Evidence-Based Innovation Blog

MBA Marketing Strategies from The Great Gatsby

Posted on May 16, 2013 10:04:00 AM

Great Gatsby ImageFans of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby frolicked by the millions to see the latest Hollywood adaption of this classic Jazz Age novel. This lavish drama roared like its depicted decade to exceed box office expectations on opening weekend. It's no surprise. The previews showcased glitz and glamour, sumptuous costumes, and the always debonaire DiCaprio portraying the mysterious millionaire. 

While a film about over-the-top decadence and bootlegging business dealings seems an unlikely reference for business school recruitment, there are some take-away lessons when it comes to marketing your MBA program.1)      Who is your Nick Carraway?

Great Gatsby Blog   2In the storyline, the unassuming narrator, Nick Carraway, plays a pivotal role helping his flamboyant neighbor, Jay Gatsby, reconnect with his long-lost love, Daisy Buchanan, who also happens to be Nick’s second cousin. The reintroduction takes place at Nick’s humble seaside cottage that Gatsby has transformed into the most romantic tea party infused with ethereal white flowers and pastel confections. It’s an intimate setting and a sharp contrast to the rambunctious crowd of revelers who attend Gatsby’s extravagant parties at his elaborate estate.

As you build your MBA marketing plan for the next academic year, be sure to include personalized MBA referral programs for one-on-one introductions in addition to big recruitment events. Identify the Nick Carraways of your program. Which students and alums are your biggest advocates?  Invite them out to lunch, coffee – or, yes, even tea (with or without flowers).  

2)      Throw a Party 

Great Gatsby Blog   3Business education is serious business. We know that.  But in today’s world, people like to be entertained. And that includes MBA candidates. So how can you make your information sessions more fun while preserving serious content about your curriculum?

Take a look at the movie theater chain, Cinepolis, in Southern California for some innovative ideas. They have transformed the movie-going experience with fully-reclining leather chairs, at-your-seat waiter service with a gourmet menu including “zebra” popcorn (covered in white and dark chocolate) and movie-themed cocktails such as the West Egg. 

How can you upgrade your MBA information sessions to make them that more special and get people talking? Why not serve signature non-alcoholic drinks named after your business school (maybe with your brand’s colors)? Or frosted cupcakes with your school's logo? How about customized, branded M&Ms? It doesn’t have to add significant expense to your marketing budget if you find a creative and entrepreneurial graduate assistant or local artisan looking to increase brand awareness.  

3)      Strategic Partnerships

Great Gatsby Blog   4Academy-award winning costume designer, Catherine Martin, brought Gatsby characters to sumptious sartorial life through collaborations with Brooks Brothers and Tiffany, both of whom F. Scott Fitzgerald patronized back in the day. These retailers in turn created their own limited-edition collections celebrating the film and the period. For Brooks Brothers, boater hats and pink linen suits adorn store entrances. For Tiffany, diamond chandelier earrings and pearl tassel necklaces shimmer in shop windows. These strategic partnerships have served to increase brand exposure and expand customer reach.

So, what are some creative collaborations can you establish to extend the visibility of your business school brand? Maybe it’s partnering with corporate conferences that take place in your city. Perhaps its developing messaging that incorporates themes from a best-selling novel or movie to tie into your business school's value proposition. Create a strong sense of relevancy to reach prospects (particularly Millennials) where their attention is.

4)      Develop Content that Inspires Self-discovery

Great Gatsby Blog   5A character larger than life, Jay Gatsby reinvents himself from humble beginnings with a strong sense of determination and a single purpose in mind. His narrative explores themese of personal ambition, self-discovery, and the pursuit of dreams.

On some levels, it’s not all that far off from MBA candidates. You might even say that MBA programs sell hope to rising professionals experiencing restlessness, perhaps dissatisfaction, or just feeling that something is missing in their professional lives. In order to connect emotionally through content, be sure to address hopes and dreams. Consider the vantage point of the prospect from their perspective.  And remember each candidate is unique. Instead of content that tells, include content that listens. Address their needs and wants instead of diving into a description of offerings.  And don't forget testimonials that demonstrate reinvention, old sport. 

MBA Marketing and Recruitment Strategies

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

Topics: Barbara Coward, Admissions, Marketing Strategy