Task Force Participants

When it comes to the marketing discipline, a lot of the conversation around technology takes place in the advertising space. This is also reflected in academia, where digital marketing tools get the most emphasis. As new technologies allow for more meaningful insights from, and relationships with, consumers, the marketing discipline will continue to be at the forefront of digital disruption.

Task force leader: Neal Roese

Dr Neal Roese

Dr. Roese is the SC Johnson Chair in Global Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where he is jointly appointed as a professor of psychology. He teaches MBA, Ph.D. and executive education audiences about the psychology of decision making, consumer behavior and brand strategy.

Dr. Roese has published more than 80 scholarly articles on research exploring biases in memory and judgment, emotion, consumer behavior, and legal decision making. His research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Mental Health, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada). He has served as a consultant on marketing research for businesses, and as an expert witness on legal cases involving intellectual property rights and hindsight bias. His insights have received media coverage from CBS News, NPR, The New York Times, The Guardian, Chicago Tribune and Harvard Business Review. 

Curriculum report

The greatest challenge universities face in teaching marketing for the digital era is the diversity of skills that students bring to the classroom. Some have taken programming courses already, others are terrified of math. Business skills will need to make software boot camps a key feature to ensure digital topics go from peripheral topic to central focus. That touches on a related issue — the cost of software licenses, as well as re-training of faculty to become skilled with these tools. 

The Marketing Domain Task Force, led by Prof. Neal Roese (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University) made a thorough analysis of 31 undergraduate business programs, 42 MBA programs, and 27 Master’s (non-MBA) programs, with a total of 319 courses examined. Their findings indicate that at the undergraduate level, digital gets only meager coverage. These programs touch on topics like marketing analytics, digital marketing tools and ethics with an emphasis on what’s needed in the field right away. Graduate programs offer more long-term sophistication by emphasizing critical thinking and an analytical perspective that seems to offer a more future-proof education. Executive education programs are highly variable, in terms of the digital content taught. Interestingly, the task force’s reports indicate that programs offered in Asia significantly lag behind North America and Europe when it comes to incorporating digital into marketing curricula.

The task force identified three course content buckets that exist in various marketing programs: Digital Marketing Tools; Marketing Analytics; and Communications, Branding and CRM.

  • Digital Marketing Tools: Tactical tools for advertising and selling represent the most frequently observed content across marketing courses, and were evenly prominent across the surveyed programs in Asia, Europe, and North America. The most frequent topic in this space is the use of social media, followed by search-engine optimization, mobile marketing and influencer marketing. Examples of courses in this bucket are “New Media in Marketing” or “Social Media and Mobile Technologies” (both from NYU/Stern), “Media Technologies” (Macquarie University), or “Entrepreneurial Tool for Digital Marketing”. Some schools have developed specific Digital Marketing lab courses, e.g. the “Digital Marketing Lab” (Chicago/Booth), or “Foundations of MarTech” (Santa Clara/Levy).
  • Marketing Analytics: The use of statistical methods to make informed business decisions represents the second area of digital marketing content observed by the task force. Specifically, the use of data-driven approaches for pricing and messaging decisions is prominent across many marketing programs, with courses such as “Marketing Analytics” (Penn/Wharton); “Retail Analytics and Pricing” (Northwestern/Kellogg), “Consumer Analytics and AI” (Northwestern/Kellogg), or “Digital and Algorithmic Marketing” (Chicago/Booth and Stanford). A number of schools, e.g., Wharton or Kellogg, are offering a certificate program on Customer Analytics. It is interesting to note that Facebook/Meta is offering a “Marketing Analytics Professional Certificate Program” with Coursera. Courses in this space often contain a programming component (either R or Python). 
  • Communications, Branding and CRM: Communications and branding have changed drastically in the digital era. Branding today is mostly done via digital platforms such as the web, mobile applications, or social media, with digital media content that includes website content, blogs, videos, e-mailers, etc. for the specific target group. There is also a need for integrating messages across platforms, channels and media. These changes have given rise to a number of courses such as “Branding in the Digital Era” (Stanford), “Integrated Marketing and Communications (e.g., Santa Clara/Leavy, or Macquarie University) and more. Similar changes have happened in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) function, with new courses appearing in this area too.

Curricular developments in the marketing discipline include new tracks (for example, Digital Marketing specialization in the business undergraduate program at New York University) as well as specialized certificates, such as the undergraduate certificate in Marketing Analytics at the University of Missouri. Many schools possess separate marketing masters programs beyond their MBA program in which the bulk of digital content was covered.

While ethics and privacy are important topics in the context of customer analytics courses, the task force found that Schools in Europe tend to have more content relating to data privacy, but overall not many courses explicitly covered data privacy or legal issues. Still, some programs had specific courses designated solely to data privacy and legal issues. For example, EM Lyon offers “Responsible Artificial Intelligence” as part of their MSc in Digital Marketing & Data Science. An example of a standalone ethics course is Rutgers University’s “Digital Marketing Law, Policy and Ethics” course.