Reflections on Teaching Abroad

Teaching ethnography and brand tracking in two distinct cultures was humbling. Each city inspired me to see the world differently and I hope my students felt the same. Together we opened our ethnographers’ eyes to new cultures. In the process we learned a lot about people, how they consume, and the essential rootedness of consumption within cultural experience. Along the way we also began to see how brands move across cultures.

The truth is, I could only guess at how this class would unfold. I had a plan and a lot of industry contacts. I had set up many agency visits, selected pertinent cultural sites and consumer hot spots to visit, and planned on site exercises. I had students from two universities - 15 people who did not know one another. Dropping them into foreign lands was not a sure bet for success. It was, however, an assured adventure. And what an adventure it turned out to be.

Together we immersed ourselves into worlds unknown. We opened our senses to unfamiliar cultures in search of their unique cultural codes. We were like sponges. We traversed each city moving from ad agencies, to neighborhoods, and then on to shopping malls, auto dealers, and perhaps too many pubs. We attended classical concerts, visited museums, and walked historical streets. In short we were students of culture.

More than ever I am convinced that experiential learning is the most salient. Ethnography in particular can not be taught from a book. It can only be understood by doing. And cultural codes can only be explored within the day to day lives of people - on site and in culture. And so I leave this class behind a richer person and a better teacher (I hope), humbled by the generosity of my colleagues abroad and inspired by the rich diversity of cultural experiences and kinds of many strangers.


Global Brand Tracking/London & Prague

I hit the road tomorrow to teach my Global Brand Tracking class in London and Prague. It’s a three-week cultural immersion designed to bring culture and branding to life within the context of the global marketplace. Students will hit the streets visiting ad agencies and tracking brands in local culture. They’ll be working in teams tracking brands in three sectors: autos, beers and fashion apparel, while hunting for their elusive cultural codes. You’ll find their blogs linked through my site. Please visit us and join in the branding conversation!

Teaching and Blogging

This is my spring 2010 teaching blog. But I consider it my mentoring blog. The idea is to help students understand the essential intersection of strategy and creative. I've posted some past student work and am showcasing individual student work I love. Let me know what you think.

My grad IMC class reviewed some hot industry books including Grown Up Digital and Culture Codes. They also created ethnographic Digital Brand Stories. I've showcased two: Growing Power and Starbucks VIA.

In my undergrad Strategy class I use, Advertising Creative, as the foundation. Then I send my Marquette students off into the real world to explore branded social media, work with real clients, and dive into industry books. In fall they tracked some of my favorite blogs and posted comments about why some ideas stick: stories, emotion, credibility, concreateness, the unexpected, and simplicity. (Thanks Chip & Dan Heath.) This spring we blogged. Check out some of their blogs, along with a few of my industry favorites.

It's a Quirky World

This is one of my favorite assignments. After considering what might be an unusual habit or experience - their own personal quirk - each student develops their own quirky blog. There are a number of things I love about this assignment. First, it allows them to express their creativity fairly easily. Second, the blogs can be anonymous, allowing them the freedom to make mistakes. Finally, they support each other, sharing ideas about what's working and what's not. In the process they learn how to blog more effectively. At the end of the semester they report on the success of their blogs, in terms of both content and analytics.

In the end, if their blog is a huge success - great, promote it to the world. However, if it was less then they hoped for - fine, they've learned and their nameless blog can disappear. I'll track them for the rest of the semester making comments both here and on their sites. Check them out and join the fun.