MBA Programs - Continuing Education in Florida
Professors talk about their approaches to teaching leadership skills.
Professor, Chair of the Department of Marketing
University of Florida Warrington College of Business Administration
Courses: Problems and Methods in Marketing Management; Product Development and Management
Joseph Alba gets his students thinking about marketing by delving into consumer perceptions around product quality and brands. “We look at whether advertising can be used to get consumers to believe brands are different when they might be the same or similar,” Alba says.
Alba likes to use beer as an example. “I show the students the data on consumer’s ability to discriminate in a blind test. While they might know the difference between a stout and a light beer, even loyal drinkers can’t identify the difference when they’re choosing between low-priced beers.” Alba says the beer example gets them to start challenging their strong impressions about other products. “Some of them get really motivated and will go out there and pick other categories and see if they can discriminate between brands.”
Even if his students aren’t interested in marketing, Alba impresses upon them how it affects the businesses they work for — how pricing, advertising, distribution and branding help companies gain and keep a competitive advantage over the long term. “I want them to become better strategists and better consumers.”
Alba, a multiple recipient of the UF MBA Outstanding Faculty Award, says he enjoys online teaching because it has certain advantages in enabling students to ask questions and chime in on discussion boards. For each topic covered, he keeps the discussion board open for two weeks. “Unlike in the classroom, discussions are not time-constrained, and we see way more openness.”
Alba’s elective course in new-product development “lends itself to having fun.” He divides his students into teams and challenges them to redesign a commonly used product. The product must be something simple that has been around for many years. Students have redesigned, for example, a pizza box, a can opener, a coffee mug and a clothes hanger. “I ask them to increase utility and attractiveness and use techniques we have learned in class. When it’s time to present, I’m always impressed.”