Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Follow Groucho's Path to an MBA

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Follow Groucho's Path to an MBA

Article excerpt

As summer turns into autumn, many marketers' thoughts turn toward an MBA. If you are seriously considering a masters, there are two questions you need to ask yourself. First, do you really need an MBA? And second, if you do, where should you study?

For marketers, the decision to commit to an MBA is not an easy one. Unlike consulting, banking or the City, the qualification is not seen as an essential factor in career progression. This is in stark contrast with the US, where most mid-level marketers have attended a two-year MBA programme in which they were taught a whole batch of marketing courses, along with finance, operations, organisational change, statistics, strategy and accounting.

It is easy to dismiss the MBA classroom as an academic, theoretical environment, well-removed from the business world. The glaring reality, however, is that Americans are better at marketing than we are, and one of the key factors in their superiority is the preponderance of MBAs.

Marketing in this country tends to be labelled as an art, common sense, or a mystical ability that cannot be taught. The vast majority of British marketers have had no formal training and, as a result, denigrate any suggestion that training might be a prerequisite to practice.

Imagine a world in which surveyors, accountants or dentists took up their respective roles because they felt they had a knack for it, but did not regard training as preferable or even necessary.

For marketers, an even bigger question is which business school to choose. More than 60 British institutions currently offer an MBA in marketing. Every week, the back pages of the Sunday newspapers bear witness to the confusing array of brands, programmes and schedules on offer to prospective students.

Having taught on three different MBA programmes on three different continents, I can at least offer an insider's view on choosing a business school. Usually, one simple question will reveal how good or bad an institution really is.

Just ask each school you are considering to tell you how many students who applied to enter its MBA programme last year were rejected. The percentage of failed applications reveals more about the school than anything else.

When MBA students graduate, they inevitably rate their fellow students as the single most important factor in the MBA experience and the lessons they took away from it. …

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