THE NOT-SO-SUBTLE SINS IN CASE ANALYSIS
Gerald M. Hampton, College of Business Administration, New Mexico State
Las Cruces, NM 88003;
This paper concerns four major sins students most often commit in case analysis. The
sins are: (1) the failure to use the analytical framework of marketing, (2) the failure to
define the problem correctly, (3) the failure to make a decision, and (4) the failure to be
As student demand for realism, relevance, and application continues, marketing
professors will find the need to use cases and case analysis in many of their courses.
Today a large number of suitable cases are available. There are marketing casebooks
in such areas as marketing management, marketing research, consumer behavior, and
integrated marketing communications. There has also been an increase in diversity of
case type, including video cases, computer-based cases, experiential, as well
as, sequential cases.
What has remained fairly constant, however, are the problems faced by all of us who
now use cases and those who soon will. While opinions differ, there are at least four
major problems that must be solved in some fashion if one is to use cases effectively.
First, there is the need to develop and structure a course so that it allows for logical
integration of case materials, the use of marketing concepts and their application in
specific situations. Second, one must develop a classroom style appropriate for
teaching by the case method. Third, it is necessary to demonstrate to students that the
case method has content and that they are learning something. Finally, there are the
difficult tasks of evaluation and grading the students’ work, including class participation,
presentations and written analysis.
Authors have written extensively on the first three problems. There are numerous works
giving helpful hints on how to teach concepts in different disciplines, course design,
preparation of class outlines and the selection of case materials. A number of teaching
approaches and techniques have been suggested ranging from a structured to an
unstructured format. Ways to enhance learning and methods of demonstrating to
students the usefulness of the case method have also been extensively discussed.
Unfortunately, and in my opinion, the problem of how to evaluate students’ work has
received considerably less attention. The purpose of this article is to present a basic
treatment of the four common sins students most often make in case analysis. They
are: (1) the failure to use the analytical framework of marketing, (2) the failure to define
the problem(s) correctly, (3) the failure to make a decision, and (4) the failure to be
logical in evaluation, analysis and decision making.