Professor brings songs and smiles to marketing class


An unconventional voice is sometimes the key to marketing education, at least that is the underlying message behind the new album from professor Greg Rich.

When he started noticing boredom creeping in from the students in his Bowling Green State University online introductory marketing course, Rich tapped into his musical skills as a way to sell his class.

“A year ago I decided to spice up the class, by writing a different song about each chapter in the textbook,” Rich said. “They are all tied to different marketing concepts … It was the spring of 2022 and I was an online course. The online video lectures of courses, a lot of students find it boring to watch a video lecture.”

“The 4 Ps of Marketing” was released as a digital album on Spotify last fall, with 15 songs like “Maslow’s Theory” and “Bases of Segmentation.”

“It’s like Schoolhouse Rock,” Rich said. “That’s where I got the idea.”

He did it with a group of session musicians in Nashville, working as his backup band.

Fans of the local music scene can hear him playing gigs around Bowling Green.

Rich moved to Bowling Green 28 years ago. It was a little more than three years ago that he started playing live music with his band Illegal Smiles, a John Prine cover band.

“I’ve been a John Prine fan almost all my life,” Rich said.

Prine came on in the 1970s, with what Rich calls a “kind of a cult following. … He was not very well known. He’s much more well known now.”

Prine was originally thrown into the musical mix as a country music singer-songwriter, but is thought of more in the Americana or folk category today. Rich became a fan as a 10-year-old, when his older brother brought home some Prine albums from college.

“‘Sweet Revenge’ was the first Prine album I remember listening to as a kid. Hardly anyone knew who John Prine was. People used to make fun of me for playing this country music. I kind of feel like I got the last laugh, because he became kind of more popular and kind of a cool thing to be a fan of over the years,” Rich said.

He’s a fan of Prine’s turn of phrase, and the influence is obvious in the marketing songs.

“I first bought a guitar in 1983-ish, when I was an undergraduate. I started writing songs soon after that. I played mostly for friends and family for many years, occasionally going to an open mic. I started performing more regularly about 10 years ago thanks to Tim Concannon and Hump Day Revue,” Rich said. “It’s fun to get together with other people and play music.”

It was after one of those Hump Day Revues when he came up with the idea of forming a John Prine cover band. Illegal Smiles, a name derived from a Prine song, formed with violinist Kathleen Schnerer, J.P. Stebal, drums, and Matt Webb, on mandolin. They also frequently have Mike Williams on saxophone.

Their first gig was at Green Porchfest in 2021. They will be playing the event again this year on June 3. It’s centered around Eberly Avenue, with bands mostly playing short sets, on front porches and in garages.

“I love the Porchfest concept. I think it’s a great community event. Anything that supports live music I’m all for,” Rich said.

It’s exactly the type of intimate show he prefers to do. They are big enough to use amplified equipment but still small enough to pretty quickly set up and take down.

He also recommends that at Porchfest people should also see Mike Williams play his solo show and also listen to Freight Street.

“Mike’s playing with Illegal Smiles, Moths in the Attic and his solo show,” Rich said.

As for the marketing songs, they can be humorous, but they seem to be an effective way to help teach, and Rich has empirical evidence for proof. While he admits that correlation doesn’t mean causation, he can show that the students who study the songs do better in the class.

“I’m writing an academic paper on it,” Rich said. “I analyze how well students know the songs, how well they know the lyrics and I look at how well they do on exams. … There certainly is a correlation. Besides, it’s kind of a fun thing. It adds an element of fun to the class.

The song concept is also catching on.

“I do get positive feedback from students, and I’m sure there are some that roll their eyes and think it’s stupid, but they are nice enough that they don’t tell me that. It’s actually used by other professors around the country who teach marketing,” Rich said. “I created music videos for each song and they are used by other faculty members.”

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