Reading: The Value of a Marketing MBA

There's been all kinds of trash talk about whether the modern day graduate with an MBA is worth his or her salt. Last week's article in Ad Age" adds fuel to the fire, much to the chagrin of American Universities. The article, entitled "M.B.A.'s May be a Marketing Liability" highlights a recent survey of 22 consumer products companies, including General Mills, Post, Nestle, Pfizer, Hazbro and others. It also used scanner and panel data from VNU’s ACNielsen.

In short, the study shows that marketers from companies with significant market-share gains are far less likely to have M.B.A.s than those from companies posting significant share losses. Further, the study shows that marketing executives from underperforming companies were twice as likely to have been recruited out of M.B.A. programs than marketing executives from out-performing companies.

The article is worth a read, and here are a few more highlights (as quoted or as summarized from the article):
  • In underperforming companies 90% of executives had MBA degrees vs. 55% in outperforming companies.

  • The out-performers in the survey got about a fifth of their marketing executives from undergraduate programs and another fifth from advertising or marketing agencies or other industry vendors. None of the executives from underperformers had been recruited as undergrads and only 5% came from agencies or suppliers.

  • Out-performers averaged one marketing executive for every $37.9 million in sales, compared to one for every $28.5 million in sales at the underperformers. Staffing levels were also higher at companies with a high level of marketing outsourcing.

  • Out-performers in the survey placed a much higher value on personal and professional development once they hire people. The survey showed the share winners far more likely than the losers to support attendance at industry conferences and seminars, involvement in industry associations and peer-share groups, internal training groups, formal mentoring programs and graduate-level seminars.
  • In a consumer driven society, we need people who understand business and think like customers … people who understand how to create comprehensive, measurable user experiences that drive solid results.

    The article indicates there's a strong benefit in hiring individuals with practical, hands-on experience and maturity... especially in competitive markets. As product commoditization places an increasing emphasis on the comprehensive customer experience, we’re also seeing increasing demand for individuals who understand cross-channel experience management, integrated marketing, interaction design, usability, cultural ethnography, analytics and more.

    What’s your opinion of the modern day M.B.A.? When you look at the performance of individuals possessing an M.B.A. degree vs. other individuals in comparable positions, do you find anything that's missing? What qualities are most important as you consider hiring innovative, seasoned professionals? Weigh in by leaving a comment!






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    I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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