Americus Reed’s Marketing class held at Jon M. Huntsman Hall on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania on March 22, 2012. Photo by Alyssa Cwanger Credit: Courtesy of Alyssa Cwanger for the Wharton School

In a little more than a week, students in a Wharton marketing class will present strategy campaigns to Microsoft executives for their new Windows Phone.

Professor Americus Reed’s “Consumer Behavior” class gives students a chance to interact with real-world clients and develop ways for companies to improve their marketing efforts and better understand consumer preferences. Notable clients from previous years include Nike, Payless ShoeSource and L’Oréal.

This year, students are working with Microsoft in preparation for the release of the Windows Phone.

“There is an interplay of theory and real-world practice,” Reed, who has taught the class for 11 years, said. “All of the concepts we study in isolation really come to life because students are working on something that’s real. They’re learning in a real-world situation, so they’re actually making an impact.”

During the first half of the semester students focus on gathering qualitative information, from analyzing competitors to studying consumer behavior. Microsoft also provided each team with a working phone to facilitate this portion of the class.

The second half consists of quantitative approaches, where students generate surveys, models and graphs to help them develop a solution for the client they are working with. The class culminates in a final presentation, where each group offers their findings and suggestions to the client.

“Our presentation will include a discussion of how to best segment the market for cell phones, which segment is most lucrative to target and how to best position the product and tailor the messaging to successfully reach that target demographic,” College junior Lauren Lubetsky wrote in an email.

Jeremiah Marble, a Wharton graduate and product manager in Microsoft’s Windows Phone Division, took the class as a student and currently serves as the liaison to this semester’s class.

“My role is to make the logistics as easy as possible for the students,” he wrote in an email. “I block and tackle things like answering questions, securing phones, supporting research and the like — so that students can focus on coming up with creative proposals.”

Although students benefit from the experiential learning aspect of this class, the client equally benefits.

“It’s a win-win for everyone because students learn and the companies get to interact with really bright students,” Reed said. “Every single year I’ve done it I’ve never had a student team disappoint or an organization walk away disappointed. They’re always amazed at the quality of what these bright minds are able to bring to the table.”

Wharton senior Alejandro Jerez, who is concentrating in marketing and finance, considers “Consumer Behavior” one of the highlights of his Penn experience.

“It has been my favorite class within the concentration and in the top three classes I’ve taken at Penn,” he said. “In this class we’ve really been hands on … we do labs and the project with Microsoft and I think all of this is really beneficial.”

Wharton sophomore Christopher Orsinger added that this class has increased his understanding of the consumer side of the market.

“There’s a lot more dimensions to the consumer than you may originally think,” he said. “It goes far beyond the demographics. We try to focus on the lifestyle, what the product means to the consumer and other areas to really understand the full picture.”

For Lubetsky, the course not only fulfills a requirement for her minor in consumer psychology, but it also complements her passion for marketing. “I probably would’ve taken it as an elective even if it wasn’t required,” she said. “I love marketing and I think it’s fascinating how people think and how you can influence consumers.”

Even after teaching this course for more than a decade, the time and commitment the students put into this class still impresses Reed.

“They just work so hard in the class and they have so much energy and enthusiasm that I’m always impressed with,” he said.

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