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A Marketing Strategy to Make Your Business School Go Places

business school marketing

Oh, the places they’ll go!

For Oxford MBA alumnus Srin Madipalli, it was creating momentum with an ‘Airbnb’ for the mobility sector.

Jenny Lewis of Rice Jones brewed up a taproom.

Meanwhile, Leonard Dick has a “good” story for his Harvard MBA.

Then there’s David Fajgenbaum.  This Wharton MBA alumnus is making a difference as co-founder of the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network.

UCLA Anderson MBA alumna Christine McCarthy created career magic of her own as the first female CFO at Disney.


business school

business school

business school

All impressive alumni success stories.

And a sound strategy for business schools looking to attract talent who will become the next Srin, Jenny, Leonard, David, or Christine.

But is it the only strategy to inspire prospective students?

Consider this.

According to psychological biases, human beings are more motivated by what they will lose rather than what they would gain.

Loss aversion is shown to be “far more painful than gaining something advantageous is pleasing”.

(Check out Daniel Kahneman’s study with mugs and chocolate for more insight on loss aversion theory.)

So why are we showing examples of what prospective students will gain from business school rather than how they would avoid a loss?

Think about it.  Business school websites and social media posts are brimming with examples of impressive outcomes through alumni success stories, promotions, salary increases, etc..

What would happen if we started showing the risk of staying with the status quo?

I was intrigued by a recent Poets & Quants article on Executive MBAs in the Class of 2015.

A series of interviews with thirty exceptional alumni included fill-in-the blank answers and one, in particular, stood out.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be….

Some of the replies:

“…doing the same old things in the same old way and would be a less effective general counsel and business partner.”  – Peter Saba, Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“…Less. Less fulfilled, less educated, less happy, less confident, less tired, less understanding, less mature, less busy, just less.” – Ashley Sager, MIT, Sloan School of Management

“…I’d be more risk adverse and far less strategic.”Father Pete McCormack, CSC, University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

“…would not have been given the opportunity to be a part of my new organization, Caanan Resource Partners. I felt that my experience at SMU Cox gave me a competitive edge, and helped me better prepare for my new role.” – Freddie Barela, SMU, Cox School of Business

“…lacking the personal growth and understanding of the broader world of business that I gained from the rich experiences that were shared by my classmates.” – Melinda Schockley, Ph.D., Boston University, Questrom School of Business

“…ill-prepared for the challenge of becoming CFO of one of the country’s fastest growing companies. It is not an exaggeration to say that my MBA has fundamentally changed the way I look at and approach business. I am much more prepared, and much more confident regarding the unique challenges of running a $100 million business.” – Scott Gates, ASU, W.P. Carey School of Business

“…feeling intellectually and professionally incomplete.”  – Jolly Mazumdar, Columbia Business School

“…one of many leaders seeking to find a competitive advantage through the means around oneself. That approach is much harder, longer, and many times less successful.” – Flavio Palaci, IESE Global Executive MBA

“…wondering why I did not accept the challenge of making myself a better person, a better listener, a better teacher and a valuable advocate for my patients and the future of healthcare in my region.” – Steven Mark Ettinger, Penn State University, Smeal College of Business

“…disappointed and always wonder “what if”.”Lars Carlson, Michigan State University, Broad College of Business

“…at a competitive disadvantage and less confident in my ability to manage business-building, strategic conversations with my C-Suite executive team.” –  Shanise Anderson, NYU Stern

“…Infinitely less prepared to start or run a business.”  – Derek Herrera, UCLA Anderson

“…most probably doing the same things, the same way. I would have missed the opportunity to know myself better, to develop untapped parts of me and meet the exceptional people I have met.  I would not be the person I am now.” – Sebastian Cerezo Montanz, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“…stuck in a rut instead of bringing new problem-solving methods to the table and mentoring my peers.” – Jackie Dawson, University of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business

Passionate. Powerful. Persuasive.

Think about all the ways your business school can leverage “loss aversion” in your recruitment strategies and marketing messages.

From there, your programs and prospective students will go to some amazing places.

As the good doctor said,

“You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.”