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Commitment to industry engagement reflected in pub field trip

19 Oct 2012

"Ah alcohol," once declared Homer Simpson, "the cause and the solution of all of life's problems." A little extreme perhaps, but attitudes towards this controversial product do vary widely. Alcohol is readily available and yet heavily regulated. It is enjoyed safely by many and yet abuse like no other substance. In short, its place in our society is complex and the marketing of it is sensitive.

"I like to take students out of their comfort zone," said Senior Lecturer, Rohan Miller, as he prepared to take a group on what he called a "field trip" to the Buckland Hotel in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria. "Expose students to the real world and get them to think about how to then apply theory and data is my teaching mantra."

The field trip was designed to expose Dr Miller's marketing students to the insights of some of the nation's leaders in alcohol marketers. They included Colin Waller, a publican and Treasurer of the Australian Hotels Association; Cameron Beggs, Channel Planning Manager, Retail, at Fine Wine Partners, Ray Brown an experienced sales manager with Shufflemaster and Gareth Southam, an Area Manager with Independent Liquor Group.

Also taking part were Paul Carew, General Manager, Retail, for Tabcorp (one of Australia's biggest retailers) and Mark Crowe, CEO of the Australian Marketing Institute.

Dr Miller was keen to have a "no holds barred" day. "I wanted our experts to talk openly about toughness, about face-to-face negotiation, about advertising budgets and dealing with advertising agencies," he said, "I even wanted to talk about sales promotions and why they involved attractive women rather than men."

"What I really wanted students to learn about was what industry does and how different members of the value chain strive to influence customer behaviour," Dr Miller continued. "I was particularly keen to cover the way that marketers attempt to influence customers at the place of purchase through marketing techniques such as product placement, venue advertising; product experiences and recommendations from salespeople."

So, did a couple of hours at the Buckland Hotel produce the desired outcome? Did it successfully add real world insights to research based theory to produce a real understanding of how marketing communications can influence customer behaviour? Students who contributed to open Facebook based feedback discussion have no doubt that it did.

"One of the good things was the way the hotel manager (Colin Waller) was able to show how different things, angles and relationships go together to achieve an overall offering," said student Nick Graham. "I enjoyed the TAB presentation," added Paul Lui. "It was quite educational to see how such a big company has gone about rebranding, especially in the face of huge online competition." Student Jane Bodycott said that the TAB presentation had provided a new way of thinking about brand "DNA" and how to connect with customers.

"While the field trip was of great value to the students," concluded Dr Miller. "It also reflected the Business School's strong commitment to industry engagement and to preparing students to succeed in a dynamic business world. Our students use real data, engage with leading industry figures and are expected to produce assignments at industry standards, or better."