The Best MBA Programs In Marketing

Kellogg School of Management. Photo by John A. Byrne.

Kellogg School of Management. Photo by John A. Byrne.

Kellogg’s size – bolstered by the size of Northwestern University as a whole – gives the marketing department another big advantage. “Because we are large,” Anderson observes, “we’re allowed to do a deep dive, so we have a number of courses that allow you to specialize in Biotech marketing or Media – whereas other programs don’t have that breadth.”

Finally, Kellogg has committed itself to experiential learning across its curriculum. In fact, students are often working alongside practitioners in many courses. Anderson cites the program’s market research course as an example. “This course partners with companies and work side-by-side with them on projects. So as you learn about something, you are applying it immediately on a project with a company to understand how you can use that technique in practice.”

THE SECRETS BEHIND KELLOGG’S LONG-TERM SUCCESS

While Kellogg faculty and administrators may cringe at being labeled a “marketing school,” the program’s stellar reputation is well-deserved. In fact, U.S. News has ranked it among the top marketing programs for nearly two decades. So what’s behind such consistency?

For starters, Kellogg has maintained a tradition of hiring faculty from a variety of disciplines. “We’ve now had faculty members here who’ve been everything from cultural anthropologists to neuroscientists,” says Carpenter. “For us, the best way to get insights into consumer behaviors is to bring in a large number of perspectives. It’s an intense focus on understanding customers and doing it through a large number of lenses.”

Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson

Anderson also credits Kellogg’s success to its unwavering commitment to fundamentals, namely a deep understanding of consumer behavior. “That has always been at the core of the Kellogg marketing program,” he says. “What we’ve had to adapt to is how consumer behavior has become more complex in a world of digital marketing. And the total marketplace is more difficult to manage. What we’ve been good at is, as markets evolve, adapting our understanding of consumers and translating that into our curriculum.”

And that’s often driven by the faculty’s research prowess. “What you always see,” Anderson says, “is we infuse research into the classroom, along with an understanding of the consumer.” In fact, students benefit from the faculty stepping outside a business framework, Anderson observes. “You talk to Derek Rucker and he’s publishing papers in the world’s best psychology journals. Zettelmeyer is publishing papers on data analytics in the top economics journals. It’s the ability to lead on the research side, where you develop that deep grounding and foundations in a variety into disciplines (whether its neuroscience, psychology, marketing or statistics) and then translating all that into classroom. That has really benefitted Kellogg decade after decade.”

Tom Hubbard, Kellogg’s senior associate dean, also praises alumni for their contributions. “We’ve had a long series of CEOs and CMOs who’ve come out of Kellogg who’ve provided resources from bringing practice into classroom and getting the classroom into practice.”

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS BELIE KELLOGG’S STRENGTHS

Kellogg’s is also attracting some of the industry’s best minds to campus. Each fall, the school now holds a Marketing Leadership Summit, an invitation-only, day-long conference that draws marketing leaders to examine a key issue like digital disruption or the future of marketing. Pairing academics and students with seasoned practitioners, the program has drawn chief marketing and brand officers from firms like Nike, Nielsen, Visa, and AutoNation. The student marketing club has also gotten into the act by organizing an annual Kellogg Marketing Conference in January, the largest student-run marketing event in the world. This year’s sessions drew senior executives from Anheuser-Busch, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Ford, Unilever, Uber, and AMC Theaters.

Celebrating the start to a new year

Celebrating the start to a new year

The school also hosts a Marketing Strategy Challenge, where students from various b-schools research a marketing issue faced by a corporate sponsor. After several weeks of preparation, school teams present their strategic recommendations to company executives and Kellogg alumni. Most recently, teams from Kellogg, Wharton, Fuqua, Ross, and Sloan helped Johnson & Johnson better target the LGBT community and mothers of school-aged children. As part of the competition, teams receive customized instruction from Kellogg faculty and sponsors. “We’re not just teaching our students,” Anderson notes. “We’re also teaching students from other schools.”

To stay ahead of the marketplace, the school is investing more heavily in organizational transformation. “We’re focusing a lot on the idea of understanding how organizations are successfully transforming themselves,” says Carpenter, “moving marketing from one function to something that is really part of the organizational culture.” Kellogg is also making a big push into neuroscience, recently hiring Moran Cerf, a respected teacher and neuroscientist. “We’re seeing more firms using neuromarketing as a way to develop insights into consumers,” says Hubbard. “Not many schools have embraced that.”

WHY KELLOGG?

When asked why he would recommend Kellogg to an aspiring marketer, Anderson echoed Carpenter’s emphasis on developing a broader skill set. “Marketing is not just a single function. It is used throughout the organization. What that requires is going to a school that is not only going to give you foundational expertise in marketing areas like marketing strategy, analytics, advertising, and channels, but also requires you to be expert in other areas like strategy, finance, and leadership.”

And Anderson believes this general management approach will pay dividends for students down the road. “[These days], an assistant brand manager typically has overall responsibility for the business, so you’re managing the brand, P&L… you might even need to drive up to Wisconsin to the manufacturing plant [to look at operations]. So what you need to succeed are marketing skills and operations skills. You need to understand strategy, and finance too. That General management perspective is pervasive throughout many marketing careers today.  And I think that’s where Kellogg shines.”

To continue doing that, Anderson sees keeping pace as his department’s biggest challenge. “Marketing has evolved quickly over the past 5-10 years and will continue to move quickly. Success for us is defined by continuing to evolve our curriculum to train thought leaders of tomorrow. We need to lead through that change. We’ve done a great job so far. And we’re looking forward to continue doing that.”

To see U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the top ten MBA marketing programs – and to learn what makes each of these programs special – go to the next pages.