Date: 25 Jun 2012
INNOVATION PROFILE UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School
UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School is launching a new MSc in Digital Marketing in September and aims to become a world leader in this multi-billion euro area. Several new staff members have been recruited internationally to lead the new programme and the school also has support from several of the leading international online companies based in Dublin.
“In the early years of the internet and the dotcom boom, there was a view that online media offered just another tool to marketers and retailers, but the fundamental business model stayed the same,” says UCD Smurfit School head of marketing Prof Mary Lambkin. “Now, however, we have come to the point where it is recognised that the value chain of business has been fundamentally changed by the internet resulting in a very different business model. In other words, there has been a paradigm shift in the way business is organised and conducted, and in the way we market and distribute our products and services.”
And the evidence of this shift is readily to hand in the online marketing and sales statistics. Digital media plays a vital role in most advertising campaigns and digital marketing has become a €50 billion global industry and is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 20 per cent. In many markets, online advertising expenditure has overtaken TV expenditure and is set to triple in size over the next five years.
Online retailing now accounts for about 10 per cent of all retail activity and it is growing at over 10 per cent per annum. Online sales in the UK in 2011 were £50 billion (€60 billion) or 12 per cent of UK retail trade. For the whole of Europe, the total market was worth €200 billion in 2011, up from €170 billion in 2010.
The new programme is a direct response to this paradigm shift. “Describing and understanding this shift is the contribution of academic writers and researchers, and sharing this knowledge with students through teaching programmes is how this knowledge gets disseminated around the business world,” Prof Lambkin notes.
The rapid replacement of traditional media by social networking sites, websites, blogs, and video sharing sites has created an urgent need for businesses to think innovatively about how to capture the opportunities of the enormous audience available through digital channels. Marketing professionals must have an in-depth understanding of digital tools and techniques that permeate all aspects of the interaction with customers and consumers.
And the consequent need for proficiency in all aspects of digital media points to a huge demand for education in this area. Like many new knowledge areas, it seems to be a case of practice leading academia in this emerging subject area.
“Lots of courses on digital marketing have appeared to service the need for skills in this area but these are typically short certificate or diploma courses provided by commercial entities without accreditation from universities,” says Lambkin. “The faculty at the UCD Smurfit Business School believes therefore that there is a need and an opportunity for a recognised international business school to exercise leadership in this area by developing a world class masters degree in digital marketing targeted at an international student community.”
While the programme may appear relevant and timely it still had to pass a rigorous testing and evaluation process within the university before it was accredited. “Universities are interested in offering programmes which are of enduring value. They can’t be short term and they must be demonstrably able to stand the test of time. The new programme has been approved by the relevant boards and the Academic Council of the University. We have done quite a bit of research into competitive offers in this area and to our knowledge we are the first business school in Europe to offer an internationally accredited course in this area.”
Programme director Dr Laurent Muzellec agrees. “There hasn’t been a masters programme specifically designed around digital marketing before. The idea now is to provide a professional course but UCD has the opportunity to expand the programme and I believe this will be the start of something new. From an international perspective Dublin is already recognised as a location for digital marketing. I am a member of the Social Media Club here in Paris and when we have conversations about what we need to do people talk about contacting Dublin because it is recognised as the second major decision making point for the major companies in the area.”
Prof Lambkin believes the course is also a good example of academic entrepreneurship. “It may not be usual to think of universities or academics as entrepreneurs but, in fact, universities are engaged in entrepreneurship every time they set up a new education programme, which is their particular product”, Lambkin says. “In fact, UCD has a long history as an innovator in business education – we actually launched the first MBA in Europe, and remain an international leader in that area.”
Turning to the programme itself, Prof Lambkin says that digital marketing is about more than digital media.
“The term digital marketing is associated almost exclusively with digital media in many peoples’ minds but that does not do justice to the breadth or depth of the subject. In fact, digital marketing should be thought of as covering all aspects of the value chain, from market research and product development, to design, planning, procurement, production, selling and distribution, communications and financial measurement. The new programme will provide deep and comprehensive coverage of each of these topics as well as paying attention to the linkages among them.”
The aim of the programme is to combine training on the various online tools with a strategic focus on how they impact on business models. “Digital marketing is impossible to comprehend, let alone manage if one does not understand the mechanics of the new digital tools,” says Lambkin. “Our programme provides training on those tools, but we also give a strategic outlook to our content by looking how those tools require an adaption of the organisation and the development of a new communication strategy both internally and externally.”
There are four core modules which cover the key aspects of digital marketing as well as four electives. The core modules are marketing in a digital environment; digital marketing communications; market research and web data analytics; and customer relationship management. These modules cover the essentials of digital marketing such as search engine optimisation, managing social media and analysing web data through Google analytics.
The four electives include modules from the MSc in I-business and the MSc in Marketing. These would allow an experienced marketer to choose modules such as ICT organisational change, ICT infrastructure for innovation, ICT project management in order to expand their knowledge of ICT management, while an engineer may want to extend their knowledge in key marketing areas such as consumer marketing, brand management or sales management.
Prof Lambkin believes the course’s location in Dublin will also enhance its attractiveness. “Dublin as a location will be a strong point in its favour, due to its acknowledged status as the digital hub of Europe. The presence of companies such as Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn which have links with the school will also be an advantage in providing teaching input and project work, as well as internship and employment opportunities to add value to the masters programme. John Herlihy, the CEO of Google, and Trevor Madigan, global sales director of Facebook, are on our advisory boards and we also have support from the other leading online companies with bases here in Dublin. We are confident that they will contribute to our programme in various ways as well as possibly hiring our graduates.”
“These companies will give us the opportunity to provide extremely relevant content,” adds Dr Muzellec. “This will be very important internationally. Our goal is to provide a masters that will be renowned at a European level at least.”