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Best Business Schools for Marketing: Part I

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The “four Ps” (product, price, place and promotion) and the “three Cs” (customers, competition and company) may not have become completely passé, but there’s some serious shifting taking place in the world of marketing. Companies must reach global audiences of consumers, confront and master the ever-evolving intricacies of social media, command the growing frontier of video marketing and get a handle on terabytes of data representing critical market intelligence waiting to be mined.

As always, MBA students who study marketing can go on to a range of careers—brand or product management, market research, sales, advertising, marketing consulting and marketing in retail, pharmaceuticals and high-technology. Adding further to the complexity is the fact that companies identify and structure their marketing positions in many different ways. Some companies have large marketing departments in which individual marketers are assigned to roles specializing in market research, strategy or advertising. Other firms expect their marketers to have a hand in—and mastery of—each of these roles, as well as responsibility for P&L, collaboration with supply chain and operations and more.

So, drumroll please, which MBA programs are keeping pace with the changing marketing industry? Who’s doing it best—and how? Is it through changes to curriculum, strategic faculty hires, launches of new centers and institutes of expertise, unique extracurricular offerings? Finally, which schools are helping more of their graduates land the most desirable jobs, whether at consumer product goods (CPG) giants like Nike, Unilever and PepsiCo; market research titans like Neilsen or Forrester or ever-increasing data analytics shops like Cloudera, Sumo Logic or Google? Read on for some of our picks.

Kellogg: King of the Marketers

Kellogg marketing MBA students rate ads in the annual Super Bowl Ad Review
Kellogg marketing MBA students rate ads in the annual Super Bowl Ad Review

For almost two decades, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management has placed among the very top programs in U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of best business schools for marketing. Of course, all rankings have their flaws, but when the same program tops the list year after year after year, it certainly suggests that Kellogg is getting something right.

So just what does Kellogg do so well when it comes to marketing? For starters, Kellogg’s marketing faculty is among the best in the world. Professor Angela Y. Lee chairs a department made up of almost 50 tenure, clinical, affiliated and emeritus faculty members who approach the teaching of marketing from diverse perspectives and backgrounds—ranging from psychology and cultural anthropology to neuroscience and data analytics.

Professor Derek Rucker, for example, regularly publishes in the world’s leading psychology journals, delving into what makes for effective advertising and what motives underlies consumer consumption. Professor Florian Zettelmeyer, meanwhile, who heads the Program on Data Analytics at Kellogg, focuses on evaluating the effects of information technology and big data on firms. Kellogg’s belief has always been that the best marketing education results from the deepest possible understanding of customer behavior, which it feels is best delivered through a wide array of lenses—precisely those offered by its diverse faculty.

Traditional Texts Meet Cutting-Edge Course Offerings
Even amid seismic shifts in the field of marketing, Kellogg Professor Philip Kotler’s 1967 textbook, Marketing Management, has remained a standard text at many American business schools, and Kellogg also likes to point out that many of the marketing professors leading rival business school marketing departments in fact hold Kellogg PhDs. But Kellogg is also always evolving to keep pace with the discipline’s shifting landscape. As an example, a Kellogg MBA student who chooses to major in marketing can also choose the Data Analytics pathway, which offers opportunities for deeper dives through courses such as “Digital Marketing Analytics” and “Customer Analytics.”

Every MBA who graduates from Kellogg will have a foundational understanding of marketing since one of the school’s nine core curriculum courses is “Marketing Management.” Beyond that, students targeting careers in the field can choose from one of two majors: Marketing, which provides an in-depth understanding of marketing concepts suitable for careers in management consulting, general management, or other functions or Marketing Management, which is geared toward students set on post-MBA careers in which marketing plays a central role, such as brand/product management or market research.

Students can also choose from more than 30 related electives, which again is how Kellogg can stay current with shifts in the industry and encourage its students to view the field of study through multiple lenses. Some recent additions to the course options include “Thought Partnerships: Man Plus Machine Is Greater Than Man or Machine,” designed to teach students to harness data to understand consumer behavior, and “Kraft CPG Boot Camp,” a one-day program offered last May that brought students face-to-face with Krat company leaders to talk channel relationships, storytelling, Nielsen research and more.

Strategic Markets & Customers Initiative Takes Marketing Beyond the Classroom
In addition to its marketing majors and related pathways, Kellogg has also launched four “strategic initiatives” designed to focus on key issues confronting today’s senior business leaders. Again, believing in an interdisciplinary approach, Kellogg developed these strategic initiatives to equip graduates across each of its majors with skillsets that will allow them to make meaningful change whatever industry they enter. One of the four strategic initiatives is the Kellogg Markets & Customers Initiative (KMCI). The KMCI serves as a repository for research and insight designed and curated “to help business leaders create and reinvent markets through greater customer insight and focus,” according to the Kellogg website.

Beyond the classroom, there are any number of ways for future marketers to get their brand on at Kellogg, including a range of centers that fall under the KMCI umbrella. Since 2008, Kellogg has been home to the Center for Market Leadership, which focuses on helping leading organizations learn how to become more customer-oriented in order to drive innovation and growth. Each fall, the center hosts an annual Marketing Leadership Summit, which lures marketing gurus from leading companies to pool mindshare while tackling key issues like digital disruption, the future of marketing or—as at this past fall’s conference—how to build culture in the digital era. Speakers this past October included Jim Stengel, the former global marketing officer for Procter & Gamble, talking about intelligent risk taking, and Kathy Button Bell, chief marketing officer for St. Louis-based Emerson, who shared how the engineering firm partnered with Hank Green, a popular musician and blogger with a strong presence on YouTube, to tell its story to consumers.

Kellogg Marketing Students Take Charge
Since it’s Kellogg we’re talking about, you have to know the students are involved in a big way. The Kellogg Marketing Club is one of Kellogg’s largest and most active student organizations, putting on a range of events made possible by the sponsorship of numerous companies interested in recruiting Kellogg students. Like marketing clubs at other schools, Kellogg’s student-run group brings first- and second-year students together to let them help one another through interview prep groups that cover interview etiquette, case questions and ad critiques. The second-years also share their summer internship experiences with first-years to help them know what to expect and how to prepare.

The club also regularly brings chief marketing officers, brand managers and other senior marketing executives to campus for speaker series and hosts an informal Lunch & Learn program where students gather to discuss marketing trends. The club also organizes marketing industry treks—two- or three-day trips to leading brand and retail firms on the East and West Coasts—and “Company Shadow Days” at the proliferation of CPG firms in the Kellogg area, letting students get a first-hand feel for what a career in marketing would really look like day to day.

best business schools for marketing
Source: Kellogg 2015 Employment Report

Finally, the club also lets students test their marketing mettle through an annual Kellogg Marketing Competition held each winter. Student teams of five are challenged to market a randomly assigned real product to the Kellogg community, first presenting a marketing plan to a panel of marketing execs, students and judges and then executing on the plan through marketing campaigns on campus and in the Evanston community. A fair is held at the conclusion of the competition, where the teams sell their products from booths. A winning team is crowned based on feedback from a panel of judges as well as the target customers themselves.

Show Me the Jobs

Okay—so Kellogg does a bang-up job of preparing its MBA students to be marketers. Is that enough to land them the jobs they seek at the end of their two years? Employment statistics say yes. In 2015, 20 percent of Kellogg graduates took functional roles in marketing, earning a median salary of $105,000 with a median signing bonus of $25,000.

To help make this happen, the Kellogg Marketing Club joins forces with the school’s Career Management Center (CMC) to provide networking events, recruiting advice and opportunities to meet with top recruiters in the field. Last year, firms like General Mills, Kraft, Nike, Unilever and PepsiCo were among the top hirers of Kellogg grads.