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The Marketing PhD pathway

Introduction to marketing

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 three broad areas or sub-fields: marketing strategy, marketing modelling and consumer behaviour. In the Marketing Group you’ll find scholars from each of these sub-fields.

Watch Professor Jaideep Prabhu talk 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.

Essential reading

The Marketing PhD pathway

Download detailed information about the nine-month + four-year programme structure & content.

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

Research areas

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 three broad areas or sub-fields: marketing strategy, marketing modelling and consumer behaviour.

Research in the marketing strategy field considers a firm’s interactions with its customers (and external stakeholders more generally) from the perspective of the firm’s managers. Through the quantitative analysis of empirical data, researchers in this sub-field address questions that link a firm’s performance with its actions and those of its managers vis-à-vis external stakeholders.

The marketing modelling sub-field involves economically analysing the interactions between firms and consumers. Researchers in this field use analytical modelling with a game theory approach, the econometric analysis of empirical data and experimental economics methods to address their research questions.

Research into consumer behaviour considers the psychology of how consumers think, feel and reason as well as choose between different marketplace alternatives. Here, researchers draw heavily upon the theories and methodologies of experimental psychology and experimental social psychology in particular.

In the Marketing Group you’ll find scholars from each of these sub-fields, including marketing strategy (Ahmed Khwaja, Jaideep Prabhu, Eden Yin), marketing modelling (Ahmed Khwaja, Dominique Lauga, Shasha Lu), and consumer behaviour (Dominique Lauga, Vincent Mak). 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.

As such, 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 you can expect from the PhD pathway in Marketing

You will be seen not as a student but as a junior colleague – you will be an apprentice in the best sense of the word. The Marketing Group will work with you and train you to become an independent researcher with an exciting research programme and portfolio of academic papers that will help you succeed in the job market and gain a junior faculty position following your PhD. You will work with faculty members on joint research projects for publication in leading academic journals. In addition to a series of courses focused on research methodology and the foundations of the discipline, you will 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. In particular, we will work with you to develop a coherent and innovative research programme that is relevant for solving real-world problems. In some cases, 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.

What we expect from our PhD students

We welcome applicants from highly regarded universities that have earned a bachelors (and in some cases a masters degree) and performed within the top five per cent of their class; please see the MPhil in Strategy, Marketing & Operations or Master of Research (MRes) academic requirements for more detail.

We expect our students to demonstrate a high level of commitment to an academic career in a business school as well as a desire to engage with external organisations. While many of our students have first degrees in economics, mathematics, psychology, engineering or the sciences, students with a humanities degree will also be considered.

We will need to see evidence of excellent writing skills, and strong evidence of your 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.

You will be allocated a principal supervisor within your pathway. A senior academic, often a Professor or Associate Professor, they will guide you through the programme, help you to succeed in the job market and assist you in gaining a faculty position at a leading business school. Your principal supervisor will take an active role in your research programme. During the PhD, they will assemble a group of faculty (your advisory committee), and members of this team will co-author papers with you.

For this pathway, view the research interests of these faculty that may serve as principal supervisor:

Professor Ahmed Khwaja

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.

Dr Dominique Lauga

Dr Dominique Lauga

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.

Dr Shashu Lu

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 Vincent Mak

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.

Jaideep Prabhu.

Professor Jaideep Prabhu

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.

Dr Eden Yin

Dr Eden Yin

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

Learn more about the faculty that teach on this pathway