Marketing Is a Fertile Field for Walton College Students
November 5, 2020 | By Stephen Caldwell
Note: This is part of a series of articles that examine what students learn by pursuing different undergraduate degree options at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.
Growing up in a rural, farming community in the heart of the Delta has its advantages, even for someone like me who lived in town and didn’t inherit the green thumb from my mother and all of her crop-growing relatives.
One thing I learned, for instance, is that high-quality soil matters to the success of the crops, and that this principle applies well beyond agriculture.
The hilly, rocky landscape of Northwest Arkansas, my home for the past several decades, isn’t well-suited for massive acres of row crops, but it has proven to be fertile ground for something else: Business growth. And based on an informal survey of several professors at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, this creates some distinct advantages for students entering the field of marketing.
Northwest Arkansas, of course, is home to the headquarters of Walmart, as well as offices or satellite offices for more than a thousand of the retailer’s vendors. In addition to large corporations, the area also has become an entrepreneurial hotbed, with startups taking off to serve the more established players (and each other) in retail, but also in several other industries.
Walton College’s marketing students are regularly exposed to these companies. Many gain summer or semester-long internships with Walmart, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, local startups and marketing and advertising firms such as Field Agent, Saatchi & Saatchi X and Modthink.
The vibrant business ecosystem also has helped the college attract an award-winning faculty with a wealth of industry experience. Several marketing professors and instructors have industry backgrounds, and some adjuncts are full-time marketing executives with companies like Kellogg’s, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, Walmart, Modthink and Powerplay Retail. The owners of Bliss Cupcakes and Walker Brothers clothing also teach in the department.
Additionally, the region’s business community allows students to hear from a variety of guest speakers. Marketing and sales leaders devote their time in and out of the classroom to share knowledge and offer advice, mentoring and interviewing tips.
So, the best way to look at the value students gain when pursuing a degree in marketing from the Walton College is to keep in mind that those students are growing in extremely rich soil and that results in several benefits to what they learn.
Here are four:
- Because most classes involve hands-on, live projects with large and small corporate clients and non-profits, students learn practical knowledge and can apply the concepts they learn in the classroom. For instance, students get experience working in cross-functional teams and gain valuable skills related to business analysis, critical thinking, using marketing tools, writing creative briefs and reports, and developing their professional vocabulary and presentation skills. They also learn how to have empathy for the customer and other cultures through a focus on global and international business.
- Students are exposed to a wide range of additional practical learning opportunities during sales competitions, advertising campaign competitions and marketing research projects. These projects teach them to make sense of large amounts of marketing data, for instance, as well as benefit from retail store walk-throughs with buyers, suppliers and agency reps. And the competitive environments give them a taste of real-world challenges.
- Students have a number of certification opportunities with tools such as HubSpot marketing, Google Ads and Analytics, LinkedIn Learning, Hootsuite Social Marketing and Facebook Advertising.
- Students who major in marketing walk away with a big-picture understanding of how every aspect of the discipline fits into a company, society and the lives of consumers. They have a chance to learn about the following aspects of marketing:
- new product development, including what makes a product successful and why products fail;
- research methods for gaining customer insights;
- the selling process and customer relationship management;
- digital marketing, including SEO and paid search, social media marketing, web design and marketing analytics;
- marketing communication objectives, writing a creative brief and developing ad campaigns;
- retail strategy and commerce, category management, shopper marketing and customer insights;
- And, finally, they understand the customer journey from beginning to end.
Like any degree course at a quality university, theory provides the foundation for understanding how a discipline has developed over time. And because the teaching faculty in marketing includes a mixture of current and recent working professionals along with professors who are dedicated to research, students are not only exposed to the latest trends in marketing but also are part of creating the next wave of best practices.
They are, in a sense, not only growing their skills and knowledge, but the profession, as well. That means they are in high demand by employers when it’s time to look for a job. But that only happens in really good soil.