Teaching to the truth: Nowadays, we’re all in sales

Rajib Sanyal, dean of Adelphi University's business school.

By GREGORY ZELLER // It’s a big world getting smaller – one of several critical lessons in the modern marketing classroom.

As social media and other online avenues regularly smudge international borders, the way humans market their products and services is being constantly redefined – regardless of what’s being marketed or where. And make no mistake, noted Rajib Sanyal, dean of the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business at Garden City’s Adelphi University, “everyone out there is marketing all the time.”

“You are pitching a story,” Sanyal said. “I am trying to attract students. The insurance company is trying to sell policies. Marketing is an integral part of all organizations. It’s not, ‘If you build it, they will come’ … you have to sell it to make customers come, and marketing is critical.”

And in the 21st century, it’s also undeniably global. The line between domestic and international business blurs more every day, and that includes branding, advertising, public relations and all other aspects of anticipating, managing and satisfying customer demand.

To reflect this truth, marketing programs at Long Island colleges and universities are in flux, evolving on the undergraduate and graduate levels to incorporate new concentrations on global and digital functionality.

“Most of the curriculum today has a global dimension to it,” noted Sanyal, who took the reins of the Willumstad School in July. “We very rarely teach anything particular to the United States anymore. When we talk about marketing, we are talking about marketing to customers all over the world.”

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Andrew Forman

Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business cuts right to the chase, folding product-promotion and global commerce into a single Department of Marketing & International Business. The department offers MS degrees in marketing and marketing research, as well as a marketing-focused MBA and dual-degree programs creating business bachelors and marketing masters – and each path takes students beyond domestic perspectives, according to Andrew Forman, the department’s acting chairman.

“It’s almost impossible these days to separate domestic marketing from international marketing, based on the way the world is working,” noted Forman, also an associate professor in the department. “There used to be a clearer distinction between international business and marketing and domestic marketing, but those boundaries have largely dissipated.”

That reinforced international focus has gone hand-in-hand with the department’s innovative approach to social media marketing. There’s no denying that international business and social media are “related,” Forman noted, and to make sure students get that, the department is recruiting faculty that understands both worlds.

His department is currently looking to fill two full-time instruction positions and is always rotating through part-time adjuncts, and “we are very sensitive to the fact that, as the world changes, we need people who have both a global perspective and a feel for social media,” Forman said.

“People who may be experts in international economy may not be experts in social media,” he noted. “We’re paying attention to whether they bring both perspectives. Many of the people we’re looking at now are younger and make less of a distinction than older generations between social media and traditional marketing, between domestic and international marketing.

“They seem them as basically entwined,” Forman added. “That’s the world they grew up in.”

Social media is also a major marketing focus at Oakdale’s Dowling College, where the business school offers bachelor’s degrees in marketing and post-baccalaureate advanced marketing certificates. Like Adelphi’s Sanyal, Dowling Business School Dean Bruce Haller sees the critical importance of marketing – “Everybody has got to be a salesman,” he said – and like Forman he recognizes that in the digital age, marketing is primarily a social media function.

“Every student, whether they’re getting a bachelor’s degree in marketing or an MBA in healthcare management, is required to take a marketing class,” Haller noted. “And every marketing class has a piece on social media marketing. That’s just where the decision-makers are today.

“Even people my age, in their mid-50s, are on Facebook and LinkedIn,” he added. “Their companies are using websites to attract customers, so they’re there by necessity.”

So Dowling’s push into social media-marketing instruction is not speculation or even a Johnny-come-lately response, but a course of action “driven by students and professors who are active in the field,” Haller noted.

“Whether it’s on Facebook or Snapchat or wherever, Internet marketing – specifically marketing through social media – is the way it’s going,” he said. “So we’ve added courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels that address that.”

The introduction of new marketing courses is also underway at Adelphi’s Willumstad School, which already offers a bachelor’s of science degree in marketing – covering everything from product development and branding to advertising and marketing-channel development – and an MBA with an optional marketing concentration.

But in Adelphi’s case, the new marketing courses focus mainly on data analytics, one of several potential areas of concentration that make marketing one of the school’s most popular majors, according to Sanyal.

“There are a large number of jobs in all sorts of industries related to marketing,” the dean noted. “On one end you have the artists and the designers and the creative people – the advertising people. On the other you have the data analysts who crunch the numbers and try to predict future marketing trends.

“There’s a whole wide range of skills associated with marketing,” Sanyal added. “It appeals to a broad variety of students with different abilities and interests.”

So the Willumstad School is innovating its marketing programs by focusing mostly on analytics – or “the application of big data in marketing,” as Sanyal put it – including the hiring of new instructors and the development of new courses.

“How do we analyze big data to make strategic decisions on marketing?” Sanyal asked. “Or position our product? Or identify our customers?”

The Willumstad School is also preparing to incorporate “the next emerging area of marketing” into its instructional program, according to Sanyal: healthcare marketing. The school is offering healthcare-focused marketing courses now on what the dean called a “special-topic basis,” meaning they’re not yet part of the formal curriculum, and the beta test will give school officials a chance to tune up the new offerings before officially introducing them.

“Healthcare marketing is a big and growing area, especially in the Long Island region,” Sanyal said. “Within a year, we should have this focus as part of our official curriculum.”