Now in its second year of operation, the academic base for CEB work consists of staff from the Emerging Consumer Cultures Group (ECCG) – a research group based in the Media School at BU. Consultancy draws from the group’s knowledge of consumer behaviour and culture and relevant research in these areas.
“Set up to connect business problems with academic research and expertise.”
Students are also involved, giving them the chance to add paid consultancy work for real clients to their CV. These students work under the supervision of BU academics and their names go on all the reports. For these reasons, they must apply to work on CEB projects and they are selected according to their area of specialism and suitability for the work.
Founded with Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF), the idea for the Bureau was conceived by academics in the Department of Marketing and Communications. “The Bureau impacts on the work of the university through teaching,” says Dr Mike Molesworth, Senior Lecturer in Consumer Behaviour and Online Marketing at BU.
He continues, “academics can talk about their research in class, but students find it very interesting to see how it can be applied to a specific problem. The CEB helps to dismantle the idea that theory and practice never meet: through these projects, students see that big companies are very interested in the latest academic research and want to use that to inform their business.”
For BU students, the projects can offer unique and exciting opportunities – and these may even extend to students who have no direct involvement in the CEB.
“Students see that big companies are very interested in the latest academic research and want to use that to inform their business.” Dr Mike Molesworth
One of CEB’s recent projects focused on why sales of luxury brands have remained strong despite the recession tightening its grip elsewhere on the UK high street. Top-end retailers at London Heathrow – among them Chanel, Hermès and a new Miu Miu store at Terminal 3 – recorded an 8.8 per cent rise in gross turn over in 2011.
“We’re looking at what makes luxury goods luxury. We’re looking at the importance of context in perceptions of advertising too. Also, because there are a number of interactive formats at the airport, we’re looking at why interactive media might work better than traditional advertising,” he explains.
The findings should help Heathrow’s luxury brands better target their advertising, enabling them to capitalise on recent strong sales.
“CEB projects are engaging a range of students, businesses and academics and creating positive opportunities.”
ITV offers a good example of the work that CEB does. The broadcaster asked the CEB to explore whether advertisements shown during a commercial break work better when there is congruence between their tone or product and the programme. Students and academics looked at attitudes to advertising, and found that this type of matching has been shown to benefit both the programme and the advertiser. “That shows how theory and academic research can help clarify a business problem,” Molesworth concludes. His own work with fellow BU academic Janice Denegri-Knott informed this study.
It is early days, but so far, the Bureau has proved popular and successful. Its projects are engaging a range of students, businesses and academics and creating positive opportunities.