He is a marketing guru, professor of international business at the renowned Columbia Business School, director of its Center on Global Brand Leadership, CEO of consulting firm The EX Group, a best-selling author of eight books, and a frequent face on TV programmes such as CNNfn’s Business Unusual.
To all that, now add his new role as the Executive Director of the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight at NTU, the first organisation in the world to focus on Asian consumer behaviour. This multi-hyphenate from New York is heading the national centre at the Nanyang Business School to help companies develop customer-focused strategies for Asian markets.
Funded up to S$77 million over five years by the Economic Development Board and NTU, the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight will establish Singapore as a go-to hub on Asian consumer research by studying the needs, wants and preferences of Asian consumers. With its focus on innovation, branding, new-market development and new media, it also offers a Master’s programme in Marketing to develop expertise in Asian-centric marketing.
Says the Nanyang Visiting Professor of his latest venture: "This new research centre will create relevant links between academic theory and the practice of marketing and product innovation. It will be an exciting interdisciplinary effort that will establish new models and best practices to understand the Asian consumer inside and out."
The centre will also boost NTU’s ambitions of becoming a knowledge hub of the East and West. Dubbed the New Silk Road, it is one of five areas of excellence under NTU’s strategic plan. The other four areas are sustainability, healthcare, new media and innovation.
"Life here is busy but fun. I like the five research pillars by Bertil Andersson, the NTU President, as there is a lot of innovation coming out of it. It is a great time to be at NTU," says Prof Schmitt.
With 20 years of research and teaching experience, Prof Schmitt is well-versed in the areas of Asian consumer insight, customer experience, branding and innovation. Many large global companies, including Microsoft, American Express and Volkswagen, as well as Asian brands Sony and Samsung, have sought his marketing expertise.
His research has been published in top journals such as Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, Journal of Consumer Research and Journal of Consumer Psychology. Eight of his books, including Big Think Strategy and Experiential Marketing, have been translated into more than 20 languages. His latest work, Happy Customers Everywhere, highlights the emotional ties between companies and customers, and offers unique methods to help businesses build a loyal customer base.
Prof Schmitt is a regular keynote speaker at international seminars and conferences, frequently travelling to Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and India to discuss topics on customer happiness and innovative strategies. Given his passion for lateral thinking, his presentations are often peppered with interesting surprises. At the launch of the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight in March 2012, he introduced a skit where students played the roles of different teenage consumers, such as the techie, the deal-fanatic and the fashionista.
"I believe that in an academic setting you want to be serious and rigorous, but learning, I think, works best when it has entertaining elements," Prof Schmitt says.
On his personal website, he is known simply as SCHMITT – a brand that is, in his own words, "innovative, edgy, analytical, professional and global".