Mark Ritson’s Mini MBA in Brand Management: The Comprehensive Review

Mark Ritson's Mini MBA is only growing more influential with devoted marketers repeating the lessons they’ve shared in boardrooms and on Linkedin alike. So, is the Mini MBA in Brand Management any good?
Mark Ritson Mini MBA review

More than half of marketers (53.8%) surveyed for Marketing Week’s Salary Survey (2019) said they have not studied a marketing-related qualification of any kind.

Despite this, Mark Ritson’s Mini MBA is only growing more influential with devoted marketers repeating the lessons they’ve shared in boardrooms and on Linkedin alike.

So, is the Mini MBA in Brand Management any good?

So let’s complete the trilogy with a comprehensive review of the Mark Riston Mini MBA in Brand Management right now!

Table of Contents

About the Mini MBA in Brand Management

There are two courses the famous marketing professor, come Marketing Week columnist, has on offer. Both cost £1,525 + VAT:

Who is the Mini MBA for?

Mini MBA in Marketing

The Mini MBA in Marketing is a more general course for marketers. It lays the foundation of his ‘diagnosis, strategy, and tactics’ model. Which you can see previewed in this excellent talk:

My biggest takeaway from the Mini MBA in Marketing course was to gain a view of what marketing is as a frame of reference for everything I did from that point onwards. As I concluded in the first article: it’s well recommended for marketers (or people with an interest in marketing everywhere)

Mini MBA in Brand Management

The Mini MBA in Brand Management is more targeted at, you guessed it, Brand Managers. 

Simultaneously, it’s touted as a spiritual successor to the Mini MBA in Marketing course. 

In hindsight – this is far from a moot point.

Entering the Mini MBA in Brand Management (as a marketing generalist) I narrowed in on the part of the messaging I wanted to believe. The belief was that the Marketing course was an intermediate-level course, and the Brand Management was an ‘advanced’, follow on course. (Although interestingly, just over 50% of my cohort reported they had only done the Brand Management course in the end of course wrap up)

While the intermidiate/advanced belief mostly turned out true, there is nuance here. The Mini MBA in Brand Management is a brand management course – it’s literally in the name. It’s not the ‘Mini MBA in Marketing Part Two’.

This means the course is especially for those people who are running or managing brands. If you’re looking for an advanced holistic marketing course, you won’t be disappointed – but equally it’s not designed to provide that. 

The result of all this is that if you’re interested in brand management, this is absolutely, nailed on, 1000000% the course for you. If you’re looking for an advanced marketing course – you will undoubtedly gain an awful lot (for me, worth the price of admission), but just be aware when you enter what you’re signing up for.

The course structure, logistics, and how I interacted with it

When you enter the Mini MBA course area, you’re greeted with a page that looks like below (but with all ten modules, obviously!). 

The Mini MBA in Brand Management has ten modules and then an optional exam, which takes place as a brand plan that you create throughout the course, and then a simulator task: 

  • The what and why of brand (the concept of brand/brand equity/brand salience)
  • Brand Management (brand management/brand planning/brand building)
  • Brand Diagnosis (brand heritage/founders/brand research)
  • Targeting (target marketing/mass marketing/two-speed planning/the long and short)
  • Positioning (relative differentiation/positioning statements/articulation)
  • Brand Codes (distinctiveness/salience/codifying/brand execution)
  • Brand Objectives (funnel building/strategic goals/brand strategy)
  • Brand Architecture (brand portfolios/consolidation/diversification)
  • Tactical Execution (strategy to execution/disruptive consistency/codification/exeplars)
  • Budgeting and Brand Tracking (setting the branding budget/zero-based budgets/brand health)

Each module is released weekly so you can’t skip ahead and curated to reflect the diagnosis, strategy and tactics model. 

Once you click on each module, the screen looks as below. 

There is a presentation video for each module (usually between 1 hour 15 and 1 hour 45 long), and then a required reading (usually an academic paper), optional readings (often Ritson’s Marketing Week column or similar column), and other resources for the very keen.  

There is less fuss made about introducing how things work in the Brand Management course vs what was made in the Marketing Mini MBA. So far as I’m aware, there wasn’t an introduction to the interface, instead – it was straight into things. I feel this wouldn’t be too problematic even if someone hadn’t completed the Marketing course as the interface is very intuitive.

The videos themselves have been produced to make them as entertaining as they can be. The videos cannot currently be downloaded for offline viewing which is a bit of a bummer, but understandable that the Mini MBA also needs to protect its IP. This may be sorted out later in 2022 with the release of a long-awaited alumni app. 

Usefully, with the exception of the academic required readings, the optional reading was also provided in podcast form. Great for dog walks and car drives!

Live Q&As with Mark Ritson

Every fortnight, there is also a Q&A with Mark where as students, you have the chance to ask questions about the previous two weeks, which Mark then answers in a good amount of detail. 

I found these sessions very useful to gain clarification on specific points, and little hints on the simulation exam!

The Mini MBA in Brand Management Linkedin group

Also on offer is the Linkedin group. The Mini MBA clearly brings in some really recognisable brand names and it was great to be in a group with them all. That speaks volumes about the success of the programme.

Mark is active in the group, which for the fans among us, is really nice too.

The Linkedin group is, however, susceptible to the same pitfalls any Linkedin group is around lack of visibility and notifications. It is a conscious act to find and engage with the group, which is fine, but not incredible. This is far more representative of Linkedin, rather than the Mini MBA, though!

Mark Ritson’s teaching style in the Mini MBA in Brand Management

Once again, I was impressed with Mark himself. Despite his reputation as a combative columnist, as a Professor he is calm, considerate and thoughtful. 

This is useful because, in the Brand Management course, you’re definitely getting a lot more ‘Mark from his consulting experience’. This is especially in comparison to the Marketing course which is almost entirely academically/practically evidenced. 

This has its pros and cons. I’ll provide two examples for you to draw your own conclusions:

Mark’s teaching from experience:

In one of the early video lessons, Mark says words to the effect of ‘I don’t like doing this, but much of this video is not based on academic work, but instead based on what I’ve experienced. You’re going to have to trust me on this one’. 

He says the words with clear hesitation as it’s not his preference but he cites a lack of decent research in the diagnosis stage that leads him to that place.

The output is an excellently executed video on marketing diagnosis.

There is a ‘but’ though.

Much of the experience Mark shares is from his work with champagne, high fashion, FMCG and medical brands. 

There is nothing wrong with this, as the idea is to use these as principles for illustrating broader points. However, as a small business owner/marketer, I felt many of the examples were one step removed from my reality.

The result was I had to work a little harder to take the lessons and then apply it to my context. This isn’t a complaint – but it is something you need to be aware of if you’re in a similarly small business. Just be ready to look for the lessons!

Mark’s style and swearing

Mark swears. I grew up in a household of casual swearers, so for me, I don’t notice it all that much and actually quite like it. But, I know some people who are very offended by it.

In one of the fortnightly Q&As, a question came up to the effect of ‘will you please stop swearing, mummy and daddy aren’t watching and don’t need to be impressed’.

On one level, I found this rude and unnecessarily personal. 

On another… I quickly scrolled to that question in the video where Mark was to answer the question and awaited the fireworks.

And yet, they didn’t come. 

Mark apologised and said he was working on it. It was mature and sincere. It took the heat out of the moment but also showed Mark to not be as combative as people would make him out to be from his articles alone. 

Expect Professor Ritson, not columnist Ritson!

How many hours per week is the Mini MBA?

One of the biggest barriers to entry for me was whether I would have the time to justify starting the programme.

The truth is this: you have to be ready to commit. 

In the Mini MBA in Marketing you could get by with slicing out Sunday evening, before the madness of the week begins, and working through the course material. 

For the Mini MBA in Brand Management however, the videos are longer – sometimes approaching two hours long. If you’re taking notes while watching them, then completing the reading, then completing the brand exercise, I would estimate you’re puting in anywhere between 4-6 hours per week for 10 weeks.

Some weeks I fell behind and it became a struggle to catch up. I did, because the content is fab, but just be warned: if you’re going to do the course – commit to it and be ready to put the time in: there is no shortcut.

The exam reviewed

Unlike the Marketing course – the Brand Management course has its exam going on for the duration of 10 weeks. 

During the 10 weeks, you produce a brand plan, and at the end, you translate this brand plan and apply it in a specially designed simulator for the course.

Shamefully, and contrary to my own best advice of ‘do the exam!’, I didn’t do the exam. Excuses are boring though, so I asked another cohort member what they thought of the experience:

Martin Krajniak, Head of Consulting, Devin Band

The brand simulator surprised me on three different levels. 

  • First, I had no evidence that such a complex simulator even existed. 
  • Second, I was surprised at how well it simulates reality and what sophisticated and diverse data it combines. 
  • And third, I was shocked at how high in the rankings I ended up.

The simulator is a super-addictive rollercoaster that beautifully combines data analysis skills (a LOT of tables, charts and insights that need to be analysed), the ability to translate those data into meaningful actions and the courage to take some risks.

Imagine you manage 2 brands on mobile device market. Your ultimate goal is to increase the SPI (Share Price Index) as much as possible and beat your competition (everyone starts at SPI 100). 

Every year (5 in total), the decision-making and inputs consist of:

  • Targeting & media spending – which segments to target, budget split, including long/short game
  • Pricing – playing with the price
  • Product development – upgrading/downgrading of product features according to what clients want and what your competitors offer
  • Product positioning – how you want to position your products on the market (considering pricing, convenience and performance levels)

And that is basically it. After you make your decisions, you press “GO” and within a minute you see how well you did. 

You do the analysis again, make your decisions and repeat the process 5 times. 

At the end, you see whether your strategy paid off.

For me, one of the best and most entertaining educational brand/marketing experiences!

Would I recommend the Mini MBA in Brand Management?

I feel like I’ve been a bit pickier in this review than I was in the first – but Mark has set a very high bar.

Ultimately, however, the main questions that need to be addressed are ‘am I a better marketer?’ and ‘am I more confident as a marketer?’. The answer to both is an undoubted yes.

With this in mind, would I recommend it the Mini MBA in Brand Management? Absolutely.