Syllabus - December 13, 1996 version

15.841 Special Seminar in Marketing:
Marketing High-Tech Products

Spring 1997

Professor Anirudh Dhebar
E56-329, Tel.: 3-5056, E-mail:
Staff Assistant: Ken Pierce (2:00 PM - 5:30 PM)
E56-364, Tel.: 3-0495

Class meets MW, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM, E51-325.


Course Objective

To introduce students to some of the special challenges of marketing high-tech products -- when the products are being conceived, when they are first introduced, and well into their life. Of course, not everything is unique about high-tech products, and many of the building blocks you acquired in the foundation "15.810 Marketing Management" course continue to apply. We will take that -- and your knowledge of the building blocks -- as given and move on to where the real action is: dynamic product contexts fraught with significant technological and market uncertainty.

While the focus of the course is "high-tech" in the general sense, all the reading materials -- cases, notes, and articles from the popular and learned press -- are drawn from what is colloquially referred to as the "information technology" industry: computer hardware and software, consumer electronics, telecommunications, and content. Students are encouraged to interject parallels from non-IT, but otherwise high-tech, settings in the course of class discussion.

The course will sample both consumer and business-to-business (industrial) product contexts.

Course Structure

The course consists of five modules:

  1. Introduction. When it comes to marketing, why are high-tech products special?

  2. Marketing and Strategy at the High-Tech Frontier. Before delving into the details, we will frame the larger context by studying three specific settings (a brand-new company just starting out in a field that itself is just starting out, a now-established player in the computer business, and a company in the traditional-format content business under siege and transformation in the digital age) and the sense of chaos characterizing the concerned industries.

  3. Bringing New High-Tech Products to Market. From demand forecasting to product positioning to distribution to managing new-product diffusion, high-tech products pose some special challenges, and this will be the thrust of the third module, which will also provide the students an opportunity to apply their learning to some hot-off-the-press new-product settings (with analysis and recommendations due in the form of a written report).

  4. Managing Product Maturity and Positioning for the Future. Once products have been introduced in the market, the product offering must be managed: improvements made, features enhanced, new versions launched, older versions retired, prices and distribution reconsidered, commoditization avoided, and so on. What are the special marketing challenges? This module, too, will involve one written assignment.

  5. Wrapping Up. Summary, reflection, and closure.

A detailed course schedule is presented on pages 3-4 of this syllabus. As the schedule suggests, the course is structured around a mix of cases, notes, readings, and lectures.

Before each class, you will receive discussion questions by e-mail. To facilitate this process, please add yourself to the class distribution list by sending an e-mail message to

with the line

subscribe 15.841-students userid@host your name

in the body of the message. For example, student Jane Smith with e-mail address would send the message

subscribe 15.841-students Jane Smith

Make sure that the word "subscribe" is at the beginning of the line.

As part of the course, you will be required to submit two written analyses; these are due at the beginning of class on Monday, March 17, and Wednesday, April 23. While details will follow, the assignments are team projects and you should form teams of three to four as soon possible to facilitate the process.

There will be a final examination at the end of the course. Its date, time, and location will be announced once these are finalized.


In grading the course, class discussion and comments will count toward 30% of the final grade, the two written analyses 15% each, and the final examination 40%.

Course Materials

Course materials are available from Graphic Arts; additional materials will be distributed in class on an ad hoc basis.


Session # Day/Date


1 W, 2/5 (Lecture)

Marketing and Strategy at the High-Tech Frontier

2 M, 2/10

3 W, 2/12

4 Tu, 2/18

5 W, 2/19 (Lecture)

Bringing New High-Tech Products to Market

6 M, 2/24

7 W, 2/26

8 M, 3/3

9 W, 3/5

10 M, 3/10 (Lecture)

11 W, 3/12; 12 M, 3/17 Written Assignment #1 (Due: M, 3/17)

Managing Product Maturity and Positioning for the Future

13 M, 3/31 (Lecture)

14 W, 4/2

15 M, 4/7

16 W, 4/9

17 M, 4/14

18 W, 4/16

19 W, 4/23 Written Assignment #2

20 M, 4/28

21 W, 4/30 (Lecture)

22 M, 5/5; 23 W, 5/7

Wrapping Up

24 M, 5/12

25 W, 5/14 (Lecture)

-- Exam period