not know how to do that.

Coleman Davis: 00:20:58

Right. And I think that's a, that's a very valuable part. But not only are we getting value, but I feel like we are bringing value to the art students as well, whether it's through helping them understand the mind of a business student, and the vocabulary we use and the expectations that we may have for some sort of project or any sort of work we're doing. And I think bringing some of that to light for them is also beneficial. So, you know, set aside the coursework, set aside the projects, I think, getting different minded people together in a room to sit down. And I remember I mean, for 30 minutes on the first day, we probably ranted a little bit in the class of, of how difficult it can be to work with people that don't understand or have the same background you do. But getting to sit back and understand truly listen, I think we all grew a ton on that first class day. So overall, this class has been super awesome for myself.

Helen Woodham: 00:21:50

Yeah, and I would say the thing that you hit on last there is really what has driven me to this custom track. And as I mentioned earlier, I double majored in undergrad. And I'm very passionate about storytelling, I think that when you tell a story, and you can present that, you know, human emotion and that experience to somebody else, and help them understand and relate to it, there's no better way to connect, there's no better way to market, there's no better way to promote change. And it's something that I'm very passionate about. And I think that, you know, as a university, I think that we are doing great innovative things towards fostering that and fostering how to connect people across different mediums and different backgrounds. And I think that it's just been really encouraging to me to see, like Grace mentioned that there is that flexibility in the MBA program. And just being an art history class, like Coleman mentioned, you know, we are experiencing new perspectives we're hearing, you know, the artist or, you know, looking at layout and alignment and color, and we're over here thinking, Okay, but what was the finance behind that? How long did it take to roll that project out. And so I think it's just really unique, that we're able to take this opportunity to learn these things, before we get into the workforce. I mean, I don't want to speak for Grace and Coleman, but I think they would agree that, you know, going into our careers, I'm gonna feel so much more equipped to be able to communicate with whoever it is. And, you know, it could be a tech company, or it could be an advertising firm, or, you know, it could be Walmart, or a vendor or Walmart or something like that. But it doesn't matter where I go, I'm going to know, now how to communicate and how to do that effectively, in a way that is good for business culture, and also in for the end goal of meeting the consumer where they're at. And so I think it's just been, you know, just the best thing, I can't say highly enough about it. But I think it's just been such a great, it's such a unique, special opportunity.

Matt Waller: 00:23:28

Helen, I, I really agree with you, you know, storytelling really enables leadership because leaders need to set direction, they need to provide motivation, and they need to gain alignment amongst people. And storytelling really helps you in all of those things very clearly. So I'm really glad to hear that.

Helen Woodham: 00:23:52

I think something else that's been interesting that from Jeff Murray's class that we've learned is, there's this perspective, and this perception of storytelling is, you know, maybe it's this fluffy thing, it's, you know, something that it's very art based. And I think that he is really challenging us. And we're seeing in our custom track that it does have a role in business. And you're like Grace mentioned, you need that science to inform advertising, but there also has to be that human connection piece. And so I think that it's really encouraging to me wanting to go into industry, having this new perspective that storytelling is a valuable asset. You know, I think that as much as you know, using Excel, and data analytics, and finance and accounting, and all these other, you know, traditionally understood business skills are I think that there is a new place, especially with technology and how it's evolving for storytelling and connecting with other people. And so I think that it's really cool to get to be on the forefront of that.

Grace Crain: 00:24:41

Absolutely. And stories are really needed to produce an understanding of your business for consumers to trust you to produce consumer loyalty, and to also just produce comprehension of the product or the service that you're trying to sell. And I think the exciting thing is this is just the first of four track classes that we're going to get the opportunity to take and to be a part of, and learn from and benefit from. And so, you know, this first class has already been so great. So I'm just exciting to see what the other three hold.

Matt Waller: 00:25:10

Grace. Earlier, you mentioned the Super Bowl and the Colgate ad and that was really a great ad. I loved it. But the ad that just kept coming to my mind for days was the coin base ad with the QR code that was bouncing around. And so I'd love to hear from the three of you about that. Coleman, what do you have to say about that?

Coleman Davis: 00:25:37

Yeah, I thought the advertisement itself was super interesting. And I think everybody at this table and including anybody else who's interested in brands and interested in marketing, like to watch commercials all day and dissect and see what's going on. But I don't know if y'all remember. But when I was growing up, we had a TV in my mom's old Lincoln Navigator, and my brother who's about five or six years older than me, we would sit in the car, and we would drive to Blytheville, where my family's from or drive to Little Rock, and would watch movies. But anytime there wasn't a disk, and the DVD player had the little DVD logo, bouncing off the corners, similar to what we saw in the Coinbase commercial. And so I think that brought a ton of nostalgia back for millennials, even Gen Z, which may be who Coinbase was trying to reach. But I caught myself sitting there at the Super Bowl party, relax on the couch, and I saw it and I was like, I'm not gonna go get the QR code, like, I'm not gonna go do it. And it kept going. And it was probably about a 30 second commercial of just the QR code. I was like, alright, finally I got up ran to the TV, and everybody was yelling, what is it? What is it? And it was Coinbase. And I thought it was super interesting, because I sat there and I was like, I'm doing exactly what they wanted me to do. I thought about it. I said, No, I'm not gonna do it. And I got my butt off the couch and went and got the QR code. So I thought it was a super interesting way to connect with I mean, potentially even parents remember their kids in the back of their cars, watching the movies and seeing the bounce of the DVD logo. And so I thought it was able to have a wide reach from kids that are still in high school to parents, potentially. So I thought it was a really cool idea, and a really cool offer itself within the QR code.

Grace Crain: 00:27:25

I think that it was successful for a couple reasons. I think that the first that Coleman mentioned was nostalgia, it made us think about our childhood, it made us think about our past, we had a personal connection with it. I think another important factor of its success was that it didn't tell us the whole story. So we had to do something in order to gain more knowledge in order to understand it. And I think that left us curious, I think like Coleman said, he sat there and watched it for about 30 seconds, and you know, 30 seconds in the Superbowl costs $7 million. It's not cheap. But as we sat there and watched other commercials that were so different than this one, we wanted to know what it had to say. The other ones were laying out very clear stories for us, they had a lot of celebrities, they were playing on a lot of different factors and different themes and different products. But this one wasn't screaming what product it was associated with. So we had to do a little bit of detective work on our own. And then it also involved us by making us pull out our phone and scan a QR code to be a part of it, and then redirected us to a website as well. But I've heard a lot about that ad. And I think it was wildly successful. And I think it was because it was different. Because it made us and made us fill in some gaps for ourselves.

Helen Woodham: 00:28:36

I think that you've both said some great things about it. I think for me watching it, I was in a room with about 20 people or so as a small basement kind of hanging out with a TV in there. And like you're saying all these ads are going through all this is happening. And I think what's interesting is way this ad cut through everything else, because compared to the noise and the color and the movement, that when this came on, everybody was like what is that we thought the TV was broken. We thought we're getting some sort of error message. And I think that Coleman to your point about it being you know, old and nostalgic. We have all this technology now where you can make, you know, just about anything you can imagine. But to take a step back from that and to rely and this is what we're learning in our art history class, rely on themes from another period and use that now is so meaningful, because it cuts right through the disruption and the noise of everything else, like Grace, you're saying you want to know what is that. And then I think another reason it's interesting and was so successful was the part that we had to play in it as consumers. So I interned with Acorn influence, it's social media influence marketing. And one of the things that I've been tasked with recently is looking at different social media trends. And, you know, why are people doing what they're doing? And how can we develop that into strategy? And one thing that I've really picked up on is people love this interaction we're seeing on Instagram, this add yours where you can use a sticker to kind of link your posts to other posts of a similar theme and different interactive features that you know, influencers or just regular consumers are posting. And I think that that's why this was so successful, because beyond it just being so eye catching and different than what we're used to seeing, like Coleman said, you really didn't want to scan it, but you just couldn't help it, you had to take an active role in it. And I think that, you know, we would agree of the education that we've received, one of the most important things is to get the buyer to start and take an active step. And just by scanning that QR code, you've already got me interested. And so I just think it was so clever the way that they, you know, did something that looked visually different, and also just hooked us in in a different way. And I mean, there were a few other commercials that I think that, you know, did a decent job. But when I look back a year from now, this will for sure be the only thing I remember. And I just think that when you can do something like that, and you can be that memorable, you know, you've been successful.

Coleman Davis: 00:30:42

I think you hit on a bunch of really cool points, you as well Grace, and one thing that I thought was interesting that I noticed about two or three days later, was when you scan a QR code, it stays on your phone. So I have like 50 safari tabs open on my phone, and it's stuff for work, stuff for school, stuff for leisure, and then there's this Coinbase thing that's still on there. So two days later, when I opened my Safari, it was I saw the ad again, essentially. And I was like, oh, remember, on the Superbowl, it's sticky, you know, it stuck around and like you're saying Helen is a year from now, when the Super Bowl comes back around, you're gonna say remember the Coinbase commercial. Overall they did a really great job connecting with every type of demographic. And it's definitely something that people are going to talk about.

Helen Woodham: 00:31:26

You said something interesting there that it's sticky. And I think that in advertising and marketing, if you look at it creatively or, you know, more strategy, science based to create something that's sticky, and that relates, and that stays in the mind. I mean, that's all an advertiser or marketer could hope for. And so I think that, yeah, it's just a great example. And I think that it's cool. You know, we're over here, analyzing it for all of these things that we've learned in class. But my friends that are biology majors or exercise science, or engineers, they don't understand why they liked it, but they liked it. And so I think that that's cool, too, just to see how advertising and marketing and branding done well, you don't necessarily have to know why you like it, because they know why. And they created it, knowing that you would like it?

Matt Waller: 00:32:07

Well, I can tell that you're getting a lot out of this track, and you still have more courses to go. So all I'll start with you, Grace, what do you see as the future of this custom track for yourselves and for the future?

Grace Crain: 00:32:26

Absolutely. So we named this track marketing and the art of storytelling. And we feel that that name really encompasses everything that we want this track to be, we want to be creative, we want to learn more about art. And we want to learn more about how to tell the story of brands. And so the four classes that we'll be taking, we've talked a lot about the art ad history class that we're taking right now. And we'll take two classes of independent studies with Professor Jeff Murray, those independent studies will include taking a master class and reading novels, and getting to write a lot of on our own, which I'm very excited for. And then that fourth class, we are still determining. So if anyone listening has any great ideas of a fourth class that would go very well into what we've been talking about, and would add a lot to our education, we would love to hear from you. We've considered classes all the way from Creative Writing to how do you make a book, what does printmaking look like for a book, to many other different topics. So we're still looking for that fourth and final component, but it will go ad art history to independent studies, and then one last class to finish out our spring semester strong.

Coleman Davis: 00:33:28

One thing that I'm really looking forward to see with the future of the MBA program itself is because this custom track is available for students to come and bring their own passions and their own interest into the program, and allow you to get professional education on that is one thing that I didn't know about before I joined the program. And so I knew I was like, Okay, I'm going to have to do entrepreneurship, or I'm going to have to do marketing. And so I think, one, the Walton College could use that and present that to more students and say, hey, you guys should apply here, this is an option for you, bring your own interests, bring your own ideas, and let's build you something. I think that could be a huge industry changer too within the Northwest Arkansas area is bringing people that have ideas for local businesses, because they have a different background, because they have an experience with art students and writing students and other areas. So I think that will be a really cool outcome to see in the future. But also, I'm super excited to see tracks that are built in the future, making the next MBA cohort comfortable with presenting an idea to the to the MBA team and saying, hey, we want to do this. And I think for us three, we saw that if you present a common theme and how this is going to benefit society, this is going to benefit small businesses, this is going to benefit corporate, then that's something that they will back you with and they will say hey, let's do this. This is going to be awesome. This is going to benefit you. And so I think what I'm excited for is to see next year and the year after, what kind of custom tracks are built? And how does that impact the area.

Helen Woodham: 00:35:06

Like I've mentioned, I love the Walton community, I love the Razorback community, there's the whole U of A. And then it's something I want to stay a part of as an alumni after I graduate. And I think that again, it goes back to this perception of storytelling, and what is the story of the Walton College MBA? And I think that, you know, how do we, not that it's not already amazing, but how do we write it in a way that it's as acceptable and looked at in the same light to do a custom track as something traditional. And I think that, you know, we're seeing that we, you know, were met with so much support from our professors. And it was something that I didn't know if that was going to happen, just because it is so untraditional and so to know, that we have their support has just been amazing. And, you know, I would love to see our track, why can't it become the fifth track, and I know, we have some other classmates pining on their own, why not save the materials, you know, the drafts and the syllabus that you know, we're helping create, and then equally present that to future classes. And so I think that it's just so cool on a personal level, to get to be a part of change within my own education, but also knowing that the faculty and everyone supports it so much, and knowing that they're going to continue to foster that innovation within the program. And I think for me, just knowing how storytelling has changed my education with my double majors in undergrad with the MBA and how excited I am to take that into industry. And then also just this passion that I've developed for policy within the university, like I mentioned, I want to stay in the area, you know, one day potentially would love to teach or go back and get my PhD and just knowing the type of innovation that's happening here, the high rankings that we're getting as a program and just knowing that we're doing something here that's not being done other places, and how to really pioneer that change and just be a part of it is just as a student now and then as an alumni one day has just been such an such an amazing experience.

Matt Waller: 00:36:46

Well, this is a very encouraging interview of the three of you, Grace, Coleman, and Helen, you know, I didn't know exactly what you all were going to talk about, of course, and this was extemporaneous for those listening. But it is encouraging to see how much these innovative programs we've created really has helped because you never know for sure, we try to measure it as much as we can. We're seeing more and more evidence of that. But thank you so much for taking time to visit with me about this. I really appreciate it.

Grace Crain: 00:37:23

Thank you for having us.

Helen Woodham: 00:37:25

Thank you I thank you for being someone that you know supports us in this, we know alum, faculty, we have your support. And so it means a lot to know that, that you're with us on this.

Coleman Davis: 00:37:33

Thank you.

Matt WallerMatthew A. Waller is the dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair and professor of supply chain management. He is also the host for the Be EPIC Podcast for Walton College.


Walton College's EPIC values -- Excellence, Professionalism, Innovation and Collegiality -- are the heart of Dean Waller’s podcast. Since the beginning of the series, Waller has interviewed business professionals, industry experts, CEOs and Walton College students to bring listeners first-hand accounts directly from the entrepreneurial world.


Waller is an SEC Academic Leadership Fellow and coauthor of “The Definitive Guide to Inventory Management: Principles and Strategies for the Efficient Flow of Inventory across the Supply Chain,” published by Pearson Education. He is the former co-editor-in-chief of Journal of Business Logistics. His opinion pieces have appeared in Wall Street Journal Asia and Financial Times.


Waller received an M.S. and Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University and a B.S.B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Missouri.

Walton College

Walton College of Business

Since its founding at the University of Arkansas in 1926, the Sam M. Walton College of Business has grown to become the state's premier college of business – as well as a nationally competitive business school. Learn more...

Be Epic Podcast

We're sitting down with innovators and business mavericks to discuss strategy, leadership and entrepreneurship. The Be EPIC Podcast is hosted by Matthew Waller, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. Learn more...

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