Insight From the Indelible Mark Ritson

Mark Ritson

When a crisis occurs, who do you call? Who indelibly comes to mind? Ghostbusters, Batman, Wonder Woman? We know no fantasy fictional character who can aid during this Covid-19 pandemic. But, we do know a super-marketer. Louise Bentley turns to this eponymous marketing mind for a conversation on vocation and Coronavirus.


NZ Marketing spoke with Mark Ritson at the hight of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, this is what he had to say about marketing in a time of crisis:

When did you have that ‘aha’ moment for your vocation as a Teacher of Marketing?

I never did. My interest was always in marketing, and I ended up becoming a professor because of this interest. This is important because I think a lot of marketing professors had an interest in being professors whereas I had an interest in marketing. I went through undergrad and into my PhD as a marketer, and found that while I was being trained up to be a business school professor, the teaching part was ignored. It’s all about doing research into the topic, and so for me, this research element naturally evolved into becoming a teacher. 

Why is the Mark Ritson Mini MBA such a successful online learning platform?

I think it’s a couple of things. About 50 percent of marketers don’t have any training in marketing, so there’s a huge niche there that we always knew existed. Those people who want to do training, already senior, but can’t just take a year or two years out of their career and study formally. They’re a big part of our target market. Then we’ve got a lot of other marketers, I mean digital marketers are a perfect example. They’re turning 30 now, and they know a lot about digital and almost nothing about marketing and that’s holding them back. So again, this is a big segment that we targeted very specifically. The last group we’ve got includes a lot of senior marketers who really don’t remember, or really didn’t have good training in marketing in the first place, and just want to benchmark their knowledge. So essentially, we applied the principles of marketing to the design of the course, and did a lot of research around these targeted segments. We built it for them, with this market in mind, rather than a university creating a course and then trying to sell it to people. 

We built it around certain parameters, and we positioned it on confidence as we went the benefit ladder and asked, what hit the mark with this one? It’s not just education. They want to be better at marketing performance, but mostly they lack confidence that they know a lot about the thing they do. So, we give them that confidence from the programme. Building on from this, it’s just been about advocacy – our Net Promoter Scores is plus 74. 

Of your 9000 graduates, did you identify a common ground or a common knowledge gap amongst Alumni? 

We have two courses: a marketing course and a brand course. What’s great about the brand course is the simulation that the alumni go through with the brands they have been managing for say the past five years. With this course, they discover the places in the simulation where they’re screwing up, and where they have weakness. Through this kind of learning, they become self-aware of where their holes are. 

Then, generally speaking, everyone wants to a focus on comms. But, as I tell them, that’s only six or seven percent of the challenge. So, we’ve created a module on communications, but it’s relatively minor in the course because comms is relatively minor in marketing. You know it’s essential, but it’s a small part of the bigger picture. So, I think that’s half the battle is just getting them to put comms way down the back end of the course, and do the other stuff first.

Is there an active Alumni?

Yes. So, what we do is we run the team. When you join a programme, you go into a LinkedIn group, and we use the this group to actively engage and facilitate engagement with alumni. We’ve got a really nice community who hang out together globally. And then what we do at the end of the course, is move them all to the global alumni group again on LinkedIn, and they join that bigger, broader group. It’s become a very nice network where a lot of recruitment has happened. So yeah, we have this really groovy alumni.

Recently, someone from Business Insider who was writing about the top five online MBA courses, reached out to me looking to get impressions from those who had completed the Mark Ritson Mini MBA. So, I just put a finger on the link in the alumni group saying this is the journalists email and if you’ve got five minutes, could you please connect with her because she wants to interview a few people. She emailed me about four hours later asking me to please tell them to stop emailling her because she hadn’t heard from anyone else on the other programmes, but had received about 150 emails.

Covid-19, we are here. Where is here?

Covid-19 is unprecedented to use the cliché. The recession that now follows is absolutely and utterly non-unprecedented from a marketing point of view. We know exactly what’s going to happen. We don’t know how long or how severe. But, we do know what the playbook should look like because we’ve studied the recessionary marketing playbook for literally 100 years. So, what you’ll see with marketers is almost all of them will ignore that because they’re future-focused and they don’t look backward to learn. Only the smart companies and smart marketers will realise that we’re now into an absolutely predictable situation. So, yeah, it’ll be fun to see how that plays out, but what tends to happen is the big, smart companies will only get bigger and smarter. And, that’s kind of the way of the last century has gone. 

Quick Fire Five

  1. Red or White? Red.
  2. Spirits? Cognac, spent nine years working at Hennessey.
  3. Book or Podcast? Podcast.
  4. Three professional development books? Good Strategy Bad Strategy: my favourite book on decision making. I learned more from that book than any other. Playing to Win which is lovely. That’s my favourite applied marketing book on how they turned P&G around, I just thought it was breath-taking. How Brands Grow: I think, the way that it challenges the thinking is really a stunning achievement. There are so many accepted truths in marketing, and anyone’s initial response to it is that crap can’t be right. But, it really is the source of so much of the modern thinking on branding, at least I think.
  5. Favourite Album/Soundtracks? Anything by John Barry or Classical. Good to work by.

This article was originally published in the June/July 2020 issue of NZ Marketing. You can subscribe to the magazine, here.

About Louise Bentley

Louise Bentley is Director/Owner at Energi Advertising Holdings.

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