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MBA Marketing Strategies from Downton Abbey


MBA marketing strategiesAs business schools refine marketing strategies in the New Year, it’s worth tuning into the spectacularly successful PBS drama, “Downton Abbey,” for some imaginative ideas.

The third season began last week with 7.9 million viewers, up 49% from the season 2 finale.  Imagine increasing MBA enrollment by those double digits.   

It is clear that the producers of this period primetime soap are on to something.  Aside from adding high tea to information sessions, what lessons can MBA admissions and marketing officers learn from Lord Grantham and cast?  

Visual appeal. The sumptuous costume drama keeps viewers coming back for more.  From elegant décor to exquisite gowns, the cinematography captivates with beautiful backgrounds.  How aesthetically pleasing are your MBA marketing materials?  Make sure your website, brochures, and email lead nurturing campaigns present your program to its full advantage.  Include stunning photos in blog postings.  Add a colorful branded banner in email campaigns. Incorporate videos that showcase your b-school.

Broad following.  Available in 200 nations and regions and dozens of languages, Downton Abbey reaches an extensive audience.  As you look for ways to increase inquiries and applications, make sure you augment brand awareness within the broadest geographical pool possible.  Consider ad placement in airports, train stations, and billboards on major highways.  While part-time and Executive MBA students value convenience, I know numerous matriculants who chose to drive considerable distances to a regional program of choice.

Edwardian etiquette.  The series is all about manners, courtesy, and protocol – something that seems increasingly elusive in our modern culture.  How is your program responding to prospects?  Speed and responsiveness matter.  Yet, don’t forget about the importance of the personal touch.  Take a tip from an EMBA program that places a call to a candidate within a day after information is requested online.  Now, that's white glove treatment.   

Aristocrats are humans, too.  Amidst the stately estates, the scintillating storyline paints a portrait of relatable characters and emotional relevancy.  Remember, prospects are interested in your brand, but they are engaging with people.  Humanize your business school by ensuring you have photos, names, and contact details of front-line admissions staff on your website.  Make these profiles more interesting by referencing hobbies or interests.  Build close and lasting relationships by establishing a common connection.

Great storytelling. – Don Hewitt, the creator of CBS’s “60 minutes” explained the phenomenal success of his iconic news magazine with 4 simple words - “Tell me a story.”  In addition to descriptive content of program facts and details, remember the importance of storytelling in MBA marketing materials.  Include testimonials that take the reader on a compelling journey of a student’s professional or personal development.  Illustrate cohort teamwork in action.  For example, an EMBA student, and expectant father, learned on his international field study in Shanghai that his wife went into labor.  A blog posting describes how his team members worked together to get him home as quickly as possible to see his new son.  With a few strokes on the keyboard, a classmate elevates study group camaraderie into a special bond of peers sharing life's most meaningful milestones.  Whether it's a Masterpiece Theatre viewer or an MBA candidate, people love stories. 

Barbara Coward, author of this article, is a marketing communications consultant at Percept Research.  Barbara welcomes your questions and comments


What are some strategies in corporate outreach that has worked for lead generation?
Posted @ Tuesday, January 15, 2013 11:23 AM by Greg Gulliford
Hi Greg, 
Employer presentations are a great way to increase leads. Current students and alumni can help you identify the best contact (CEO, HR) in their organization to get "in the door" for a partnership discussion. A visually-engaging PowerPoint incorporating testimonials can reinforce the benefits to the employer. Hope that helps!
Posted @ Tuesday, January 15, 2013 1:22 PM by Barbara Coward
Many times the personal touch is the best. Personal phone calls or meetings with current, past, and prospective candidates (or other network contacts) can be the most consistent way to find high quality and qualified leads. It has always amazed me how generous people can be in referring "new business" to you if they value and believe in what you have to offer. Sometimes it is as simple as making a personal request. Clients have been amazed at the results - but it does put a lot of people outside their comfort zone. Think of it less as "selling" and more as "requesting information" - this can make a world of difference in your comfort level in making calls or setting up meetings. Coffees, lunches, and dinners work as well - if there are 200 work days in the year and 3 chances per day then there could be at least 600 high quality opportunities to meet and ask for referrals. How many new leads do you need?!? ;)
Posted @ Tuesday, January 15, 2013 2:59 PM by Brent Ward
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