School Brand Images and Brand Choices in MBA Programs

Research, 2005, White Paper

Gregg Schoenfeld & Grady Bruce


Intense competition in the world of higher education necessitates that institutions develop marketing strategies based on empirical research. As Michael (2001) points out, “leaders in the corporate world understand the need to generate data that provides insights … [but] until recently, higher education has paid little or no attention to data that can aid in management decision-making (16-17).”

Marketing of specific graduate school programs has been an area assisted with a minimal amount of empirical research (Mayte 2003; Mark 2002; Nicholls 1995). This may be attributed, in part, to limited resources for conducting research at specific institutions. But it may also be the result of limited acceptance by graduate schools of the marketing concept, in which strategic efforts are focused on the customer (Conway et al, 1994; Nichols et al, 1995). This situation appears to be changing as more MBA programs appoint administrators with “marketing” in their titles or, at least, increase their focus on the customer. While the customer for MBA programs may be the student, the employer, or society at large, it is clear that the attraction of sufficient numbers of students with desired attributes must be a fundamental part of any marketing program. An essential part of such a marketing program is the matching of key features and benefits of the product (the MBA program) with the needs of the target market (Mark 2002) and then the development of communication strategies based on customer needs. Both school administrators and the marketing professionals who assist them need to conduct customer analyses. The more the school’s marketing program is based on the results of empirical research into customer needs, the more likely it is to succeed.