Teaching Marketing Students to “Think Like A Rock Star”

by Kerry O'Shea Gorgone

You might understand marketing technologies like social media and mobile search, but can you explain them so that someone new to marketing would understand the value of these tools to their business?

Since 2010, I’ve taught a four-week course in New Media Marketing in the Internet Marketing Master of Science program at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. At Full Sail, students earn their master’s degree in 12 months, and the pace is intense.

Given that the tools of the trade change frequently, I’ve always emphasized principles and approaches, rather than relying too heavily on specific social networks or technologies. My objective is to provide students with skills they can apply in a variety of industries to best suit their unique goals.

The Professor’s Conundrum
Throughout my tenure, I’ve updated the course materials, topics and exercises, but continued to encounter certain objections from students.

1. “My company can’t use mobile (or social media) because…” 

The rest of that sentence could be “our clients are older and don’t use mobile or social media,” or “mobile marketing is too expensive for small businesses,” or “I don’t have time for social media marketing.”

Whatever the nature of their objection, I had to counter the student’s own resistance, which took up valuable time and hindered the learning process.

2. “My company already does X.”

Many students base their course projects on large companies with robust marketing plans. These companies have tried many of the approaches we cover, leaving students little room for expansion or experimentation in the name of learning.

If we were talking about blogging and online video, I’d routinely run into situations where students’ companies were already using these (at least to some extent), though possibly not to their fullest potential. I needed a way to ensure that the course would prove valuable to students in any industry, from all types of organizations.

The Interview
In August 2013, I interviewed Mack Collier for the MarketingProfs podcast about his book, Think Like A Rock Star. I read the book prior to our conversation, and felt incredibly energized and excited about his approach to helping brands build their business by turning customers into fans using techniques effectively used by rock stars to build a fan-base.

I was surprised to learn that very few companies had any type of formal program in place for cultivating brand ambassadors. While Mack and I talked, I kept thinking about how valuable a skillset my students would have if they understood his approach.

Students could analyze their audience to identify influencers and fans, research where their target audience spends time online and off, and develop an outreach plan that would help them to achieve specific program objectives, as well as support larger business goals.

The Epiphany
After my talk with Mack, I had an epiphany. I could use the principles from Think Like A Rock Star to build a course that would teach students to create a completely customized approach, based on their specific business goals and audience: one that would offer value to all students’ businesses, large and small alike, whatever the size of their budget or current marketing mix.

As Mack had observed in our interview, very few organizations have brand ambassador programs, so offering interested students the option of creating that type of program would equip them to blaze a trail in the marketing industry by supercharging their company’s word-of-mouth marketing.

The Plan: Complete Customization
In the first week, students would set their business goals and create personas for their organization’s customers, influencers and fans.

Then, students could engage in audience analysis, identifying actual targets for outreach.

Using this insight, class participants would create a plan to implement influencer outreach or launch a brand ambassador program (either full-scale or smaller-scale, like a customer feedback panel).

Finally, students would spend 25% of the class covering measurement, which is an area of critical importance that marketing professional can’t afford to ignore.

In an effort to ensure that students had access to course content that accurately and thoroughly covered these topics, I worked directly with Mack to create custom webinars for each week’s lesson.

For each of the four weeks, we created lessons that would enable students to apply the concepts of influencer outreach and brand ambassadorship to all kinds of businesses. I provided additional course materials on content marketing, social media, and mobile technology, so that students could learn more about their channels of choice once they knew where their audience was on- and offline.

The Results
Having run the revamped course once, I can already see that students’ submittals are much more detailed and applied to their specific business objectives and audience, and that they’ve acquired valuable skills for audience research, metric selection and measurement that will serve them well no matter which vertical their business operates in.

Instead of teaching every student every approach, we narrowed the universe of possibilities to those uniquely suited to each class member’s industry, business goals, and audience preferences.

I’m excited about the course, but more excited to see what students do once they’ve graduated from the program. Mine is just one class in one program at one university, but my hope is that the success these students will bring to businesses across all industries will inspire other organizations to establish deeper, more lasting relationships with their brand’s influencers and fans.

Even if other businesses continue to lag behind, my students can reap the benefits of the first-mover advantage. That’s not such a bad outcome, either!

I’m incredibly indebted to Mack for his contribution to the class, and highly recommend him as an instructor or trainer in his own right: he’s a fantastic marketer and educator.

Any organization that wants to learn how to implement influence marketing or create a brand ambassador program would do well to retain Mack’s services, or at least buy a copy of Think Like A Rock Star for everyone on the marketing team.

Clearly Mack’s lessons work: I’m a passionate advocate of his approach to marketing, and recommend his book every chance I get. If you want to talk more about it, drop me a line: like any true fan, I love talking about it!

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone teaches New Media Marketing at Full Sail University. She also hosts the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast for MarketingProfs. Find Kerry on Google+ and Twitter.


Mack Collier January 9, 2014 at 8:49 am

Thank you so much to Kerry for letting Think Like a Rock Star be part of Full Sail’s curriculum, I cannot say what an honor that is.

If your college or university would like to talk to me about adding Think Like a Rock Star to your school’s courses, please email me and I’ll be happy to work with you! mack.collier@gmail.com

Kerry O'Shea Gorgone January 9, 2014 at 9:10 am

Thank YOU, Mack! Really, I was so impressed with your approach to marketing that I chose your book, and then I was floored by your generous offer to devote your time helping me to develop custom course materials that would uniquely suit my students and their learning objectives. You’re a gem, and some smart college or university needs to snap you up to teach for them! (You can tell them I said so.)

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