Insights from HSMAI’s Marketing Educator of the Year: Makarand Mody, Ph.D.

Makarand Mody, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Boston University School, will receive the Marketing Educator of the Year during HSMAI’s Marketing Strategy Conference in Toronto on June 27.  Makarand currently serves as the Chair of Undergraduate Programs at SHA, and the school’s first-ever Director of Research. He is an internationally recognized scholar on the sharing economy and conducts research on marketing and branding issues that impact the hospitality industry.  

Makarand has a varied industry background, having worked in the hotel, airline, and market research industries. His diverse industry experience complements his academic expertise to impart a real-world, yet conceptually grounded understanding of marketing and branding to students. He is also leading the development of SHA’s emerging curriculum in the domain of experience management, which applies a marketing, branding, analytics and operations perspective to how hospitality and other organizations form and maintain valuable stakeholder relationships. 

How did you get your start in the industry? 

After I completed my Master’s degree in the U.K., I returned to India to work in the learning and development team at Hyatt Regency Mumbai. That was a wonderful experience because I got to work with folks from every function within the hotel, so it gave me great insight into how an entire operation works. I also cross-trained in a lot of what HR does (recruitment, payroll, etc.) so that was fun too. 

How did you get involved with HSMAI?  

I served as faculty advisor to the Boston University student chapter of HSMAI from 2015 until COVID hit. We were able to make it the largest student chapter in the country. But then COVID hit, and things came to a halt. We’re thrilled to have the chapter back up and running and student interest in it has been strong. I have also had several other interactions with HSMAI outside of the student chapter. I’ve attended two of HSMAI’s digital marketing conferences in New York and presented some of my research at the HSMAI Marketing Strategy Conference in Houston in 2018. And of course, I’ve attended several local events of the Boston chapter. 

During your time in the industry, how have you seen the marketing education space evolve?  

Marketing education has had to become as dynamic as the marketing function itself. I remember my first marketing class during my undergraduate degree, and we used a textbook at the time. This was pre-social media and before the invention of a lot of how we market today. I cannot imagine using a static textbook to facilitate a class on marketing today. The emphasis has definitely shifted to more dynamic approaches to teaching including the use of up-to-date readings from industry outlets (including HSMAI content), guest speakers, and the use of interactive and engagement-based tools. For example, I have students work with an audience segmentation big data platform for which we were able to secure insider access that goes beyond the free version that is publicly available. This allows students to take marketing beyond the readings and the slides and bring it alive in the context of actual hospitality brands. 

What are the biggest challenges students face in marketing education? 

I think being able to see how marketing strategy actually plays out after it is developed is definitely something that is hard to teach in a classroom setting. For example, we have a class in our program where students work with real-life clients in the Boston area (and beyond) to develop marketing strategy for them around a specific business challenge. However, once the semester is done and they have presented their plans to their clients, that’s where things usually end, and students don’t get to see the behind-the-scenes of what the client did to make the strategy happen. Also, that points to a second, related challenge, which is to have students fully appreciate that marketing doesn’t take place in a silo. Marketers don’t just sit behind a computer and “do marketing”. It integrates with functions outside of marketing and across the organization. The third challenge is to make students realize that marketing is more than just a discount or a promotion and certainly more than TikTok. Yes, those are tools that marketers use but having students connect those tools to broader marketing strategy is not always easy, particularly because many, if not all, students will not have worked in a marketing role till after they graduate. 

What would you say has been the best moment of your career? 

That’s a difficult one. I don’t think I can point to just one best moment. I like to think of such moments as ones that are the most rewarding. And sometimes that can be as everyday as having facilitated a really good class which leaves everyone—students and me—pumped and excited about the world of marketing. I’m fortunate to be working in a job where I get paid to “think about marketing”. 


Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles