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Former Kellogg’s Executive is Advancing Marketing Education at Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business

Mike Mickunas sees a marketing revolution brewing, one fueled by the science of human behavior. Here’s how he’s training the next generation of marketers to dominate the future of the industry.

In the bustling corridors of corporate giants, Mike Mickunas witnessed the power of delving into the minds of consumers during his near-25 year career at Kellogg’s Company. As the Global Vice President of Insights and Analytics, his team used biometric technologies to study brand imagery, positioning, shelf impact and response to communication campaigns, realizing that therein lay the blueprint for the future of marketing.

Upon retiring, Mickunas didn’t bid farewell to his passion; instead, he saw an opportunity to sow the seeds of innovation in the fertile grounds of academia. Transitioning to Professor of Marketing at Michigan State University’s (MSU) Broad College of Business, he’s on a mission to equip students with the skills needed to innovate the future workforce, bridging the disconnect between traditional marketing education and the opportunities that come with integrating technologies. 

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This future-proofed approach requires understanding humans on a deeper physiological and psychological level through the use of advanced biometric tools, like facial expression analysis and eye tracking, that can capture insights to people’s emotional and cognitive states. 

“To gain a deeper understanding of customers and stay ahead, companies need to build their own expertise with those who know how to apply these new methodologies,” said Mickunas. “My goal is to arm my students with the skills and expertise so they can start to be advocates for change in the industry and push the boundaries.”

Building Tomorrow’s Marketers with iMotions

At MSU, Mickunas is dedicated to getting “hands to keyboard,” providing students with real opportunities to access these tools and methodologies. He chose iMotions Online, the web-based platform designed to accommodate classroom teaching and multiple users. iMotions Online allows students to utilize surveys along with biometrics in the form of eye tracking, facial expression, and emotion recognition. 

“iMotions Online is very applicable to commercial research,” Mickunas said. “It is a great enabler of a method that has been too much at arms lengths for commercial researchers. There’s so much that can be done from eye tracking and facial expression.”

In addition to applicability, iMotions Online serves as such a valuable teaching tool because of its approachability. “This generation is more adept at picking these things up naturally,” Mickunas said. “Going from Tuesday not knowing how to use iMotions to Wednesday designing a study. Students are able to build solid best practices that come to life, quickly and easily.  They aren’t just sitting in a lecture; they are actually able to engage in a study and experience the value of behavioral measurement versus stated measurement.” 

Early Signs of Success

The results speak for themselves after just three semesters of 90 students taking Mickunas’ Emerging Methods course. An increasing number of students are integrating biometric technologies and methodologies into their course research and marketing plans. Armed with these skills, students offer future employers a fresh perspective and real value, potentially becoming subject matter experts in their field.

Mickunas emphasizes that proficiency in these emerging methodologies can be a significant differentiator for entry-level candidates. “If looking at an entry level candidate,” he said, “it would definitely be a differentiator…The fact that someone is skilled at this would make me more confident in hiring them.” 

As Mickunas continues to shape the future of marketing education at MSU, his students are poised to lead the industry forward, armed with the applied skills, knowledge, and confidence in biometric research that are needed to tackle the challenges of tomorrow’s marketing landscape.

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