Talkin’ with teachers: Howard University’s Yuvay Meyers Ferguson

As a professor of marketing, she's specialized in topics including consumer behavior and multicultural advertising.
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Yuvay Meyers Ferguson

· 4 min read

Yuvay Meyers Ferguson has spent 15 years as a professor of marketing at Howard University. But she didn’t always work in academia; she previously worked at direct marketing agency Grizzard Communications Group and full-service multicultural agency Matlock, working with clients like the American Red Cross.

“I loved what I was doing,” Ferguson told us, explaining that she enjoyed “being able to create something that people would see.” Still, it wasn’t exactly the type of marketing work she wanted to be doing. “I realized that I like thinking and talking about it way more than I like doing it,” she said.

That’s when Howard, who majored in marketing at Howard University before receiving a master’s in public communications from American University, decided to go back to school for another degree: a PhD in advertising from the University of Texas at Austin.

As a professor, she’s taught classes on subjects like brand management and marketing strategy. Her research has focused on several topics, including “generational cohorts in respect to advertising and ad reception.”

Earlier this month, Ferguson announced she would become an executive coach and business consultant, but told us that she would be staying on at Howard as an adjunct professor and consultant. Before that, we sat down with Ferguson to learn more about her career and hear her thoughts on current marketing trends.

How do you keep up with trends in the marketing industry?

I keep my finger on the pulse. So I obviously keep up with my colleagues, who have now transcended to different roles in leadership and advertising. I stay abreast of things that are going on in the 4As…I think that another thing that people don’t realize about teaching, especially at the undergraduate level, is that your colleagues are constantly 20 years old. So even though every student has grown up and gone on—and some of them are now in their 30s or older—I still remain hanging around 20-year-olds. So, like, ChatGPT—I’m obsessed. I think it’s a great tool…I’m always asking students, “What are [you] into? What’s new, and how can we integrate it into the classroom?”

What technology are you excited about for the marketing industry, and why?

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I am obsessed with AI and all the new things that are coming up. I’ve had some colleagues that are just petrified. I don’t think that it is going to replace people. It seems to be an almost irrational fear of, “We’re not going to have jobs.” I think that’s the same as when the calculator was created. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to learn math. Or Google: “Oh, my God, they don’t need to go to the library.” No, it just looks different.

I know you specialize in research around consumer behavior. Can you talk about what that looks like?

I’ve become really interested in seeing the differences in how your generational cohort impacts the way you view the world. Surprisingly, I started off looking at generational cohorts in respect to advertising and ad reception, and it’s grown into their experience in the classroom, which then translated into, “What are their characteristics in the workplace?” Now I have this fixation on Gen Z—who they are as consumers and who they are as employees, especially in the midst of, and end of, I guess, a pandemic. Millennials, our big moment was 9/11. [Gen Z] will be forever changed because of missing three years of their lives, almost, in this weird pandemic.

Can you discuss your research on multicultural advertising?

A lot of my research when I first started focused on ad reception—attitude toward the ad, attitude toward the brand, attitude toward the product, and purchase intent. I was really interested in looking at how different groups of people and how targeted advertising specifically helped to impact those variables.

Again, it also led me back to this idea of generations. As I dug down into…African American consumers…Asian American consumers, Hispanic American consumers, I started to find more detailed discrepancies as you looked at ages. A Black consumer that is in their 70s has a completely different view of the world than a Black consumer who is 18, and although race can play a role, and has an overlay on your experience, how you view the world is largely based off of who you are and what you’ve experienced.

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Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.