A digital marketer comments on marketing curricula.
From time to time I hire people for our Digital Marketing team and give recommendations to colleagues on finding specialists for holding companies. War is a sad circumstance for hiring — several hundred CVs are received for each vacancy. In peacetime, this figure was way lower.
Specialists with experience who came to me for an interview often turned out to be students or yesterday's graduates. I like their curiosity. But the quality of knowledge prompted me to review the marketing training programs of our universities.
In the official documents I’ve tried to look for answers to the following questions:
- at what point does an issue occur — a person knows a lot, but does not know how to do anything;
- what and at what stage can market specialists do to change the state of things;
- how to reformat educational programs to manage students' academic time more rationally.
The presumable “root of evil” is not a single measure, therefore not only should it be sought in universities.
Focus on problem-solving
All the specialists I met personally and through resumes can be divided according to two criteria. The first is age: people differ depending on the date of obtaining a diploma. The second is a worldview.
Yesterday's students are easy-going, they start testing ideas right away, make mistakes, correct them, and can articulate the experience they just received. They lack practice. It can and should be selected at professional events, hackathons, and participation in your project (yes, you can create your project or offer your services to friends). After all, find detailed instructions on setting up advertising campaigns and analytics services on YouTube.
Among the candidates was a fifth-year student who surprised me with his deep knowledge of algorithms and metrics. Although they are lost without daily practice, it is still easy to read practical experience from the logic of the answers.
Business does not pay money for someone's disappointment — only for solving problems.
There is another category — those to whom everyone owes right from the start. These people are a bit older than yesterday's students, with inflated salary expectations and an existential burden about work. Perhaps there are signs of disillusionment with the corporate hierarchy. The best positions do not always go to more competent people. However, business does not pay money for someone's disappointment — only for solving problems.
Strategic vision and algorithmic
Interestingly, most of the candidates with perfectly built resumes can’t answer even simple questions. For example, how to introduce a product to a new market. I expect a person to start with research. It will give us several solid hypotheses, which we will test. In case a person chooses some other way to start, it is a bad sign. The exception is a relevant proven work experience in this market.
The answer "I haven't worked with it" will be correct for me — I appreciate the honesty.
"We optimized the ad campaign by 35%" is empty to me. It is better to start with a list of actions: switched bids to manual/automatic mode, changed keywords, tested so many visuals, gave up A in favor of B, and so on.
It is also good when people talk about mistakes and ways to fix them. Losing budgets with a few zeroes opens your eyes once and for all.
I always pay attention to the presence/absence of the interlocutor’s strategic vision.
I always pay attention to the presence/absence of the interlocutor’s strategic vision. One thing is certain, if we are looking for working hands, we focus on technical nuances and algorithm updates. For a higher position, seeing the full picture is crucial. For example, my team is formed both functionally and strategically — everyone is responsible for their area of work. But we look at the company's work and our place in it extensively, not partly.
Optimism and disappointment in universities’ marketing curriculums
I graduated from the university 10 years ago. And most of my time there I spent on KVN, friends, and experiments with my own business. I visited only some exceptional classes. In such cases, one and a half hours were flying by in an instant, and the number of new neural connections has been increasing tens of thousands of times.
Today's students have fewer reasons to be that lazy because marketing education in universities has evolved. Now there are more easy-to-understand and creative lecturers. Even professors with extensive experience study and discuss fresh cases with students. However, a significant amount of content still needs to be reviewed.
Just like 10 years ago, the student somewhere has to get the knowledge that the market needs. For example, where can they learn ways to pour traffic into the application, bypassing the restrictions of iOS 14+?
I reviewed bachelor's programs in marketing at four Kyiv universities. I chose as many different ones as possible. Since each industry has its requirements for the competencies of a marketer, I tried to see this in the list of disciplines.
- Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
The Faculty of Economics educates specialists in the field of management and administration, specializing in marketing. The authors of the curricula offer to take a course in university studies, Ukrainian and foreign culture, philosophy, socio-political studies, a scientific view of the world, a "green" economy, and other disciplines that are forgotten the next day after the test or exam.
The most useful disciplines are just a few. Psychology of mass behavior, behavioral economics, history and theory of nations and nationalisms, psychology of advertising, history of propaganda. Market research is among the mandatory ones.
The infrastructure of the commodity market, marketing price policy, and marketing commodity policy will be useful for trade marketers. Unfortunately, among the disciplines, I don't see those that will reveal Agile methodologies, and Power BI, and teach how to calculate metrics.
Insurance and accounting, history of economic thought, and other economic disciplines will not make a student a competitive marketer. They will only waste time and effort.
- National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
The Faculty of Economic Sciences, in its bachelor's curricula in marketing, offers students to dig into up-to-date issues of the discipline they choose. I hope young people will learn from the professor that Google has extended Cookies for a year, and Apple has banned tracking user behavior.
I agree with the need of learning Ukrainian and English. One day we will still switch to English-language document management, and this will not be a problem for local authorities. As for Ukrainian, a person with ambitions must be educated.
I agree with the study of marketing pricing and economic-mathematical modeling as well as the marketing of an industrial enterprise — provided that the curricula are filled with up-to-date information. In particular, it will be beneficial to get at least theoretical expertise in GR.
The question is, is it a high-quality marketer or an economist with a very broad profile being trained?
Financial and accounting disciplines are excessive in the marketing curricula. I understand that the faculty is focused on economic sciences in general, and not on marketing. Then the question is, are you training a high-quality marketer or an economist with a very broad profile? The latter will be strong in theory, but the business can hardly benefit from it. Accordingly, it will not pay money for it.
The name "Modern principles of consumer culture" promises a lot of knowledge. But in practice, it is difficult for me to imagine who and how was able to outline and academize at least some principles in the era of total consumption.
- Kyiv National University of Trade and Economics
The Faculty of Trade and Marketing trains junior marketing bachelors. The term of study is 1 year and 10 months (all others are 4 years).
The curricula offer a large number of hours of foreign language study in a professional direction — useful, because, despite the Ukrainian localization of advertising accounts, we operate with American abbreviations, and discover all updates in English. Economic informatics could be replaced by analytics and students should be introduced to at least the free Google Analytics tool.
Jurisprudence is an important discipline if it teaches students contract types and templates, invoicing rules, and advertising law. These topics can make 90% of candidates fail the interview. Statistics are useful in terms of marketing as it studies the client's habits.
Studying category management, product classification in retail, and information systems in retail is good for a category manager, not for a marketer. Even in retail.
From the optional disciplines, it is worth paying attention to aesthetics, if it teaches design thinking and is close to expertise in the field of UX/UI. Consumer psychology, psychology of trade, industry markets, the design instead of computer graphics (do not confuse one with the other) — this should replace what was mentioned in the previous paragraph. Add courses for mediators (not to be confused with the study of negotiations).
- National Aviation University
The educational and scientific institute of economics and management included the most useful disciplines in the marketing curricula. Product management, marketing integrated communications, merchandising, neuromarketing, organization of exhibition activities, consumer behavior, brand management, and others — all sound good.
On the other hand, accounting and logistics do not belong to the marketer's competence. Labor economics and social labor relations, money and credit, management, finance, commodity science, and the basics of commodity science — this time can be used more rationally. Optional disciplines include branding, marketing audit, product management, and aviation marketing organization, but why aren't they mandatory?
I would like to learn more about the content of international and electronic marketing programs, as well as expertise in the field of multinational corporations. If the state university was able to attract people who are able and ready to share such experiences, it inspires optimism.
The discipline competitiveness management of objects declared on the website is not confirmed in an official document. There is such a phenomenon as Product Market Fit — the ability to determine how well a product fits a particular market. This is an important skill. But what is the context of an “object”?
I see that NAU keeps the focus on its specialization. Hence the study of the organization of marketing activities in the aviation industry. The profile of universities is not the worst idea. The agricultural business has its requirements for a marketer, aviation has its own, and serial production has its own.
The overall mistake in the training of marketers
Marketing should be an individual specialty with niche specializations. If we talk about digital, then these are SMM managers, paid advertising specialists, SEO optimization specialists, account managers, copywriters, and others. If we train a specialist in traditional offline marketing, then these are brand managers, PR specialists, etc. Based on this, you can draw up curricula that will prepare the student to enter the highly competitive world.
Marketing should be an individual specialty with niche specializations.
That is, the graduate must receive a diploma of a marketer (not an economist) specializing in "Paid advertising", "Content manager", "Event manager" and so on. Profile distribution can be started from the third course.
This approach will allow graduates to quickly find work in good companies and teams. After all, it is a pity to see an enthusiastic young person who is pushed by the market into the arms of the cash register of a fast food restaurant.
What can be done today
After reviewing the curriculums of only four universities, I understood why the market situation is the way it is. Students are forced to seek additional education in the process of obtaining a supposedly thorough higher education. It sounds absurd. There are at least two solutions here — a longer and a shorter one.
A longer one
Reject non-core disciplines at the curricula level. Give free hours to master what will be desired in the market. I did not find subjects that would explain the specifics of work in B2B, B2C, and B2E. The market needs it, there are such vacancies — it would be great to get an idea of the directions during the study.
The easiest way to do this is by separating marketing from economic departments and faculties. As I wrote above, marketing should become an individual specialty with a clear division into online and offline and respective specializations.
A shorter one
The increase in the number of educational CSR projects by businesses. We are not talking now about a piece of paper stating the completion of an internship for a bottle of wine.
Since I could take several students for practice, I understand that my colleagues from the market also have the necessary resources. On what and how to choose — everyone can decide on their own. There are many options to sign agreements with universities, announce a competition for a wider audience, monitor specific events, and attract talented people from there.
To activate the short scenario and give a chance to the long one, the state and business should start a dialogue. People from the Ministry of Education know the procedural part best, my colleagues know the substantive part. Together we can create something more than a curriculum. Perhaps it will be an immersion experience in practice from the first year. Positive changes from such cooperation for the market, education system, and Ukraine as a whole can be huge. And it's kind of inspiring.