James Dunn, MSc Strategic Marketing (online, part-time) 2021-23, student at Imperial College Business School
MSc Strategic Marketing (online, part-time)

BSc Psychology, Brunel University London


Founder, JALA

What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?

I have a varied and unorthodox career background. I started working in film/TV, then post-graduation I had a stint as a trainee psychologist in a unit for offenders. I then took on a managerial in an ecommerce startup to eventually starting my own company abroad a few years ago.

Why did you decide to study MSc Strategic Marketing (online, part-time) at Imperial College Business School?

I wanted to study at Imperial not to have a notch on my CV, but because I wanted to become a better marketer. The world is changing fast, and marketing changes faster than most other professions. So, Imperial's emphasis on the practical components of marketing and business appealed to me a lot. Marketing in the real world isn't always formulaic, it isn't a profession which always rewards '1+1=2' thinking. Imperial's programme seemed to focus as much on building skills, as it did on teaching core frameworks of knowledge, which underpin these skills.

In short, there seemed to be a focus on 'future proofing' its students in addition to encouraging independent, creative thinking. These two aspects are critical when pursuing a profession which is constantly in a state of flux.

Additionally, the world-class faculty means that the students are always abreast of new developments and findings. A particular example of this which comes to mind is in the Consumer Behaviour module, where one of the sessions actually presented findings pre-publication (for MIT Sloan's management review) - i.e. students in the cohort were aware of these findings before the rest of the business world was!

Did you receive a scholarship?

Yes, and I'm still surprised I did! It was a true honour, and I now go the extra mile to ensure I live up to Imperial's expectations. Frankly, I don't think I could have afforded to study at Imperial without it as my business was hit quite hard by COVID-19 at the time and I wasn't eligible for an loan. I'll forever be grateful to the admissions committee for this.


Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

Strategic Market Management. Dr Omar Merlo's module isn't all Venn diagrams and flowcharts. His insights are practical and the content is so varied you will genuinely look forward to the next session. I was actually sad to finish it. I can honestly say this module has made me challenge a lot of my entrenched (and incorrect) beliefs I had about marketing. Despite us having access to Dr Merlo's 'Strategic Marketing' textbook for free, I actually purchased a hard copy because I think many of the insights are nigh-on timeless.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?

So far? I would say an assignment we had to submit for the Strategic Market Management module. Students had to prepare a video presentation in a group for a product or service of their choice and launch it in a new market.

The project was very challenging, but it felt very 'real' - essentially students feel they are in the CMO hot seat. I was delighted with the grade our group received for it, and to have a world-class professor like Dr Merlo approve of it, meant a lot to me on a personal level as evidence we had absorbed and understood marketing principles which are vital in the real world.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?

Imperial College hasn't achieved its world-class reputation as a Business School by being relaxed. There IS a lot of studying, and it does take some time to adjust this study around your existing professional obligations. However, once you find your rhythm (usually within the first month) you'll be fine!

Have you found the programme learnings to be directly applicable to your role?

Very much so. Overall, the programme's focus on the long term, strategic benefits of marketing highlighted a lot of my shortfalls in this area and the ways to improve upon them.

More specifically:

  • Strategic Market Management: I have incorporated customer delight, and focused less on differentiating the brand, instead choosing to focus more on the components of my products that customers actually care about.
  • Consumer Behaviour: I have tried to remove cognitive load, analysed routes of persuasion and utilised storytelling in marketing communication more.
  • Digital Marketing: I have tailored marketing communications more explicitly to different stages of the user journey and used QR codes more.

How have you found studying on The Hub?

The Hub is slick. I have dyslexia so it was an enormous relief to discover just how clean and intuitive the platform was. The ability to download captions was ideal for me.

The sessions themselves are varied, the public discussions make online learning more interactive and gamification makes the content even more engaging.  I much prefer it to learning in person.


How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

Marketers are a fun bunch, and the cohort at Imperial are no different. They hail from all kinds of professional backgrounds from all over the world. The only thing that they seem to have in common is that everyone I have had dealings with are approachable, down to Earth and very friendly. It is surprising how much camaraderie has been fostered, so quickly, given the fact the programme is online.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

Dr Andreas Eisingerich's infectious, childlike enthusiasm would make even the most stoic student smile and even the most knowledgeable marketer will find his content packed with insights. 


Which workshops, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?

Joseph Liu's personal branding workshop at the beginning of term was excellent. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of a marketer's personal branding isn't what it should be (mostly because they spend all their time managing other people's brands!).

Networking, in particular, is probably the weakest area of my skillset. It also becomes a whole lot easier when you have developed some kind of personal brand and Joseph's class helped a lot in developing this in a straightforward, achievable way which demystifies the process.

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?

I'm part of the Consulting and FMCG clubs. As you find out when committing to the programme, tactics in navigating some career paths aren't immediately obvious. Imperial clubs assist a great deal with this, as you get to share experiences and bounce ideas off like-minded individuals, with similar career goals.


What are your future career goals?

At present I'm considering a broad spectrum of options, including: creative agency, consulting, academia or indeed, to launch another business venture. 

So far, Imperial has helped to broaden my horizons, by introducing new career paths I hadn't previously considered. Students on the two year part-time programme also benefit from an additional year to weigh up their career goals, so I intend to utilise this to the fullest.

How did the services from Careers help in your professional development/securing employment?

I was very impressed with the Careers team. They aren't just paying lip service to careers advice; they really do help a lot and some advisors in particular are rooting for you! To have these insightful, connected experts at your disposal for two years is a resource that students would be foolish not to utilise.

London location

Do you think studying at a London-based institution is beneficial for career opportunities?

London is a brand in and of itself. It is an international hub for both education and business. Most organisations with an international footprint will have a presence and offices in London. To think this is on the doorstep of Imperial and at the disposal of its students will surely provide career benefits for years to come.


Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online webinars or on-campus information sessions?

I found the Unibuddy app very helpful. I used it to ask specific queries I had with a few different students about the programme prior to submitting my application.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?

Do you love marketing? Do you have a desire to pursue a career in it? Then what are you waiting for!? I didn't even think I'd get in, let alone receive a scholarship. So, my advice would be to just go for it, you won’t regret it.

MSc Strategic Marketing (online, part-time)

BSc Psychology, Brunel University London


Founder, JALA

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