They say a fool and his money are soon parted. That may have had a ring of truth in the profligate days of the Celtic Tiger, but nowadays even the union of village idiots is advocating spending cutbacks. An increasingly competitive market is seeking higher returns from a fast evaporating pool of business and consumer spend. The key to success is the development of ever more ingenious marketing techniques that strengthen customer relationships. And the surest way to acquire these skills is to enrol in a postgraduate course.
A popular and proven method for graduates (marketing and non-marketing) to secure good positions is to enrol in a Marketing Practice postgraduate programme – available from Letterkenny IT, UCD and NUI Galway. With a strong focus on practical marketing skills, students are required to effectively apply what they learn in the classroom in a work placement (Letterkenny, NUI Galway), or as a ‘marketing advisor’ to an external business client (UCD).
According to Billy Bennett, Head of the School of Business in Letterkenny IT, the work placement is ‘a significant learning curve for graduates, but hugely important’, as it bridges the gap between marketing theory and academic studies and the real life practicalities of the workplace.’ Students also experience the pressures and responsibilities of paid employment, because as Bennett points out, it is a paid placement and the companies would not pay if they were not getting value for money.
Of course the academic aspect is of equal importance, with students undergoing various marketing modules (research methods, managing sales, etc) and carrying out assignments on the strategic marketing plan they are applying in the workplace.
Happily, most students thrive in this atmosphere and many go on to secure permanent marketing positions with their work placement employer. About a half of last year’s Letterkenny IT Marketing Practice graduates secured employment this way, while the NUI Galway programme claims a remarkable 90% recruitment rate.
DCU have one of the strongest traditions of marketing education in the higher education sector, and the university’s MBS in Marketing has been running for over ten years. Dr Michael Gannon, senior lecturer in marketing, describes the course as ‘a specialist program designed to produce graduates with an in-depth marketing know-how and with the technical and personal skills to operate in a dynamic and increasingly competitive market’.
Among the course’s unique features is an exchange agreement with the University of Illinois in the US, which has an Advertising Dept described by Forbes magazine as the best in the world. The agreement allows for three DCU MBS Marketing students to spend a spring semester in the US.
Another mainstay of the course is the Spring Marketing Seminar Series whereby ‘visiting academics and business practitioners impart their experience and knowledge of marketing’, explains Dr Gannon. Speakers from universities such as Harvard and companies such as Google and Microsoft attend the event, which is in its 10th year and ‘fairly well established, people in industry readily accept invitations to come and speak’.
Graduates of the course are ‘getting picked up fairly readily’ according to Dr Gannon, with large players in the marketing sector ‘always looking for people’. Graduates are employed with agencies such as Lansdowne Market Research, and in-house with companies such as Bank of Ireland and Google. A number also pursue a PhD in DCU or other institutions, e.g. the prestigious York University of Toronto. Besides DCU, a taught MBS in Marketing is available in the UCD Michael Smurfit School of Business, UCC, and Dundalk IT (where there is a dual focus on marketing and entrepreneurship).
Whereas the MBS is well suited to graduates seeking an opportunity for further study, numerous qualifications that are awarded by professional bodies are also on offer that would greatly benefit experienced marketing professionals. Such programmes include the MSc Masters in Marketing (Executive) in DIT, which is delivered in partnership with the Marketing Institute of Ireland (MII). A two-year part time programme; the first year involves ‘the up-skilling and deepening of functional marketing knowledge and expertise’, and students develop ‘greater strategic perspective and organisational insights’ in year two.
But what about those poor souls who the think the ‘four Ps’ are a popular hip-hop outfit? Knowledge of marketing is vital in a huge variety of careers, so thankfully there are postgraduate crash courses for the uninitiated who lack marketing qualifications. These include Management & Marketing for Non-Business Graduates in DIT and IT Tallaght’s Higher Diploma in Marketing Management. That’s ‘product’, ‘price’, ‘place’ and ‘promotion’ by the way, or what’s commonly referred to as the ‘Marketing Mix’.
Graduates of every postgraduate marketing course have to work in a challenging environment, where marketing budgets have been reduced greatly along with all other costs in recent years. ‘All companies are much more focused on the bottom line and budgets nowadays,’ says Billy Bennett of Letterkenny IT. ‘Graduates need to be more creative and able to practice guerrilla marketing [lower cost, unconventional campaigns] – making using of the internet and social media for example.’
Unsurprisingly given the huge drop in consumer spending brought on by the recession, Bennett says there is also a re-emphasis on building strong customer relations.