Got a New Product? Take It to the Hog Pen!

“How do we connect students to industry?”

John Rippl, vice president of IRI, a leading provider in market and shopper information data, and Claudia Mobley, director of Center for Retailing Excellence at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, posed that simple question. Combining industry experience with a student-focused need, Category Management Topics, marketing class 3653, was born.

Rippl creates a “path to purchase” experience for business students to bring business culture and retail development experiences into the classroom. To do so, Rippl and Mobley recruited five corporate representatives to serve as mentors and advisors to teams of students as they create and present marketing strategies to launch a new product developed in the class. Product development will focus on the vitamin category.

“This was John’s brain child,” Mobley said.

Teams are expected to develop a channel and retail strategy, determine shelf placement, tell a story through data, build a marketing strategy, forecast supply chain needs and create a launch plan for the product.

“Use data to make decisions and present it well,” Rippl said to students on the first night of class. “This is the Super Bowl of retailing.”

As an IRI executive leader, Rippl serves on the Center for Retailing Excellence board. To integrate industry experts into the class, Rippl called on his fellow board member companies to participate in the class on a weekly basis. Representatives from PepsiCo, The Harvest Group, Smucker’s, NPD Group and Unilever stepped up to the plate to advise and mentor teams.

Soon students compete for 18 internship opportunities. Taking a lead from the hit reality show Shark Tank, Mobley fondly calls this portion of the class the Hog Pen. However, instead of winning business venture capital, these students present to industry leaders for an opportunity to intern at their company.

Additional industry leaders then judge and grade the final projects and presentations.