Marcus Collins, DBA ’21, considers himself one part academic, one part practitioner. He finds himself putting his ideas in the world as an advertiser and putting people in the world as an instructor.
Collins recently was among the eight inductees selected to enter the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Achievement for 2020. The inductees were honored for their impact on the advertising industry.
Collins had not intended to work in advertising, despite achieving success and recognition throughout his career as an industry professional and educator.
“None of this was at all a part of the plan,” Collins says with a laugh. His early college days were spent studying materials engineering, which he struggled with.
“After my first year of undergrad, I didn’t do so well.” Collins recalls. “I took some music theory courses to offset my GPA, and I fell in love.”
Collins’ passion for songwriting led to an internship at Universal Music during his tenure as a student. He returned to his hometown of Detroit after graduation and co-founded a music production company. Challenges quickly arose as he entered the music industry when it was in the midst of a massive structural change. In the face of adversity, Collins sought out knowledge to help him better understand the market he was working within.
“I went to school to figure it out,” says Collins. “I went to get my MBA to figure out this disruption that was happening in the world of music that we call ‘digital’.”
After earning an MBA, Collins made the decision to take his experiences into the field of advertising instead, going on to work at Apple. After working for Apple, Collins ran digital strategy for Beyonce. Collins later co-created and co-launched Budweiser’s Made in America music festival that is hosted annually in Philadelphia. One project that Collins spoke fondly of involved the New Jersey Nets’ transformation into the Brooklyn Nets.
“The idea was that the Brooklyn Nets would become a badge of identity to say, ‘I’m a Brooklynite.’” Collins explained. “We had an entire rollout using all localized media to establish the Brooklyn Nets. Not the team, but the iconography to be an identifier of residence.”
This strategy proved to be a successful one.
“Before the team played their first game, the Brooklyn Nets sold 10 times as much merch as the New Jersey Nets.” Collins added. “By the end of that season, the Nets went from being number 28 in merch sales in all the NBA to number 4.”
Collins’ role as an educator developed alongside his professional career, landing him teaching positions at distinguished institutions such as NYU and the Miami Ad School. He has also shared his experiences and insights in the field of marketing at thought-leadership conferences, including speaking at the popular TEDx conference.
“The more I invested myself into the social sciences, the better the work got, and the more curious I became,” Collins says.
His presentations cover a variety of topics including social networks, consumer behavior and his passion for the music of Hip Hop.
“The music of Hip Hop culture is the most consumed music genre in the country,” Collins says. “I would arguably say that Hip Hop culture is the dominant culture that informs our cultural zeitgeist.”
Despite the tangible impact Hip Hop plays in the marketplace, Collins recognized an absence of academic research dedicated to understanding this cultural phenomenon in the world of marketing.
“There wasn’t very much in the marketing and management literature, especially considering the significance of the space,” he says.
This observable absence became a point of motivation for Collins, a foundation from which his own path in research scholarship emerged.
Collins decided that the Fox School of Business would be the learning environment from which he could effectively pursue this gap in the research literature. He is currently earning a doctorate through the DBA program.
“It’s not quite a traditional PhD, it’s far more practitioner-driven,” Collins says. “When I heard the term ‘Bridging the academic/practitioner gap,’ I was like, ‘That is exactly who I am.’”
Collins’ current research is centered around the concept of social contagion, and its usefulness for gaining insights from cultural consumption practices within online Hip Hop forums.
“The idea of working towards being in the world was very productive for me, and the program was structured as such,” Collins says. “I think I lucked out because of my committee in particular.”
Collins’ committee is chaired by Susan Mudambi, a professor of marketing and academic director of the Executive DBA program at the Fox School.
“She got it. She’s a fan of Hip Hop. She understood the significance of the research context and was very supportive.”
Lynne Andersson, an associate professor of Human Resource Management (HRM), also played a key role in guiding Collins’ research.
“She helped introduce me to the world of qualitative research. She was unbelievably helpful in making sense of how to get my arms around the data.”
Though Collins is actively contributing to a topic that is often absent from academic literature, the committee was able to connect him with researchers that touched upon the core of his interests. Collins attributed some of this success to a third member of his committee, Matt Wray, an associate professor of sociology at Temple.
“Matt was like my theoretical torch as I navigated this murky and dark world of academic research,” Collins says. “He’s provided a lot of literature, introducing me to the world of cultural sociology, and I was like, ‘Yes! That!’”
Collins has connected with the works of many academics in his research, but one who has been particularly informative for his own project is the cultural theorist Grant McCracken, a thinker who has made significant contributions to the world of culture and consumption. Collins found that McCracken’s writings provided a fertile ground to build his own research upon.
“McCracken’s work was done before there were social networking platforms, so my work builds upon that directly. The alchemy of those three [committee advisers] really put a turbo charge in my work,” Collins says.
Collins will be completing his dissertation titled “Exploring social contagion within a tribe called Hip Hop” later this year.