By Christina Arthur
Business student Anjana Melvin’s senior project, advised by Assistant Professors of Marketing Dr. T.J. Weber and Dr. Chris Hydock, was recently accepted to the American Marketing Association’s Marketing and Public Policy Conference to be presented this summer at Loyola Marymount University, a rare distinction for undergraduate work.
“I don’t think there’s many students that have stuff sent to academic conferences,” said Dr. Weber as he expressed how unique it is for Melvin’s project to have been accepted. “Even people in doctoral programs struggle to have material accepted.”
Melvin’s project is about brand perception and purchase intentions with political advertisements. “A lot of brands these days are kind of taking a stance on very big political ideas such as LGBTQ+ rights, feminism, and so on,” Melvin said.
As an example, she pointed to how Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign sparked a movement with its message of promoting natural beauty and the acceptance of all different body types, which made the soap manufacturer billions of dollars. “I think a lot of companies since then have tried to follow suit and see if changing their advertising style would get them more revenue,” she said.
Melvin was interested in seeing why certain ads do well while others don’t. For her project, she focused specifically on the controversial Colin Kaepernick Nike ad through a sentiment analysis to see what consumers on Twitter thought about the content. She found that negative perception of Nike had gone up, which was interesting to her because the ad itself did very well, as Nike’s revenue went up substantially after it ran. “It’s kind of interesting to see how perception on social media is different and how it translates into purchase intentions, but obviously we can’t measure that through sentiment analysis,” she said.
Melvin’s concentration is quantitative analysis, even though this project had a lot to do with marketing. “I’m not a marketing major, but I’ve always been driven by creative stuff and I love anything creative,” she said. “I also like the data-driven side of it, so that’s why I chose to pursue something like this.”
Melvin went with this topic because one of her biggest passions is seeing how huge companies can make a major change through advertising. “The Nike ad was probably one of the best ads of all time, so it’s cool to see the difference it made.”
Melvin said the biggest challenge of working on this project was using Orange, the data mining software. “Orange is a fairly new software, and they keep continuously changing things on us so it was a little hard to get everything to go as we expected with that.”
Weber said that being an advisor for the project worked out great because his dissertation was on how consumers respond to companies taking political stances, which meant he had experience with collecting primary data on this topic. He and Dr. Chris Hydock also worked together on a paper on this subject that was published in the academic journal Customer Needs and Solutions last year, and they have more work on the way. “It was a natural fit considering it’s very similar to what my research was and I already understand the topic area,” he said.
Weber added that Melvin is a hard worker, so the process of conducting the project wasn’t very difficult. “She understands the material and learned the program in class,” he said. “It was just a matter of walking her through and working together on doing the analysis on an academic level.”
He also explained how this will be greatly beneficial for Melvin’s future and an outstanding item she can add to her resume. “Regardless of where she goes, I think that it will serve her well to have the unique experience where she can show that she can do things at a higher level.”
Melvin revealed that one of the most rewarding parts about this project is that it helped her realize the personal growth she has achieved over the past couple of years with using and understanding data. “I was never a data person,” she said, “but I know that working in business, especially with marketing now, understanding the analytics of things is really important.”
Melvin hopes that this project will make an impact by getting people more interested in the research side of marketing. “There is obviously a huge demand for creative marketing within the industry, such as content marketing,” she said, “but I think having that data aspect to it is a fairly new thing in the industry, so I hope this project does generate some interest in seeing what you can do with numbers within the marketing field.”
Photo by Andy Sherar