Professor of Marketing David Schweidel
Professor of Marketing David Schweidel

When David Schweidel first entered college at the University of Pennsylvania, he thought he would become an actuary because of his interest and talent in math. A Penn staff member saw more in him, and Schweidel never left academia. Now in his ninth year as professor of marketing at Goizueta Business, Schweidel teaches, researches, and advises doctoral students like he once was.

What’s David’s advice for students? Take advantage of access to broad university experiences beyond the classroom.

“Learning is not restricted to the classroom, so the staff member in my dorm set up a meeting for me to consider a PhD,” he recalled. “I’ve literally been putting one foot in front of the other ever since then, and today I tell our students that should not be the totality of their Emory experience. Coming to a top-tier research university, you need to take advantage of all the value that we are adding.”

Individual choice defines Schweidel’s work, too. He studies data from consumer decisions and spending patterns of consumer groups—especially on social media—to identify trends. His research focuses on the development and application of statistical models to understand consumer behavior and shape how companies manage relationships with consumers. He asks questions like: As information spreads at lightning speed, how do companies harness that power to reach (and not manipulate) consumers?

“Take something like consumers’ location data, which has the potential to destroy their privacy,” Schweidel says. “Where’s the tradeoff, and how do you balance the consumer privacy with the business objective?”

Through tweets and posts, consumers signal their values, and companies must pay attention. “If your consumers care about an issue, you have to,” he added. “Business doesn’t operate in a vacuum.”

Because technology and data-gathering morph constantly, Schweidel uses current issues in his classes. Example: As marketing copy is churned out by language generation tools aimed at increasing search engine optimization, how will business change? “It’s not Mad Men anymore,” Schweidel says of consumer marketing. “It’s math men. Data and analytics now make things tick in business.”