The one exclusive sign of thorough knowledge is the power of teaching.
– Aristotle

I joined the Kellogg School of Management twenty years ago armed with a freshly minted Ph.D. from Duke University. I was slated to teach the core marketing management course. Not knowing what to expect, I was somewhat humbled by the fact that I was going to teach the flagship marketing course in a school ranked as #1 in marketing for several decades in a row. I thought I could pull it off. So, with the help of a textbook and a set of slides generously provided by my colleagues, I put together what I thought was a very informative, engaging, and insightful course. 

It was not. Students found the lectures disjointed, the case discussions contrived, and they shunned the textbook I assigned for the course. Later, I realized that they were right: I did not provide them with what they expected from a marketing course at a top business school. Talking to students and reading their comments helped me better understand the problem. They expected three things from me: to introduce them to the key marketing concepts, theories, and frameworks; to show them how to identify market opportunities and analyze marketing problems; and to teach them to make sound marketing decisions. I was not doing any of this. 

Realizing I needed to make a fundamental change in my approach to teaching, I reorganized my lectures around a single comprehensive framework, added a number of problem-based cases, and replaced the textbook with a series of short conceptual notes. The result was instant: My teaching ratings doubled (really!), and teaching became an incredibly gratifying experience instead of a struggle.

After figuring out how to teach full-time and part-time MBA students, several years ago I began teaching in our Executive MBA program. It was a new experience, and I was concerned whether my teaching materials and overall approach would work for this more mature, more experienced, and ultimately more demanding audience. In fact, it worked even better. Students were very appreciative of the clear and practical approach to marketing management, and I won the top professor teaching award the very first time I taught in the EMBA program (now these awards number in the double digits). 

My experience suggests that the ability to teach is not an innate skill that people either have or do not have. Of course, some are better able to tell stories, interact with others, and manage the classroom experience. But I believe that, given the right tools, we all can improve our teaching performance and make it more engaging for students and gratifying for ourselves. 

Students were so appreciative of the conceptual framework that I decided to expand it into a textbook designed to facilitate managerial decision making. Since its first edition, Strategic Marketing Management has sold more than 150,000 copies and is currently used in many of the top business schools in the United States and abroad. Subsequently, I wrote several other books: The Marketing Plan Handbook and Strategic Brand Management, which were also  widely adopted by faculty and well received by students. 

Faculty using my textbooks often ask for an instructor’s guide. My initial answer was that manuals are not very helpful because most instructors have their own individual approach to teaching. Over time, I realized that there is a set of core principles and teaching materials that instructors can adapt to their own teaching styles. With this in mind, I created this website to suggest practical ways of organizing marketing management and brand management courses and to share a set of relevant teaching materials. 

I hope you will find this information useful in your teaching endeavors. 

Alex Chernev

Kellogg School of Management
Northwestern University
Kellogg website | Personal website