The Marketing PhD pathway


Marketing is the study of how organisations interact with customers (and vice versa). As such, it focuses on how organisations create value for customers and capture value from customers in return.

The academic discipline of Marketing is divided into 3 broad areas or sub-fields:

  • marketing strategy
  • marketing modelling
  • consumer behaviour

In the Marketing group you’ll find scholars from each of these sub-fields.

Professor Jaideep Prabhu talks about the Marketing pathway.

Hi, I’m Jaideep Prabhu, and I’m a professor of marketing, here at Cambridge Judge Business School. I also head the Marketing group here in the School. I’m here to tell you a few things about what you need to know if you’re interested in doing a PhD and pursuing a career as a marketing academic.

So what is marketing all about? Marketing is really about the relationship between organisations and external stakeholders, particularly customers. More formally, marketing is the process of creating and maintaining relationships with customers and their response to these efforts.

At Cambridge Judge, we focus on three areas, the three areas of marketing that most people around the world focus on. First is the area of consumer behaviour, which is the study really of customers in their lives or in their organisations and how they respond to marketing efforts. Typically, people who study customer behaviour tend to use psychology as a theory and experimental lab studies as a way to test these theories.

The second area that we focus on is the area of mathematical modelling, of how firms compete with each other in trying to attract the custom of buyers. This approach is typically influenced by economics. It uses techniques, such as game theory, and often has an empirical component, as well, which uses either experimental data, or naturally occurring data, such as data that’s acquired through stores, through loyalty cards, on how customers respond to price discounts, or positioning of products on the shelf spaces of stores, or advertising inserts in newspapers.

So that’s the second area of focus. A third area is called marketing strategy, and tends to focus more on the decision making of managers within firms vis-a-vis markets and customers. This approach tends to be influenced both by behavioural fields such as psychology, as well as economics and some more organisational series. This area tends to use data that’s generated through surveys or naturally occurring data on panels of firms and their performance over time.

We are fortunate at Cambridge Judge to have people in our group who study each of these areas. So for instance, Eric Levy is very much focused on consumer behaviour and tends to use psychology and lab studies to look at issues, such as prosocial behaviour amongst consumers. For instance, why do some consumers give time versus money in their more charitable activities?

A couple of my colleagues tend to do more of the analytical work that I mentioned. Dominique Lauga and Vincent Mak tend to use mathematical techniques borrowed from economics and game theory to look at how firms compete with each other, for instance, in their advertising or innovation activities, or even how consumers make decisions– for instance, their search behaviour.

So Vincent is very interested in customer search behaviour and has mathematical models of that, which he tests using data from labs. Dominique tends to look at firm competition using game theory. Finally, Eden Yin and myself focus more on marketing strategy and the behaviour of firms in their marketing activities, particularly their innovation activities. So both Eden and I are very interested in how firms around the world make innovation decisions, how they develop new products, and how this affects their performance.

If you were to come to Cambridge Judge to do an MPhil and a PhD, you would decide which of these areas to focus on, and who you would want to work on. And that, of course, would set the pattern for the rest of your academic career. Something that really differentiates our approach within Cambridge is to work quite closely, as far as possible, with organisations.

In marketing, particularly those of us who study marketing strategy and firms behaviour, this is a very fruitful approach. So for instance, in my own research, I tend to work with organisations that use marketing strategies to reach customers, whether in the for-profit or not-for-profit sector. And through this deep engagement with organisations, we hope not only to do more interesting research, but also to be able to influence the world of practise and improve our teaching.

So with those words, I would encourage you, if you are interested in any of these areas, to apply and to get in touch with us. And we’d be happy to speak to you and potentially work with you down the road. Thank you.

View video with transcript

The pathway

To start on the Marketing pathway you must take one of the following 9-month masters programmes:

MPhil in Strategy, Marketing and Operations

Master of Research (MRes)

Essential reading

Download detailed information about the 9-month + 4-year programme structure and content.

The Marketing PhD pathway

Research areas

You will find that the context for study within the Marketing pathway at Cambridge Judge Business School is broad and can be divided into three main sub-fields: marketing strategy, marketing modelling, and consumer behaviour.  

Our group members publish in leading international journals in areas such as marketing and innovation in emerging markets, experimental economics, econometrics, game theory and industrial organisation, innovation, unstructured and big data, and behavioural decision making.

  • Study of a firm’s interactions with its customers (and other external stakeholders) from the perspective of the firm’s managers.
  • Quantitative analysis of empirical data is used to address questions that link a firm’s performance with its actions and those of its managers vis-à-vis external stakeholders.

Scholars in this sub-field:

  • Ahmed Khwaja
  • Jaideep Prabhu
  • Eden Yin
  • Economic analysis of the interactions between firms and consumers.
  • Use of analytical modelling with a game theory approach, the econometric analysis of empirical data and experimental economics methods to address research questions.

Scholars in this sub-field:

  • Ahmed Khwaja
  • Dominique Lauga
  • Shasha Lu
  • The psychology of how consumers think, feel and reason as well as choose between different. marketplace alternatives.
  • Researchers draw heavily upon the theories and methodologies of experimental psychology and experimental social psychology in particular.

Scholars in this sub-field:

  • Dominique Lauga
  • Vincent Mak

Examples of current research

The context for study within the Marketing pathway is broad. To give you more of a taste, the phenomena and research questions currently being investigated by our faculty and PhD students include:

  • the marketing practices of micro-entrepreneurs in low-income economies
  • the extent to which consumers are able to wait strategically for future price markdowns and how this is affected by product scarcity
  • how moral identity impact preferences for donating time vs money to charity.

What we expect from you

You will need to have a first class bachelors degree or equivalent. In some cases you will need to have a masters degree from a highly regarded university and to have performed within the top 5% of your class. Many applicants have first degrees in economics, mathematics, psychology, engineering or the sciences, however we also consider applicants with a humanities degree.

You will demonstrate a high level of commitment to an academic career in a business school as well as a desire to engage with external organisations. 

You will have to provide evidence of excellent writing skills and strong evidence of quantitative ability, either through results in statistics and calculus courses at university level or through GRE results. Practical management experience is welcome but not essential.

For more details, please see the academic requirements for the:

MPhil in Strategy, Marketing and Operations

Master of Research (MRes)

What you can expect from us

Prepare to start your exciting academic research career at Cambridge Judge. 

  • Become part of our team from the outset, you will be treated as a junior colleague rather than a student.  
  • Experience an apprenticeship in the best sense as the Marketing subject group works with you and trains you to become an independent researcher with an exciting research programme. 
  • Produce a portfolio of academic papers that will help you succeed in the job market and gain a junior faculty position following your PhD. 
  • Work with faculty members on joint research projects for publication in leading academic journals. 
  • Learn from a series of courses focused on research methodology and the foundations of the discipline. 
  • Take more advanced research seminars, where you will learn to critique papers and shape and position your own work as a significant contribution to the academic literature in Marketing.  
  • You will develop a coherent and innovative research programme that is relevant for solving real-world problems, with the support of the Marketing subject group.  
  • Your research may require you to engage with external organisations directly. This engagement will help you gain access to unique data, which in turn will help you shed new light on ongoing academic debates.  
  • Alternatively, you may focus on collecting data in laboratory settings and work with student subjects. 

PhD supervisors

Your principal supervisor will be a senior academic, often a Professor or an Associate Professor, from within the Marketing pathway. You will benefit from their guidance and counsel throughout the programme, and beyond: in helping you to succeed in the job market and in gaining a faculty position at a leading business school. Your principal supervisor will take an active role in your research programme and will assemble a group of faculty (your advisory committee) who will co-author papers with you. 

Take a look at the faculty who may serve as your principal supervisor and view their research interests: 

Ahmed Khwaja

Professor of Marketing, Business & Public Enterprise

Research interests

Ahmed Khwaja researches marketing strategy; health care markets, innovation and market entry; customer and employee relationship management in service industries; pharmaceutical R&D and retail chain expansion and growth. Methodological interests include dynamic strategic games; consumer choice dynamics; asymmetric information and incomplete markets; and simulation-based econometric methods.

Dominique Lauga

Professor of Marketing

Research interests

Dominique Lauga researches marketing modelling and behavioural economics. Research interests centre on strategic interactions between firms and consumers, with a special focus on product development, pricing, advertising and product reviews.

Shasha Lu

Associate Professor in Marketing

Not available to take incoming PhD students in October 2024.

Research interests

Shashu Lu researches marketing modelling and customer analysis using unstructured data (e.g. images, videos). Her research combines machine learning and computer vision techniques with marketing models to improve business practice in the digital age. Research interests include: artificial empathy, digital advertising, visual content and visual product design and optimisation, visual data privacy, visual-based data mining and marketing strategies. The context of her research involves a range of industries such as fashion, online dating, interior design, entertainment, and advertising.

Vincent Mak

Professor of Marketing & Decision Sciences

Research interests

Vincent Mak researches how people and firms make strategic decisions as they interact with each other, and what economic and psychological factors influence those decisions. Research interests cover pricing, search decisions, decisions in networks and queues, decisions in competitive environments, competitive strategies, game theory, and experimental economics. He typically employs the insights and methods of experimental economics, psychology, and game theory to investigate his research questions.

Professor Jaideep Prabhu

Professor of Marketing

Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise

Research interests

Jaideep Prabhu researches international business, marketing, strategy and innovation. Specific interests include: cross-national issues concerning the antecedents and consequences of radical innovation in high-technology contexts such as banking, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology; the role of firm culture in driving innovation in firms across nations; how multinational firms organise their innovation activities worldwide; the forces that drive R&D location decisions and the factors that influence the performance implications of these decisions; the internationalisation of firms from emerging markets; and innovation in emerging markets.

Eden Yin

Associate Professor in Marketing

Research interests

Eden Yin researches innovation and new product growth in technology industries, and internationalisation strategies for firms from emerging markets.

Marketing faculty

Learn more about the faculty that teach on this pathway.

Learn more about the Marketing subject group