Executive Education

Peer Talk Profile: Sue Perram

Booth: What surprised you most about the Big Data and Marketing Analytics Executive Education program?

Perram: I originally expected to jump right in to the big data and analytics parts of the class. I was surprised when the professor started talking about marketing strategies and how to set objectives and facilitate marketing decision-making. This material was the foundation needed to see where data and models can assist with decision-making. It all starts with the question you are trying to answer.

Booth: What were some of the challenges you were facing in your work at Brown-Forman that led you to Chicago Booth’s course in Big Data and Marketing Analytics?

Perram: In the age of big data, where many companies are struggling to manage too much data, my company’s industry actually faces challenges in getting all of the data we would like to have. There are many holes in the data available, and it is difficult to pull together a complete picture of the forces driving our products and our consumers.

I was hoping to learn best practices from the professors and other companies, as big data and the analytical tools available are at the beginning stages for my company.

Booth: The program brings together a wide variety of professionals from various industries. What were you able to gain from others who participated in the program?

Perram: I learned that some of my classmates worked at companies that had amazing access to data about their customers, such as American Express. I also learned that some other companies were even further behind my company in their use of and access to data.

The biggest takeaway is that the analytical use of data is continuing to grow at each of our companies and will be the main driver of decisions in the future. Big data and analytics will no longer be relegated to a small group of data scientists. Utilization of the data across the organization will be necessary to create and maintain a competitive advantage.

Booth: “Big Data” is a buzzword in business today. In your work, how do you and others at your company utilize extremely large data sets to make important decisions about financial matters?

Perram: We are currently building our capabilities to integrate the large data sources that we have. We have a small team of data scientists who are working to show the rest of the organization what is possible with the data. It feels a little clunky right now, but as we find the appropriate tools and continue to build our data history, the process will be smoother.

Booth: The spirits and wine space is competitive—there are many strong brands. What did you learn in the program that you believe will lead to strengthening the brand that you help oversee at Brown-Forman?

Perram: We spent time in the class discussing the economic value to the customer. The consumer’s perception of your product will ultimately determine its value. It fits well with a quote from Jack Daniel’s nephew, Lem Motlow: “All goods worth price charged.” Lem Motlow put this slogan on crocks and jugs of his uncle’s whiskey. Mr. Motlow knew value when he saw it. And still today, though Jack Daniel’s is priced above many whiskeys, a sip will prove its worth.

Booth: Think ahead five years from now. In which ways do you think the concepts, skills, and knowledge you learned at Booth will be valuable to you?

Perram: This is the second class that I have attended at Booth. What I have valued from both courses is the academic foundation and strategies that are taught first to ground the class in the concepts. Then the concepts are brought to life outside of the classroom through real examples provided by the professors, as well as my classmates.

But knowing where you are coming from and the reminder that there are basic philosophies that guide our work helps to keep things simple in a very complex world. The courses each provided a framework to address many different problems and situations. The framework is as relevant today as it was in the past, and it will be five years from now too.

Booth: Why should others consider enrolling in the Big Data and Marketing Analytics Executive Education program at Booth?

Perram: Others should consider enrolling in the course to better understand the balance between marketing, analytics, and data science. Others should also consider the course to understand and even challenge the information being provided to make decisions. More decisions will be made based on big data and analytics. You need to know the right questions to ask to drive the best decisions.