PhD in Marketing – The ultimate guide

Everything you need to know before applying for PhD in Marketing

When I was doing my MBA, I was wary of Marketing. I had the perception that Marketing is for “creative types” and I was anything but creative. Marketing looked like all sales, advertisements, consumers, and surveys. Those were not for me. I like quantitative work. I love Analytics and number crunching. Only a couple of years later though, I enrolled in a Marketing Ph.D. program. And I am very happy I made that choice.

What is it like to do a Marketing PhD?

Before you do a Marketing Ph.D. program in a good university, you should know a few facts about it. If you think an MBA in Marketing has given you a glimpse of what could happen in a Marketing Ph.D. program, you are wrong. The goal of Marketing MBA program is to make you a marketer, a person who can do marketing for firms. To achieve this, it gives you a breadth of knowledge in many marketing subjects. A marketing MBA is all about industry.

It’s a completely different scene in a Marketing PhD programs, especially at top schools. If you are into quantitative modeling, you can theoretically complete the PhD without even hearing about Kotler (well, almost). There may not be any course giving you a broad picture of Marketing. What you will be taught with 100% focus is how to do academic research in marketing. You will get a broad knowledge, but of the theoretical research done in Marketing, not practical principles useful for industry.

If you think you will come out of a PhD program an expert in Marketing, think again. You will definitely be an expert. You will know more about a very small niche than even your advisors and professors. But that expertise will be helpful for researching and publishing in that small sub-hyper-ultra-specific area. You may have lesser knowledge about some other marketing areas than even MBA students if you don’t have an MBA yourself. Remember, at most places, there is no requirement of having an MBA for admission in PhD in Marketing.

So, does having an MBA help you in PhD?

Definitely, it does.

Then, is it advisable to do MBA before a PhD?

No. If you are sure you want to do a PhD in Marketing, do not waste two years (or even one year) in MBA. Go directly for Ph.D.You will be better off finishing your Ph.D. earlier and using those two years to produce more research.

A person with MBA might have a better understanding of other subjects such as Finance, Supply Chain, Economics etc. which will help you understand research which is in the intersection of marketing and the other area. It will also give you managerial perspective. However, the coursework plus the other exposures are sufficient for your research career. You can develop a good understanding of Marketing area by taking Teaching Assistantship in different Marketing MBA courses.

Should you do a Marketing PhD if you want to join the industry as a consultant?

If MBA makes you a marketer, do not think that PhD will make you a super marketer. Do not go into a Marketing PhD if you are planning to go for industry placement. Yes, you will gain a lot of knowledge and will even educate future marketers, but the industry does not value the PhD so much. The industry will value real world experience much more. As a professor, you can always consult with industry on your area of expertise, but if you are going into a PhD to become a consultant, don’t.

What kind of academic research is done in Marketing?

Let’s look at the definition of marketing. As per American Marketing Association – “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.“

Creating, communicating, delivering: pretty much everything you do in business can be called marketing. So, not surprisingly, there is a wide variety of work done in marketing. In academic research, on a broad level, the research can be classified into 4 categories.

1. Consumer Research (a.k.a Consumer Behavior)

This area has the largest share in marketing (roughly 60%). Everything related to the consumer is studied in this area including buyer behavior, consumer culture, consumer psychology, decision making, etc. This field of research also draws upon a lot of other research disciplines such as Psychology, Neuroscience, Anthropology and many others.

2. Marketing Strategy

This is where the traditional marketing strategy related research is done. This covers marketing management, customer relationship management, sales force management and many other strategic decisions that a marketing manager needs to make.

3. Quantitative Modeling

In Quantitative modeling, people employ highly sophisticated econometrics and statistics methods towards solving marketing problems. You can go as technical or as quantitative as you want. You would be surprised to see how technical marketing can get. In fact, some cutting edge marketing papers would be hard to distinguish from statistics or operations management areas. If you are good in Maths, Statistics and Econometrics, this area might be attractive to you.

4. Analytical Modeling

In Analytical modeling, theoretical models are developed to understand the real world. For this area, a very strong grasp of microeconomics and game theory is needed. You derive theory and models entirely from first principles. Publishing in this area is very hard because not very often can you come up with new theory from scratch that is also a significant addition to the knowledge base.



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