An Innovative Collaboration: Neely + Isenberg School of Management


he Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently featured Margo Neely’s groundbreaking invention, the Neely 33 Sound Shoe, as a case study for analysis and development in Professor Thomas Woodside’s MKT 421: Product Strategy course. This collaboration provided students with a unique opportunity to examine and build upon a real-world product that exemplifies substantial innovation in the current market. With a massive reach of 6 billion and retention of 54 million fans worldwide, the Neely 33 Sound Shoe provided a rich case for student analysis. Neely, who served as a guest lecturer, shared the product’s origin story, public success, and the prototype development in collaboration with the UMass Amherst College of Engineering.

Isenberg students engaged deeply with the Neely 33 Sound Shoe through a series of project phases. The team developed innovative product concepts and comprehensive marketing plans, rigorously analyzing market data to inform their strategies. The final presentation included detailed data and market analysis, potential product improvements, and go-to-market strategies, which were presented to Margo Neely for feedback. Through this case study, Isenberg students gained invaluable insights into the complexities of new product development, while contributing fresh perspectives to the ongoing evolution of the Neely 33 Sound Shoe.

Woodside’s Product Strategy is designed to hone students’ conceptual, analytical, and decision-making skills in new product development. The curriculum covers fundamental concepts, strategic issues, and frameworks essential for product management, and progresses through the New Product Development (NPD) process, addressing idea management, concept development, product design, and launch strategies. Professor Thomas Woodside, a Lecturer in Marketing at Isenberg, brings extensive industry experience to his teaching. With a career that includes C-suite and management roles at Disney, Bath & Body Works, and Kraft Foods, as well as co-founding a nanotechnology start-up funded by the National Science Foundation, Woodside enriches his courses with real-world insights. 

The successful collaboration between Margo Neely and the Isenberg School of Management was made possible by the enthusiasm and support of Professor Thomas Woodside and Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Professor and Department Chair, Marketing. Their commitment to providing students with real-world learning experiences highlights the value of integrating innovative products into academic curricula.

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