Ross to become one of first schools to use Nielsen data

Sunday, February 14, 2016 - 4:31pm

Last week, the Ross School of Business announced, in collaboration with Nielsen Holdings N.V., that MBA students will gain access to Nielsen’s Answers on Demand Core platform and point-of-sale data.

Nielsen is a leading U.S. company that measures and studies consumer trends around the world. Businesses utilize Nielson’s data in order to improve their marketing strategies and stimulate growth. Point-of-sale data refers to raw data that Nielsen collects based on consumer purchases, among other categories, and the AOD refers to their user database where businesses come to gather this data. Ross is among the first business schools to have access to the data.

The idea for the partnership with Nielsen arose four years ago out of a proposal by the University’s student-run MBA Marketing Club to create a Marketing Lab within Ross. The lab’s mission statement is to prepare students for “marketing careers through action-based analysis of in-market data.” The lab is set to open in fall 2016.

Heather Byrne, managing director of the Master of Business Administration program, has been working with students and administration to establish the lab. She explained in an e-mail interview that the development culminated with Nielsen in recent months.

“Earlier this year, the students, myself, our Associate Dean for the MBA Program got on a call to talk more about having access to the Nielsen data,” she wrote. “I think having that joint phone call may have been a turning point, because it became clear to Nielsen that not only was this important to the students but also to the leadership of the school.”

Marketing Club Co-president Kristin Horvath, a Business graduate student, said using Nielsen data and these types of tools is something that most marketers learn once they’ve started working.

“We’re trying to bring that learning here so that Ross students have an advantage going into the workplace,” she said.

Business student Joseph Chaves, an active member of the Marketing Club, has had hands-on experience with Nielsen in a previous post at General Mills.

“I remember spending a significant amount of time over the first three or four weeks just walking interns through how the tool works — mostly the mechanics of it,” he said.

“They were able to decipher the findings but the actual mechanism by which you pull the data can be a little tricky. So I think the overall goal in what we see in the Marketing Lab really having a lot of benefits for students is the opportunity to — on day one of your internship — already have exposure to the tool, know how it works, know what the metrics mean, know how to pull things. So I think for Ross, the Marketing Lab having access to Nielsen can be a really big differentiator when it comes to preparing students to go into a career right in management.   

As of now, Horvath said, Marketing Club members are planning a curriculum through which MBA students can attend a four-night learning series to learn more about the Nielsen system.

“They are going through all of the different metrics, how to pull them, and then giving students a business taste that will be very similar to what they would make them do on the job,” she said.

Horvath also said the long-term goal is to expand the program. This expansion could include undergraduate Business students as well. 

“Right now it’s set up to be a little extracurricular,” she said. “That being said, we’re very open to the idea in the future of trying to incorporate it more into the curriculum. Once we’re through this pilot phase — working out all the bugs, making sure everything works well with the system — the goal is to open it up to the broader Ross community.”

Horvath added that access to the Nielsen data would give Business School students an opportunity different from any other MBA program.

“This development enhances the action-based learning opportunities for our students and also gives them more opportunities to develop analytical skills,” Horvath said. “It helps set us apart from other top-tier MBA programs because we are the only school to have access to the Nielsen Answers on Demand system.”