Inside USD

Getting to Know Your Professors: Justine Rapp

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Justine Rapp, assistant professor of marketing, began teaching at USD’s School of Business Administration last fall. She answered questions from Inside USD about her course in Digital Marketing & Social Media in which students work with small businesses in San Diego, and her research interests in marketing issues related to at-risk and disadvantaged consumers.

Q: I understand you’re teaching your Digital Marketing & Social Media class again this fall. What kind of projects are students doing and what are they learning from the experience?

I developed my course, Digital Marketing & Social Media, when I came to USD last year and it has since grown into a wonderful opportunity for students to work with small businesses in the San Diego area. My students take on two main projects over the course of the semester.

First, we work with two non-profits (the University of San Diego’s E-Waste Center and the Skinny Gene Project) on developing Google Paid Ad Campaigns. The students meet with their clients at the beginning of the semester and are charged with developing ad campaigns based on their client’s needs and requests. After running the ads on Google, we come together mid-semester to analyze our results and retool our ads based on the data provided.

The second major project my students work on combines fundamental marketing theory with industry-consistent digital portfolio development. We work with five or six different small businesses and provide clients with an assessment of their marketing landscape, a website incorporating content generation and search engine optimization integration, as well as a social media strategy.

This project developed out of a partnership I made with the team at Variable Action, a San Diego-based tech firm that developed an industry-changing website builder called Zesty. It has evolved into a semester long opportunity, where students learn theory and technique, then apply it to real-world problems.

What I enjoy the most about my course is that students are able to walk away at the end of the semester with not only a comprehensive understanding of the digital marketing domain, but with tangible elements they can bring to job interviews or with which they can begin their professional portfolios. I have received great feedback from students who feel empowered by the opportunity to work on such substantial projects for real-world businesses.

From my perspective, it is wonderful to watch my students take ownership and accountability over their work in the classroom and to practice their skills as young professionals as they prepare for their careers post graduation.

Q: Where did you earn your undergraduate and graduate degrees and what fascinated you about marketing?

I earned both my BSBA in marketing and my MBA with an emphasis in marketing from Villanova Univerity and my PhD in marketing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I originally began my undergraduate education in psychology since I’ve always been intrigued by the way people think and their decision-making processes. Sophomore year, however, I found myself transferring into the School of Business as a marketing major. I was fascinated by the way marketers were able to create behavioral change in individuals (most often unknowingly!) and I was drawn to the use of psychological theories in driving the consumption behaviors of individuals.

As I dove deeper into my marketing education at Villanova, I was inspired by my mentor Ron Hill, a leader in the Transformative Consumer Research movement. I began working on research projects my senior year and found incredible value in working on issues related to disadvantaged and at-risk consumers. While I have taken a slightly different approach to marketing scholarship than what is traditionally expected, I believe it’s important to understand how underrepresented groups navigate the marketing system – often facing significant barriers, both personal and market-driven.

Q: I understand you are involved in some interesting research on how everyday consumption behaviors morph into addiction and the impact of violence against women in advertising. Can you tell me a little about each project and how they relate to marketing?

Over the past several years I have defined my research agenda into two main topic areas, compulsive consumption and restricted consumption. While at first glace these topics may seem to oppose each other, they actually address many of the same issues relating to increased barriers in the marketplace and the development of tools needed to successfully navigate one’s day-to-day activities.

My research on compulsive consumption focuses primarily on the development and understanding of behavioral addictions and how consumers are able to navigate the marketplace when suffering from such conditions. Examples of some behavioral addictions that I have studied include those related to shopping, tanning, and Internet usage.

What I find most fascinating about this area is that the traditional methods of addiction recovery are often inapplicable to the behavioral addictions facing many consumers. While alcoholics are instructed to refrain from consuming alcohol, it is impossible for an individual with a shopping addiction to remove him or herself completely from the marketplace. While people may not associate addictions with transitional marketing theories, it’s important to recognize that simple consumer-oriented tasks, such as grocery shopping or in-store displays, may be sources of struggle or conflict for these at-risk consumer groups.

My research seeks to understand intervention-based tools, such as strict and designated consumption times, to help individuals successfully participate in everyday consumption activities without slipping into the negative consequences experienced through addictive tendencies.

My second main area of focus examines factors within one’s environment that restricts his or her ability to fully participate in consumption activities. Some issues in this domain that I have studied include gender stereotypes in advertising, forecasting errors in food consumption, and life within the prison system. Consumers are often hindered by their external environments, yet remain an active part of the marketing system.

For example, though consumers may be severely restricted due to dietary mandates or penal requirements, they are still faced with the same traditional consumption decisions as you or I. The difference, however, being that non-restricted consumers are able to act through volition of their own free will, shopping when and where it is convenient for them. Restricted consumers must modify their behaviors to both satisfy their restrictive agents and their personal needs.

Q: Where are you from originally and how have you adjusted to both USD and San Diego?

I am originally from a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After spending a few years in Lincoln, Nebraska for graduate school, I moved to San Diego and have absolutely loved my experience so far. Of course, San Diego is one of the most beautiful cities in the country and I can’t believe I get to see the ocean every day. I have, however, definitely adjusted to the weather and now complain when the weather drops below 70 degrees!

As for USD, I feel incredibly lucky to have obtained a tenure-track position at this university. I identified with USD from the moment I was aware of the open position; I greatly appreciate the university’s commitment to service and their designation as a Changemaker University.

As my research stream focuses on underrepresented populations, it is extremely important for me to work for a university that both understands and values the scholarship that I do. I was immediately impressed with the Center for Peace and Commerce within the School of Business, as well as the phenomenal success of the Social Innovation Challenge! Not only has USD supported me in my research, but I have also been welcomed by incredible colleagues who have really gone out of their way to make the transition easy and enjoyable.

— Liz Harman

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