Launched to provide tomorrow’s marketers with the skills needed to manage their customer relationships, the Brierley Institute for Customer Engagement has engaged both college educators and industry practitioners in programs designed to evolve traditional customer loyalty programs toward more holistic Customer Engagement efforts.

In January, the institute hosted its third annual Professors Institute at SMU Cox, partnering with Marketing Edge, a national nonprofit supporting marketing education. Participation in the invitation-only conference has grown since the inaugural event in 2017, with attendees from 25 business schools. This year, academics representing 52 colleges and universities took part. Over three days, academics and industry executives discussed trends shaping customer engagement, opportunities for future academic research and teaching curriculum needed to prepare students for successful careers in today’s data-driven marketing.

Targeting tenure-track professors early in their academic careers, the conference seeks to shape the research and teaching agendas of influential academics. Current practitioners who shared their experiences included executives from American Airlines, Brierley+Partners, McKinsey & Co., Neiman Marcus, Pizza Hut and TGI Friday’s.

“Today’s business leaders must create dynamic programs that increase engagement, deepen relationships and create positive business results while continually adhering to technology, organizational and data considerations,” said Darshan Gad, vice president of marketing and customer innovation for the Neiman Marcus Group. “I’m humbled to have been able to share my professional experiences with professors who are shaping the business leaders of tomorrow.”

The academics who attended the conference shared perspectives on their research and new approaches to teaching, ranging from quantitative analysis to customer relationship management. Reflecting on the conference, Hal Brierley, executive-in-residence at the Cox School said, “Over the course of their teaching careers, the attendees will help shape the thinking of hundreds of thousands of marketing students. We want them to have the tools and insights they need, and perhaps more importantly, to instill an enthusiasm for teaching Customer Engagement.”

This year, the Brierley Institute continues its focus on experiential learning, with teams of Cox MBA students working on real-time projects addressing Customer Engagement opportunities and challenges for companies that include American Airlines, Chevron, Chili’s, Kendra Scott, Neiman Marcus and Synchrony Financial. The Brierley Institute also invites corporate executives to participate in symposiums to share their experiences with students and alumni.

This year’s panel addressed the role that Customer Engagement can play as executives confront a world of disruption. Brierley was joined on the panel by Adam Aron, CEO and president, AMC Entertainment; Zipporah Allen, CMO, Pizza Hut; and Frank Hamlin, CMO, GameStop, with Armstrong moderating. Last year’s panel featured American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and former CEO Bob Crandall, discussing the past and current role of the AAdvantage program.