When the first lockdown hit, AMBS marketing academics Alex Gunz and Dawn Holmes realised that there might be an opportunity to have some fun spreading some learning. They thought people might want to learn more about the wealth of brands, commercial offerings and messages that permeate their everyday lives. To satisfy this curiosity, they started a podcast.
To make sure their podcast stood out from the crowd and had its own “USP” (“Unique Selling Proposition); they hit on the idea of playing off their difference in backgrounds. Dr Alex Gunz is a Lecturer in Marketing at AMBS, and a career academic, with roots in social psychology, while Dawn Holmes, a Manchester DBA student has 30 years of business experience (and a teaching portfolio spanning Executive Education, undergraduate and masters programmes at AMBS). Their podcast would contrast their academic and practitioner expertise and open the world of marketing to the widest possible audience.
Launched in May 2020, Gunz ‘n’ Holmes’s Marketing For The Business Curious podcast brings academic theory and industry practice face-to-face for some lively debate. Their desire is to create engaging content that interests current students, prospective students, business people, and even the non-specialist wider public.
Dawn and Alex’s off-air friendship translates well on-air during their spirited and entertaining discussions. They share a vision of keeping the podcast light-hearted, fun and not overly intimidating for non-experts, but at the same time, they wanted to open up conversations around some weighty academic theories in an accessible way.
The appeal of the podcast is perhaps wider than it might at first sound, as Alex explains: “When people hear the word ‘marketing’ they are often immediately suspicious that it is some shady manipulative activity. And like many things it sometimes can be that. But often it’s just about finding out what people want and trying to find ways to get it to them. We are all consumers and so we can all relate to being on the receiving end of marketing tactics, and can probably imagine trying to use them ourselves too. Everyone has the experience and intuition to have an opinion about marketing, so our podcast tries to provide an extra layer of insight into the theories and mechanics behind it all, from both the perspective of academic consumer psychology and evidenced best industry practice.”
An example of Original Thinking Applied in action, the podcast sees Alex applying an academic background to real-world industry case studies and Dawn offering insights from a practitioner perspective.
Dawn and Alex have released 10 episodes so far, including ‘boot camp’ episodes, which, Alex explains, “are designed at beginner-level, to introduce key marketing concepts and offer a sort of marketing 101.” In the future, they plan to produce more of their ‘masterclass’ episodes which feature expert guests from either academia or industry, such as David Peters, CEO of Delicate Persuasion, who discussed the marketing concept of positioning in July’s episode.
Other episodes focus on either unpacking popular topical issues or exploring relatable case studies, seeing Dawn and Alex discuss how they would tackle the marketing problems of real-world companies like Blackberry and Harley Davidson. December’s episode discussed the psychological trick that makes UK Christmas TV advertisements tick.
Their vision as the podcast series grows is for it to be a “resource for those who want to learn the basics of marketing and understand the key interplay between industry and academia.”
“It was reassuring to see how highly relevant our academic teaching is to what actually happens in industry; there is a theoretical basis to why things work in practice,” says Alex. They point to the example of episode two, in which Alex discusses the “core benefit” of products, and Dawn manages to translate it into the industry term “value proposition.” Breaking down the terminology, like this, and looking at real examples seems to highlight that there really is a good agreement between the perspectives.
Recording the podcast has encouraged Dawn and Alex to explore more innovative teaching styles and has improved their delivery of online and blended teaching.
As Alex explains, “in addition to traditionally delivering a lecture, the podcast is a dialogue, built on an interaction with lots of back and forth.”
As a result, during his online lectures, Alex provides the opportunity for a dialogue with students; adopting a more conversational, informal and interactive style which has been well received. In terms of lecture content, he’s also incorporated more real-world examples. He explains “the podcast leans more towards offering an insight into how things work in industry, so it complements the more academic perspective of my teaching nicely.”
“My students often find it easier to engage with a case study or a real-world example as opposed to being taught a theory; the goal of the podcast is to explore and discuss rather than teach.”
Dawn agrees, she also believes the podcast discussions are “much more reflective of the real working world and the workplace.”
“It’s all about crossing over from understanding a theory intellectually to what it means to actually execute and practice that knowledge.”
Adapting to co-hosting a podcast has been challenging and has differed from Dawn’s previous teaching style too. She explained how “producing and recording the podcast has helped to inform my online teaching style and more practically, it’s improved my editing and technical skills; both of which have benefitted my students”.
Dawn has since incorporated live examples and illustrative storytelling into her teaching to engage her students, including an ambitious live cooking demonstration to illustrate operations concepts.