What does goat yoga have to do with bakery products, Lansing’s international airport or global glass packaging? The need for marketing research.

The #1 ranked Master of Science in Marketing Research (MSMR) program is a one-year graduate degree that combines classroom instruction with real-world experience to prepare students for success in a rapidly growing and changing industry.

Don DeVeaux, professor of practice for the program, spent decades gaining industry experience and served on the MSMR advisory board for several years before stepping into the classroom. He explained that he was recruited to “primarily work with the MSMR students on projects with clients so that they could have an internship-like experience while still in school.”

He has spent nearly two years partnering with businesses as diverse as market research firm Ipsos North America, Dawn Foods bakery product manufacturing, Original Goat Yoga, Lansing’s Capital Region International Airport, the Michigan Health Information Management Association and, most recently, Owens-Illinois, a world leader in glass packaging.

While these partnerships cover diverse industries with varying goods and services, the business leaders similarly demand consumer feedback and market research to better understand how to reach their target audiences and succeed with new insights.

Bringing fresh ideas to market

Owens-Illinois was looking to test two new product concepts, and over three months, DeVeaux led 10 MSMR students to design, execute and analyze research projects for the wine category. “The students had a unique opportunity to work directly with industry professionals throughout the process,” DeVeaux said. “They were responsible for the whole project from start to finish, including budget, timing, research design and communication with the client.”

The students conducted consumer surveys, in-person and online focus groups, and observational research with wine drinkers from around the country. The project closed with the students visiting the company’s Toledo headquarters, presenting their findings to upper management and nearly 20 team members. Their presentation was well-received.

“It was a wonderful experience working with the students,” Owens-Illinois Intelligence Manager Harry Davidson said. “They brought a lot of fresh ideas and perspectives, especially since we are looking to expand the appeal of our products to younger consumers. The research was instrumental in confirming the optimal design of small format wine to follow through will, as well as providing positive market context for another new bottle concept.”

As with Owens-Illinois, feedback from industry partners has been resoundingly positive. Wayne Sieloff, CEO of the Capital Region International Airport, said, “Their work will greatly assist Lansing’s Capital Region International Airport in accomplishing the goals of better serving those in our region and positioning the airport for continued growth.”

Lainey Morse, CEO and founder of Original Goat Yoga, echoed those comments. “The students would be happy to know that starting this summer, my farm in Oregon will start hosting farm-to-table dinners with goat yoga and wine tasting because of their recommendations,” Morse said. “We’re so thankful for their research, suggestions and time and I would highly recommend a partnership.”

Jennifer LaPaugh, senior director of Global Market Research & Insights with Dawn Foods, also praised the experience. “The partnership has been a win/win as Dawn Foods gets valuable research and insights, while the students get the opportunity to practice their market research skills on a real-life business issue,” she said.

Valuable real-world experience

Not only do the companies benefit from the conducted market research and insights, but students also walk away with tangible experiences and real-world learning. “The ability to get this kind of real-world experience is so important for students in our position,” said Shannon Burke (B.A. Marketing ’18, M.S. Marketing Research ‘19). “You can only learn so much in class, and there is so much more you can learn by applying those concepts to a real-world project.”

Joseph Wylie (M.S. Marketing Research ’18) worked with the Michigan Health Information Management Association and shared the impact this project had on his learning experience. “We found ways to increase membership of the client organization using data collected from surveys that I helped to create,” he said. “To me, this was much more meaningful than scoring well on an exam…. Ultimately, this experience helped to shape me into the researcher I am today and demonstrated that the tools in the classroom are actively used and valuable in the field.”

Earning a spot at the top

The MSMR program has received positive reviews not only from its students and industry partners but also from reputable ranking sources. Eduniversal, TFE Times and College Choice have all ranked it the #1 M.S. in Marketing Research program in North America.

With dedicated leadership from Richard Spreng, associate professor of marketing, MSMR academic director and interim chair for the Department of Marketing; Jessica Richards, MSMR program director; Michael Brereton, founding advisory board chair and professor of practice; and the talented department faculty, the program has earned its spot at the top.

Richards shared that “the success of the M.S. in Marketing Research program is a result of a large network of students, alumni, faculty and MSMR Board members all coming together to do what they truly love – marketing research!”