How One Marketing Professor Sparks Learning with Humor & Curiosity
Our innovative educators series highlights professors using original & refreshing teaching approaches in their classes.
Marketing professor Suresh Paul Antony (known as Spa to his students) doesn’t consider himself a marketing “guru”. Despite over 14 years’ industry experience and +20 years of teaching, he believes that there is always something he can learn. “My role is that of a seeker. I’m a senior learner.” An advocate for active, continuous learning, Professor Spa strives to keep his students curious and engaged by disarming any preconceived fears from the get-go.
When students say “It’s nice to know you are human”
In the classroom, he believes it’s imperative to break the notion of the “all-knowing” professor and the “ignorant” student. This means letting students know that his classes will be more of an engaging journey of discovery than a one-sided lecture, where students are urged to take ownership of their education. He views everyone as "co-learners", including himself.
“My job as an educator is to prepare students for the real world. They need to have absolute confidence in the decisions they make. To do this, there has to be a smile, a sense of humor. It’s ok to make fun of yourself (as an instructor). This brings a sense of camaraderie. Students feel comfortable to open up.”
He encourages his students to ask questions and to laugh. During one of his classes, a student once told him “It’s nice to know you are human”.
Explaining his "human" approach to teaching
Showing such vulnerability helps create a safe learning space where students let their guard down and can be their authentic selves.
Empowering students through active learning
Once students feel safe, Professor Spa likes to fully empower them by giving them tools to make decisions on their own. This includes using the Markstrat and BrandPRO simulations to allow students to connect business world reality with marketing concepts.
And this translates to positive outcomes.
He recalls one of his former students had to make a tough decision in front of his boss who tried to make him doubt his decision. But thanks to the confidence he gained in having to make strategic decisions during one of Professor Spa’s courses with BrandPRO, the student was able to stand his ground and explain the reasoning behind the decision.
How one of his students was able to face a tough real-world scenario thanks to BrandPRO & Markstrat
In addition to relevant case studies, Professor Spa also likes to bring in industry speakers so students can validate and verify their learnings from a real-world expert and likes to tie in his own industry experience where necessary.
An avid user of technology, he uses lots of videos in his class, as he understands not everyone learns in the same way. Since he wants to foster curiosity, he also allows students to search on Google for any answers during his lectures. He’s a big believer in the Socratic method, oftentimes answering questions with a question to get students thinking.
“I shouldn’t give the answers. The students need to figure out themselves. They should have that “Aha” moment for themselves.”
Why he built his courses around the Markstrat and BrandPRO Simulations
Professor Spa teaches several core Marketing courses at the Indian Institute of Management Tiruchirappali , including 2 electives: Product Policy/Brand Management and Strategic Marketing in Action. It’s these 2 electives that he built around BrandPRO and Markstrat, respectfully. He was one of the first innovators to use simulations at his institution over 20 years ago. By incorporating relevant cases and application of theory through the simulations, students can get the big picture on how marketing works. It's also a great way to instill a learn-by-doing methodology.
"When I looked at all of the pedagogical tools available, the closest I could get to 'doing it yourself' was by doing a simulation."
According to him, the beauty with Markstrat & BrandPRO is that students can relate to this in the real world. They put together all learnings.
He likes the fact that Markstrat has the ability to not only handle strategy but also to integrate the 4Ps, essentially the tactics to strategy. They are very sound fundamental principles. And it keeps evolving with resource restraints: time, finance, people, etc. These principles are essential.
Describing the power of Markstrat
Overcoming simulation angst: “As an instructor, it’s ok to not know everything.”
One potential fear with running simulations is the uncertainty. However, professor Spa enjoys how each time he runs a simulation with a different cohort, different results and questions arise.
“It tests you as an instructor every time you run it. It tests the participants too. It’s important to have an attitude that you don’t know everything. Instead, let’s find the answer together. You don’t have that angst, there’s no loss of face. You are very clear from the beginning that you too are a learner.”
The right attitude is key to running a simulation according to Professor Spa
His tips on fostering innovation in the classroom
Professor Antony is big on building teaching tactics around the main learning objectives. Focus on the why and find the how organically. He doesn’t think there is a one-size-fits all approach and likes to give students options. The key is to test comprehension, not the form.
He recommends allowing students to experiment & make mistakes they can learn from, a big driver for innovative thinking. This is where simulations can be a great asset, as they allow a risk-free platform to do just that.
Professor Spa's key tip: Allow students to make mistakes!
More about the simulations Professor Spa uses in his courses:
Markstrat is designed for experiencing strategic marketing concepts, such as brand portfolio strategy, segmentation and positioning strategies.
- Strategic Perspective & operational decisions
- Long-term Perspective: up to 10 simulated years
- Making decisions in a time-sensitve, highly competitive market
- High level of analysis
- Managing Marketing as a profit centre
Learn more about Markstrat
Built on Markstrat's simplified, yet highly competitive model, BrandPRO is the perfect tool to introduce Brand Strategy.
- Take on the role of a Marketing Director
- Challenge: reposition 2 products
- Analyse customers’ expectations, competitors…
- Make decisions about targeting, product, price and communication
- Maximize the Share Price Index (SPI)
Learn more about BrandPRO