From brand manager to professor
As a marketing professor, Mark Mayer brings his professional experience as a brand manager into the classroom at the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis.
“I knew I wanted to be a professor very early in my college experience,” said Mayer.
“This was my goal. It’s an environment where you’re surrounded by people who are thinkers, people who want to talk about issues. To be in this dynamic environment in a job where you’re always learning, always growing intellectually — I am exactly where I want to be.”
Mayer also conducts research while teaching classes for both Kelley Evening MBA and undergraduate students.
“As a former marketing manager at Kraft, I juggled advertising, pricing decisions, forecasting and much more. I was fortunate enough to work on a number of campaigns for big brands. In my current research, I focus on topics that interest me from my brand career, and I use that research in the classroom as learning opportunities for students,” said Mayer.
Mayer recently had two papers accepted for publication. One paper considers the roles of sexual-self schema and brand positioning in determining when “sex sells” and when it does not. The other looks at pricing strategies, comparing how effective a “just-below” pricing (e.g., $2.99) strategy is versus a “precise” price (e.g., $2.67), especially when price discounts come into play.
In terms of teaching, Mayer says experiential learning truly helps students grow as they navigate their futures as business students.
His undergraduate classes have worked on projects for Indiana-based organizations like Back on My Feet Indianapolis, Hubbard and Cravens and hhgregg, among others. This semester, Mayer’s students are working to formulate a new holiday event and promotion plan for Conner Prairie, the interactive history park in Fishers.
“We have clients explain to the students what they need, and the students really are immersed in the project. It’s almost like a mini I-Core dedicated to advertising and promotion,” explained Mayer.
Many times, Kelley Evening MBA alumni will get their own companies involved, asking undergraduate students to take part in consulting projects for their respective companies.
“It’s really about keeping those relationships going, and it’s also a great example of Evening MBA alumni giving back to the school,” said Mayer. “It is fantastic to provide this educational experience to the undergraduates; it’s a rich experience that gives them an opportunity to interact with Evening MBA alumni. It challenges them to think outside the box and to aspire to get where these MBA grads are now. This is a special thing for students.”
For students who want to pursue careers in advertising, Mayer has several recommendations.
“Advertising is a very competitive industry to get into,” he said. “There are a lot more people interested in advertising than there are jobs. To separate yourself from your peers, you must be a strong student. You have to be passionate about advertising and love the industry.”
“Read AdWeek, keep up on cultural trends and be willing to pay your dues.”
“You may not start out making huge advertisements, but you will have the opportunity to move up if you work hard,” he added. “You also have to be up on the latest technology. If students are truly interested in going into advertising, they have to be savvy in the latest and greatest when it comes to digital analytics and social media.”
Mayer’s passion for advertising started years ago. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in business and english, he worked for about a year with a non-profit before pursuing his MBA at Wake Forest University.
As an MBA student, Mayer interned at Sara Lee Corporation doing brand work for L’eggs pantyhose.
“During that internship, I had an opportunity to do a lot of brand management, industry work, advertising and forecasting, and I realized I liked that. I had found my niche.”
Shortly after that, Mayer received an offer from Kraft-Nabisco, and he worked there for three-and-a-half years on brands like Planters, Corn Nuts and Nabisco. During his time with Kraft, he worked on advertising, consumer promotions, new product launches, pricing strategy and more.
Mayer went on to help launch the brand Advil PM for Wyeth Consumer Healthcare (you may see a giant sign for Advil PM in Mayer’s office!), which has continued to do well since that time.
Though he’d found success in marketing, Mayer decided to pursue his dream of being a professor. He moved his family to Athens, Georgia, where he would ultimately earn a PhD in business administration from the University of Georgia.
“I don’t regret that decision for a second,” Mayer said. “It’s been a fantastic experience so far, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.”
For aspiring Kelley students in any business field, Mayer’s advice is to work hard and to take advantage of every opportunity.
“Kelley has so much to offer. Get involved in service opportunities and extracurricular activities. Not only will you grow as a person, but that involvement will be noticed by employers.”
“Take advantage of this time: Get to know your peers and professors, and take your classes seriously. Put your head down, and do the work to build that base of knowledge you’ll need. Whether it’s here or in the workplace, you will have to put in the work so you can find the opportunities you’re looking for. There’s no way to jump to the head of the line without earning your place. And keep in contact with your Kelley professors—we love to hear about what you’re up to and help you along the way!”