Robert Leone

Living the brand

J. Vaughn and Evelyne H. Wilson Chair and Professor of Marketing

 On the TCU faculty: Since 2008.
Previously: Chaired professorship, Ohio State University; chaired professorship, University of Texas at Austin; winner of multiple teaching/advising awards.
Education: PhD, Purdue University, Krannert Graduate School of Management; MBA, University of Texas at Arlington; BA, University of Texas at Arlington.
Expert in: Effects of advertising, price and promotion on market performance; effects of retail pricing strategies and promotion on brand, category and store substitution behavior; branding and brand equity; consumer relationship marketing; marketing packaged goods.
Career leadership: Co-editor, Journal of Marketing; author of the widely used textbook Marketing Research(with David Aaker, V. Kumar and George Day); recipient of 2010 Churchill Award for Lifetime Achievement in Marketing Research presented by the American Marketing Association.
International involvement: Taught courses in China, Germany, India and Mexico.
Consulting: Consulted for firms including Sears, Victoria's Secret, Alliance Data Systems, Kodak and P&G.

Bringing up-to-the-minute into the room: Leone consults for some of the world’s top marketing and branding companies, and he brings his knowledge into the classroom every day. Thanks to his editorship of the Journal of Marketing and regular interactions with the global business community, Leone’s classes participate in leading-edge thought in marketing theory and practice. “I do not deliver published cases that are 15 or 20 years old — we talk about things that are happening right now. We talk about things written by leading marketing scholars that won’t see the light of the journal for two years. Faculty at Wharton, Northwestern and other top 10 schools can’t deliver this information because they haven’t seen it yet.”

Branding trends: Economic conditions have encouraged consumers to re-evaluate almost every popular brand, according to the marketing thought leader. They are no longer automatically putting, say, Kellogg’s cornflakes into the grocery cart. “This means that top brands have to concentrate on true differentiation and value added, or customers will try a store brand or lower-priced brand. It doesn’t have to be as good as the former brand. If it’s just good enough, they will buy it. It’s worthwhile to save a dollar on a box of cereal now.” Message to leading brands: Don’t depend on momentum; focus on true customer value. 

Beyond brand: TCU’s brand management focus has attracted students who have an interest in finance or accounting, but who might not have considered a marketing department with an emphasis on advertising or creative. “The way we teach is highly analytical and requires financial skills. Several of us are committed to brand management in our research and consulting. It’s our passion.”

Know your influencers: Leone’s research in customer lifetime value, covering both service and product companies, has turned conventional wisdom on its head. “Many textbooks indicate that customers’ value is based on RFM: recency, frequency and monetary value. But the customer that the company has put in bottom quarter according to RFM may actually be in top 10 percent.” Value reflects many more dimensions — clients who are trending up in spending, for example, or those with small accounts but large social networks. “If they’re pleased with what you do and deliver, these customers can bring more customers than a sales force ever will.”

The power of the network: Like all Neeley faculty, Leone draws on the contacts and experience gathered over many years to advise students about job opportunities. “Yesterday, an MBA student e-mailed me that he had applied online for several market analyst jobs at UPS. He had uploaded his resume into cyberspace and felt he wouldn’t ever hear anything back. I e-mailed the senior marketing executive about half an hour later, and a half hour after that someone called the student to set up a phone interview.” Such stories are only possible at a school like Neeley, where students are comfortable talking to faculty and faculty know about student goals. Thus the network grows stronger, Leone says. “I’m helping a student, but I’m also solving a problem for a corporate executive who is in need of outstanding talent.”

Stand and deliver: The Neeley School has a strong focus on experiential learning, and Leone says most students take one or more international trips. “They learn what’s happening in companies there. Almost all universities offer such trips, but the difference is the intense nature of Neeley’s experience and the smaller groups, which give students an opportunity to really interact with the executives they visit. Then there’s the PriceWaterhouse executive speakers series, or when the whole class is loaded on a plane and flown to meet Warren Buffett to hear his investment strategies. Each TCU student has every opportunity to take advantage of all these offerings.”

Small enough to be great: Before joining the TCU faculty, Leone taught at two of the biggest universities in the country. And he believes that the Neeley School’s reality matches perfectly the “it’s more than business, it’s personal” tagline. “At large universities, it’s difficult for faculty and students to be able to get to know each other. Classroom interactions are much more dynamic in a smaller school. Students participate in class discussions and case discussions on a daily basis here. At a larger school, I’d log in a class participation point for a student maybe twice a semester. And there, even to take a class, you have a lottery system. You might not get the faculty member you want. Here I know every marketing student in the MBA program by name, background and job aspiration. At Ohio State or Texas, that’s just not possible.”

Open doors add value: Face time with professors is a hallmark of the TCU MBA. “Our offices are close to the classrooms, so we don’t just see our students for five minutes before or after class. We have an open-door policy. Students stop by all the time to talk about whatever is on their minds and to get informal advice — about course selection, job search, you name it.”

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Bob Leone

“In the classroom, we talk about things written by leading marketing scholars that won’t see the light of a journal for two years. Faculty at Wharton, Northwestern and other top 10 schools can’t deliver this information because they haven’t seen it yet.”

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