August 7, 2007

SMU Alum Erin PattonSince earning his Executive M.B.A. from the Cox School of Business in 2006, Erin Patton has found new ways to understand markets and cultures.

During the past year, Patton has launched an innovative market research study, developed a $14.98 sneaker, written a book, and taught a course at Cox – while growing TMG, the market intelligence consulting firm he founded in 2001.

TMG stands for The Mastermind Group. “I surround myself with very smart, talented and committed advisers and employees,” Patton says.

Patton’s team, based in New York with offices in Dallas and Los Angeles, has counseled Fortune 500 companies such as Converse, Absolut, and Mercedes-Benz on connecting with customers and building their brands. Last year the group successfully launched Starbury, an affordable line of footwear and apparel for the New York Knicks’ Stephon Marbury and Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear.

Basketball Shoe Developed by SMU AlumThis year, TMG is introducing “7 Ciphers,” the first quantitative study of urban consumers that goes beyond traditional approaches based on gender, race and age. Patton has identified seven market segments, ages 14 to 39, with their own styles, attitudes and experiences, such as influential “Contemporary Urban” Gen-Xers and aspiring “Sub-Urban” young adults. “Today the notion of ‘urban’ transcends racial and geographic boundaries,” he says, “and this study will help businesses and organizations understand and quantify these consumers.”

Patton, who lives in Dallas, laid the groundwork for “7 Ciphers” during the market research course taught by William Dillon, the Herman W. Lay Professor of Marketing and Statistics at Cox. The pilot study, sponsored by Pepsi, MTV and the Brookings Institution, uncovered behaviors and attitudes about music, fashion, technology, cars and more.

What influences consumers and how consumers, in turn, influence culture always fascinated Patton. “I was the kid who had to have the Air Jordans,” he says. “I’m a product of Gen X, which redefined the American dream by breaking down old barriers. I’m translating that phenomenon for corporate America.”

In his book, now in discussions with publishers, Patton also has chronicled his personal journey from a tough inner-city Pittsburgh neighborhood to Northwestern University, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree. It focuses on his work at Nike in the 1990s, when Michael Jordan handpicked him to launch his signature brand, and on strategies for reaching the urban consumer.

Patton is sharing his experiences with SMU students. Last summer he taught a sports marketing class, tapping into his connections with Nike, the NBA, the Rangers and others. “As they say in business, it’s not who you know, but who knows you,” he says, “and being part of the SMU network boosts that theory exponentially.”

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