Homer is not someone you would expect to feature in a degree course in marketing but he makes a regular appearance at Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester. But it’s not all Greek to their students – the Homer in question isn’t the author of the Iliad, but one Mr Simpson, resident of Springfield and long-suffering father to Bart and Lisa.
Ben Kerrane, Lecturer in Consumer Research, discovered an episode of The Simpsons which perfectly illustrated the efficacy of “pester power”. This is the bane of every parent’s life, and the reason why some end up buying items they never intended to purchase until their offspring decided they simply had to have them. Since then the clip has become a staple on the Marketing Foundations course.
Anna Goatman is Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the Business School and uses the clip herself, as the ERA licence facilitates sharing of material between colleagues. “It really shows how pester power works,” she laughs, “and a video clip can demonstrate a point in minutes, much better than a long and wordy explanation.”
“The students were doing an assignment on not-for-profit marketing and I showed them the intro to a documentary on the health care sector – it gave them an instant picture of what life was really like there, and the pressures staff were under,” Anna explains. “Nothing has the immediacy and impact of a piece of professional broadcast material.”
Matching the recording to the audience is sometimes tricky. “Sometimes I find that a clip works with one group and not with another,” Anna comment, “but having a lot of programmes available means that there’s usually a good alternative.” And she stresses how important it is that material is fresh and current. “The days of being able to stand at the front of a lecture theatre behind a lectern and read something that you prepared years ago are long gone.”
Students are also encouraged to select clips to illustrate their own presentations. “Choosing the right clip and using it creatively to demonstrate or illustrate the points they want to make – these are skills that students need to develop, because they’ll use them in the real world of marketing,” says Anna.
Graduates of the Business School course have gone on to work for household names and well-known brands, so the expertise they developed at Manchester has clearly counted for something in the marketing world.
Anna and other colleagues across the University have made increasing use of short clips from programmes to support teaching and learning in recent years. She says: “At the University of Manchester, we find that broadcast media is a very useful tool in making teaching more relevant, engaging and thought provoking.”
Teaching staff are keen that lectures draw upon audio-visual resources that not only make classes enjoyable and interesting, but challenge students to think more creatively.
As the other Homer might have said (but didn’t!) – is this the place that launched a thousand clips?