As told by Professor John & Bob, and the students of IMC 2017


The class was formerly known as Brand Content in a Social World. It is one of the IMC program’s most popular classes. It is a major course in the specializations of content marketing and brand strategy. Professor John Greening and Bob Scarpelli had been working with DDB for more than 20 years before they started teaching this class.


The class is about ideas and creativity

John & Bob: “Our class is about ideas, creativity and how insights and ideas lead to the best marketing communications. Everyone is creative in some way or another, but we want to channel their innate creativity on a personal level and on a business level. We talk about how an insight leads to an idea, how you bring it to life with emotion. We do things that are really about your personal creativity. The focus is also on how you apply that to marketing and solving problems.

We do the ‘breaking the board exercise’ because we want people to let that go. We want them to break down barriers and do something that they didn’t think they could do.

In the curriculum here, you get 15 classes about rationality and logic, and then one class that’s about the other side of your brain. This is that class.


John & Bob have been teaching the class for 4 years – but they’ve known each other for 25 YEARS!

The class has been offered 8 times – 2 times in the last 4 years!

I started off teaching a class about ideas, but I was doing it more from an academic standpoint” Says John “When Bob joined, it gave us the ability to not only talk about the theories behind the ideas, but also what makes them happen. Bob is the guy who’s coming up with that.”

Both John and Bob are passionate about the class because it is authentic and very valuable to students.

John & Bob: “We also had a lot of fun because we know each other so well. We kind of finish each other’s sentences. I think that adds to a classroom where people can grow because we try to keep the pressure to a minimum. We still try to challenge the students and all that, but it’s a different type of challenge.”


It teaches you how to use intuitive thinking in marketing

John & Bob: “We feel like the majority of the marketing decisions that you are going to make in your career, are going to be intuitive. Because sometimes you just have to go with the punch. You can’t straight-line life.

There is an intuitive side which is knowing without knowing. If you work on your intuitive side, it can become a very accurate predictor of future success.”

Students get to work on real world projects

John & Bob: “We actually bring in clients. We had Harley-Davidson last quarter, Cracker Barrel before that. We’ve done Sonic Drive-in. We’ve done State Farm Insurance. These are not assignments that we’re making up, we actually have our clients come in.

We get our brief from our clients. We create strategies that are springboards to ideas. It’s real life. As I tell everybody, if I were still working and doing it, this is pretty much the way it works.”


Including some cause-related work for non-profits:

John & Bob: “We try to work with non-for-profits; we did Chicago International Film Festival. This quarter we’re doing Have Dreams, an organization that supports autistic children. We like doing that. We try to balance those off. We want another real client that works for a good cause.”


It helps you improve your presentation skills

Students feel a huge improvement in their ability to present. Here’s what Emily Zhu had to say: “The course trained my presentation skill. I went through all kinds of presentations with the course, whether it is creative, business, or self-exploring – one presentation asked us to tell about own childhood story. In the program of IMC, most of the presentations I had were team work with a specific subject to work on, for example, a business plan development, but this course gave me a chance to talk about myself for 10 minutes. It was an interesting experience.”


It’s important to have fun & be energetic

Bob & John: “One of the things about our class that I really like is we have fun. I think in business and in life, we always say, never underestimate the power of having fun. It’s absolutely true.

Fun is the trigger of a lot of great ideas. Ideas come from anywhere. It doesn’t have to a serious thing. 

“We like to have a lot of energy in the class. We try to put energy in the class by what we do, how we present ourselves. We want people to really participate.


Students that have taken Bob & John’s class love it for its creative freedom:

Here’s what they had to say:

Yan Kuo: “In this class, professors would not set any rules to limit your creativity and imagination; instead, they would create a friendly learning environment and clear guidance to lead students to become marketers who can build ideas with business value and impressiveness.”

Angela Wu: John and Bob really pushed hard on us to get rid of the self-criticism and negative mindset and allow us to freely express our thoughts. It was very inspiring.

Emily Zhu: We are told to think without boundaries, no budget, no constraints, no anything. The class is all about freeing your thinking, and to use your creative imagination to strengthen your ideas.


It’s for everyone – as long as you want to grow!

You don’t have to be an ‘artistic type’ to take this class. As the professors say, “Everyone is creative in some way or another”.

And students agree!

Rujuta Gandhi: “I would suggest this class to every IMC student because this class hones your creative thinking abilities – teaching you the skills to not only think creatively but also sell your ideas. The ability to come up with ideas and solutions is requisite in every job in today’s day and age. Whether you are in the analytics track or the strategy track I would highly recommend every student take this class.”

Jo Ladzinski: “Big takeaway is that creativity is a muscle and is for everyone, not just “artistic” types. Creativity goes beyond art and can be present when forming solutions in everyday scenarios.”

Professor Greening and Scarpelli and students at the Chicago International Festival Gala.(Photo by Sylvia Chen)

Professor Greening is doing the “Breaking the Board” exercise. (Photo by Sylvia Chen)

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