Are university marketing-related degrees important?

Having recently experienced a ‘brownout’ (Rigby, 2015), I was looking for some deeper meaning and sense in my job; I am lecturer, and teach marketing, marketing research, and consumer behaviour. Some call such degrees “Micky Mouse degrees”: meaningless, vocational, and academically less rigorous than the traditional academic degrees.

I have been working in academia for over six years now, and as an academic, I have seen my job change to include more meaningless administrative tasks such as copying and pasting content from one template to another, and of course these templates also change quite often (it is a job in itself to keep track of these template versions). The pressure is to make sure NSS scores are high, but we have very little time to prepare lectures and seminars that are up-to-date, interesting and relevant. Colleagues tell students how graduating with a marketing degree will help them make money and “become rich at the age of 25”. Is owning an expensive car at the age of 25 really the goal of pursuing a university degree? For some, it is, but I believe that we should aim for more than just that.

Recently, being very tired of my work, I have been asking myself if such courses have any meaning, and in what ways should we structure them to provide education that is vocationally relevant, but also academically rigorous, and socially useful. In this consumer society, where consumption defines who we are, marketing influences what products and services marketers ‘sell’ to us, what advertising messages communicate to us, and how they make us feel. Consumption has a wide range of consequences for consumers as individuals but also for societies and the environment.

Is marketing education (including advertising, consumer behaviour, marketing research)  important ? What social and societal consequences careless marketing education can have? How can we create responsible marketers? Do these ‘micky mouse’ courses matter?

Yes, it is. Marketing activities influence our self-esteem (see paper by Isaksen and Roper, 2012), help to spread new ideas and products (see Diffusion of Innovations theory),  help to persuade people to change their behaviour (for example, marketing communications campaigns to quit smoking), are often responsible for the types of products and services available in the market (although in this case, regulators play even more important role).

Providing academically rigorous marketing-related degrees that make students aware of the possible consequences of marketing (or irresponsible marketing), that are based on rigorous academic standards, and that include modules on ethics, market regulations, economics should be of importance to academics responsible for structuring marketing-related courses.

One Reply to “Are university marketing-related degrees important?”

  1. Dear Barbara,

    Thank you for sharing this, seems it’s of great concerns but a greater challenge for those presently studying and planning to join you in Academia.

    The students can make a choice of either to come to University to study ( any course) or start looking for work. Some thoughts for fresh PhD hoping to come into the saturated staff room.

    On a positive note, compared to some clerical staff, your job is safe as no robot can teach yet

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