Wharton profs' startup: 'Throwback' rock band


'Brand Inequity' played at MBA pub nights and the Marketing Department Christmas party


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Marketing professors David Bell and Keith Niedermeier rock out at a ‘Brand Inequity’ performance.



Some of Wharton’s most talented faculty use their marketing skills on the stage as well as in the classroom.

Marketing professors Americus Reed, David Bell, Robert Meyer and Keith Niedermeier formed their own rock band, “Brand Inequity,” about six years ago. Specializing in contemporary and “throwback” classics by such bands as the Rolling Stones, Oasis and Blink-182, the band’s genuine talent often surprises crowds skeptical of an all-professor rock band.

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The professors had been practicing together for some time as the “four p’s” — a nickname based off a key marketing concept — when one day, some MBA students caught wind of their jam sessions and invited them to perform at MBA pub nights.

Following a successful performance at their first gig, the musicians started receiving more and more invitations not only to pub night shows but even the annual Wharton Marketing Department Christmas party.

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Reed attributes part of the band’s success on stage to the marketing strategies that the members put to use when making their set list. Taking into account such factors as age range and crowd size, the professors apply their knowledge of market segmentation and targeting to decide which covers to perform. Solidifying their “brand identity” is also an important aspect of the band’s thought process during performances.

In 2007, the same MBA students who had first invited Brand Inequity to perform organized the World Cafe Live’s first Battle of the Bands, where the professors played as special guest performers. Tickets for this now-annual event sell out in minutes, and this year, the venue has been moved to the renowned Theatre of Living Arts to accommodate the crowds of up to 1,000 people.

While the band, according to Reed, is very “tongue-in-cheek,” performances are in hot demand. This isn’t surprising, considering the musical experience of some of the band members. Niedermeier said he had played in bar bands from high school through graduate school, and even opened for acts like Lit and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Before a performance, the band will practice intensely at Niedermeier’s house in West Philadelphia. Having coming out of retirement after his serious pursuit of music, Niedermeier said Brand Inequity is “mainly driven by demand from the students.”

However, the band has also gained recognition from outside the Penn community. This summer, the American Marketing Association held its 2013 Summer Marketing Educators’ Conference in Boston, where Brand Inequity performed at a networking event.

The Association for Consumer Research — an international organization that holds annual conferences to highlight and reward trailblazing consumer research — also invited Brand Inequity to perform at their North American Conference in Chicago this past weekend. The band played during a two-hour grand finale presentation at the iconic House of Blues, a venue housing up to 1,300 people.

Reed hopes that the band will interact with even more communities within Penn, whether on the undergraduate or graduate level. However, he emphasizes that no matter what the future holds, the band is simply enjoying any and all opportunities to connect with the students outside the classroom.

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