With rapid advances in quantitative analytics, marketing has become a numbers game. Professor Chiraag Mittal wants his students to understand that game and how to change it.
Mittal teaches in the UVA McIntire School’s M.S. in Commerce Program. His research focuses on drivers of consumer behavior and decision-making. One of his recent papers, for example, looks at the impact of an individual’s childhood environment on their life expectancy—how long they expect to live—and how that expectation affects their behavior as consumers.
In the classroom, Mittal teaches students the fundamental marketing concepts and analysis techniques that underlie such research. Mittal’s M.S. in Commerce course Marketing and Quantitative Analysis combines the principles of marketing with a focus on quantitative analysis—statistical modeling used to forecast revenue, consumer behavior, and more.
“They spend a lot of time on quantitative techniques,” Mittal says. “It provides a nice foundation for any more advanced analytics courses that they might later pursue.”
Mittal describes the course as “very hands-on,” as students master core techniques in quantitative analysis using programs like SPSS Statistics, a statistical software suite produced by IBM to analyze consumer behavior. Then, they apply their analysis to real-world problems, such as how a particular brand might reach consumers most likely to buy its product or service or how consumers might respond to a particular marketing campaign.
“We have many case studies that we discuss,” Mittal says. “Then, their overall project for the course is to compare two different leading brands across different categories of products and come up with recommendations of what the laggard brand can do to improve.”
An Impactful Intro to Statistical Analysis
For some of his students, Mittal’s course marks the first time they have done statistical analysis. Others come in with an economics background and more experience with statistics. Mittal said he strives to balance those needs and to equip both groups with a better understanding of what quantitative analysis is, as well as how statistics and quantitative analysis apply to marketing.
“Over the course of the semester, we talk about different ways to think about marketing, marketing strategy, and how important marketing is,” he says. “I want them to develop an appreciation of what marketing does and how important it is for many companies.”
Mittal also focuses on ethics and social impact, asking students to analyze how marketing decisions affect the public and who might benefit from or be hurt by different decisions.
“That is another change or movement we are seeing in the market,” he explains. “More and more, consumers and business leaders are not just looking at organizations as a money-making vehicle but as a way to impact the human aspect and the social aspect through commerce. We spend time talking about that.”
Students who complete his course and other marketing-focused courses within the M.S. in Commerce Program will be competitive candidates for marketing and communications roles in a wide variety of organizations and industries, Mittal says. Many of his students also pursue consulting careers, where many roles heavily emphasize the quantitative analysis skills that Mittal and his colleagues teach.
No matter where they land, Mittal wants his students to “know the lingo” and be proficient in the most essential concepts of quantitative analysis and marketing.
“Being able to talk smartly about data and how it fits into overall marketing strategy,” Mittal says, “will help them both in the short term and in the long term.”