The future is digital: Choose the right MBA brand for the long-term

As digital turns the world on its head, MBA programs also find themselves faced with the inevitability of going digital. We sat down with Andrew Dalik, Strategic Brand Projects Senior Manager for the University of St.Gallen’s Full-Time MBA, to talk about what this means for prospective MBA students and why St.Gallen is already thinking 10 years ahead.

In short

The evolutions of the University of St.Gallen MBA

Is an MBA the ultimate act of brand loyalty?

Across the products and services we use in our lives, we all have our favorite brands that we stick with no matter what. An MBA degree takes this brand loyalty to a whole new level.

When you choose an MBA program, you are choosing to showcase this brand on your CV for life, to become part of this alumni network for life. As Andrew tells us, MBA programs are asking for the ultimate brand loyalty. So, it’s critical for prospective students to ask: Will this brand stay relevant in the long-term?

Digital as a key deciding factor when choosing an MBA

The arrival of digitized MBA programs is not wholly new, Andrew tells us, but historically, the MBA world has held a deeply ingrained self-identity of being a high-touch industry. Think in-person recruitment meetings, 1-to-1 career advisory, and alumni social experiences. 

As a result of the pandemic, both schools and students are realizing that digital is not just a tool – it’s connected to brand value. “Good design builds trust,” Andrew explains. “If you have a good user experience, you’re going to trust that brand more and we need to ask ourselves on every aspect that we communicate digitally, are we building trust or are we eroding trust? For all departments to realize that the digital tools that we use are not just supplementary to the experience, they are the experience of your program, of your brand.” (00:48)

At the University of St.Gallen, the team has built an in-house studio to record and live stream lectures, alumni panels, and conferences. The school is also equipping staff and external lecturers with home kits that include high-quality cameras, lighting, and other technical equipment, to raise everyone’s standards and competencies in the area of digital communication. When it comes to going digital, it is clear that designing user-centric digital experiences is becoming a key aspect of St.Gallen’s long-term thought process.

If you are in the process of shortlisting grad schools for your MBA, consider how these schools are using digital to elevate not just the learning experience, but the entire journey from application process to life-long alumni community engagement.

Where do companies stand?

Unsurprisingly, career opportunities play a major role in every student’s decision-making process. You want to choose a strong school that will boost your career. As a prospective student, you need to ask: “What do companies think of this school and of this brand?”

The answer here is, again, increasingly about digital. How are MBA programs leveraging digital competencies to maintain relationships with companies?

“There’s a lot of stakeholders…but it’s these companies who are hiring our graduates every year who we need to make sure we’re continuing to provide value to,” Andrew says. (01:22)

At the University of St.Gallen, the team is using digital strategies to improve employer branding opportunities. Earlier this year, the Corporate Relations team visited a major B2B manufacturing company to create a film exclusively for the MBA. They interviewed employees, showcased their work, and offered a glimpse of their facilities. In the past, this particular company has found it difficult to generate interest from students at in-person career events. The attractiveness of working for the company wasn’t translating as effectively as they wanted it to. 

However, after St.Gallen aired the video – which featured a mix of serious and fun questions, slick editing, good music, and high production value – to its MBA students, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Many students expressed their admiration for the company and how it seemed like a really great place to work. They also appreciated that the video was tailored specifically to their MBA program. The company was equally happy with the outcome. The University of St.Gallen MBA now has long-term plans to offer companies digital video collaborations for employer branding opportunities.

By harnessing the power of digital, universities can strengthen their reputation with companies, and in turn, attract students who are looking for educational institutions with strong corporate connections.

The future is digital

There are those who are looking forward to going ‘back to normal’ in the post-pandemic world. Unfortunately for them, the arrow of time only points forward – which means digital is here to stay.

The pool of MBA candidates is increasingly made up of younger generations like Gen Y and Gen Z (you!), who are coming from a world of work that is already highly digital. When you graduate from your MBA, companies will have become even more digitized. Thus, schools need to evolve in parallel to these labor market realities, making sure they remain relevant and able to equip students effectively to find career success. 

For Andrew, it is crucial to think in longer terms – on a 10-year time horizon, the baseline digital savviness of MBA applicants will be much higher than it already is today. MBA brands that embrace this can invest in their software, hardware, content and people accordingly.

As we’ve demonstrated, quality of digital experiences is set to become a new key differentiator for MBA programs around the world. To help you choose an MBA brand that will remain relevant long-term, we challenge you to ask schools: What is your 10-year strategy for evolving digitally?

Share this article: