The Medill IMC Curriculum

A deep dive into consumer understanding

Earn the degree that immerses you in consumer insights and human connection. Develop your expertise through hands-on experience, with guidance from marketing leaders at top companies. By completing your studies online, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of integrated marketing communications on your schedule, from anywhere in the world.

At Medill, you have the opportunity to tailor your coursework to your goals and interests by choosing 10 electives in your 13-course program. We continually update our curriculum to adapt to the rapidly changing marketing communications marketplace, so you will always be on top of the latest innovations in the field.

Program Details

The program is designed for busy working professionals, with this structure:

  • 13 units
    • Three core courses
    • 10 electives
  • Four quarters per year
  • Program can be completed in less than two years
  • Hybrid program: complete coursework online or include on-site classes in your curriculum
  • Every online course holds one two-hour, synchronous session each week
  • One opportunity to start per year: September
  • A STEM-designated program

Core Courses (1 unit each)

Financial Accounting

Financial Accounting provides an overview of the principles of corporate finance including financial statement analysis, business performance measurement, budgeting, long-term forecasting, and investment analysis. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the economic rationale for managerial decision-making as it relates to corporate strategy in general and marketing programs in particular. Students learn return-on-investment (ROI) methodologies for assessing the effectiveness of marketing programs.

IMC Strategic Process

IMC Strategic Process covers the principles and practices of Integrated Marketing Communications. The course begins by discussing the definitions, scope and phases of IMC as a strategic process for managing the communications between an organization and its stakeholders. Topics include customer focus, sources of data for understanding customers, customer segmentation and valuation, analyzing behavioral customer databases, the brand as a integrating force, synergy and consistency across contact points, media neutral planning, a closed-loop processes, the allocating of marketing communication resources, and estimating the return on marketing communication investments. Students conduct an extensive database marketing project with SPSS statistics software.

Marketing Research

Marketing Research overviews the marketing research process and goes into depth on marketing analytics with basic statistical analysis. Students learn how to transform strategic business challenges into analytics and research problems that resolve into high impact business presentations. Today's cross-channel marketing requires a fusion of advanced marketing analytics and research techniques as the "Big Data" exhaust of digital and social channels grows exponentially. The data exhaust of marketing channels augments the in-depth quantitative and qualitative gathering of data through more traditional research. The course covers data analytics, descriptive and causal research, questionnaire design, sampling and experimental design, univariate and multivariate descriptive statistics, confidence intervals and hypothesis tests for means and percents. The course provides innovative visualization techniques to present the marketing analytics and research results. Students learn how to analyze and extract value from customer databases and surveys using foundational software for both analysis and visualization.

Electives (1 unit each; choose 10)

Elective course options are subject to change.

Brand Communication Decisions

Brand Communication Decisions starts with brand strategy and is centered on making smart decisions to activate customers to meet their needs and that drive business growth. The strategic process is important and includes: 1) Setting measurable attitudinal and behavioral objectives that drive positive business outcomes. 2) Understanding available audiences and markets. 3) Choosing the most relevant audiences by deeply understanding customer needs, attitudes and behaviors your brand can serve most meaningfully and relevantly. 4) Competitively positioning a product or service relative to the customer's needs, attitudes and behaviors. 5) Developing ideas and messaging driven from deep customer insight. 6) Selecting the most efficient and effective marketing communications media channels.

Consumer Insight

Consumer Insight is a foundational course for developing a consumer centric, IMC perspective. The course focuses on understanding how individuals, families, and groups acquire, consume, and dispose of goods, services, ideas, brands, and experiences. The goal is to deeply understand people’s goals, what people actually do, the meanings behind their activities, and the experiences they seek in order to better understand them as consumers. To do this, we will examine psychological, economic, communications, anthropological and sociological perspectives on human action that will allow us to generate consumer insights. Knowledge of consumer behavior is essential for key strategic tasks including environmental analyses, product positioning, branding, segmentation, and the implementation of integrated and effective communications strategies. The purpose of this course is to introduce, discuss, understand, and analyze consumers’ lives to provide students the building blocks for developing consumer centric and value oriented products, experiences, and brand communications as part of an effective IMC program. Specifically, this course will focus on the following conceptual building blocks: Background on Consumer Insights Psychological Aspects of Consumer Behavior Social Aspects of Consumer Behavior Aspects of Consumer Behavior in Action Methodological Tools for Consumer Understanding.

Content Strategy

Content Strategy is a mix of overall strategy, tactics and hands-on practical skills to consider how content is utilized and appreciated to inform, entertain, and solve customer needs and wants. There has been more content created in the last two years than in all of recorded history so how do students consider content for clients/brands. What is good content? What is its strategic purpose and how does it align overall with an organization’s goals? There are two primary objectives of the course. The first is to provide Integrated Marketing Communications students with a foundation in how marketing organizations and marketing managers’ conduct content strategy and marketing. Primary emphasis is placed on a consumer orientation within a content strategy. Students will develop an understanding of marketing practice through readings, class lectures, discussions and practical work assignments. The second objective is to develop students’ ability to think analytically and strategically in addressing content opportunities. This will be accomplished through student participation and content creation, from text to visual. Students will create a strategy for a client/brand and then create components of visuals for those clients, including videos, email newsletters, and articles. Students will be hands-on creators in order to understand management of the creative process and then critical thinkers of strategy for the overall concerns of client and content.

Crisis Communications

Crisis Communications provides students with strategic approaches to manage how organizations respond to crises such as accidents, product recalls, executive malfeasance and natural disasters. Students learn to identify and explain the dynamics of a crisis, evaluate the effects of a crisis on organizational reputation, determine the role of public relations in crisis response, counsel executives and clients, and develop and implement a crisis communications plan. The course is case-based and allows students to explore actual crisis situations that have taken place. In examining how companies, organizations and individuals perform in the face of reputation-damaging incidents, students learn how to lessen the negative impact of a crisis and rebuild an organization’s reputation after a crisis.

Customer Value Innovation

Customer Value Innovation focuses on understanding the process by which customers choose, adopt and experience products and services. Emphasis is placed on innovation and how organizations develop, manage and measure innovations to create better value for customers. Students learn how integrated marketing communications and brand strategies can be managed to enhance the quality of customer experiences. Students analyze a set of historical and current case studies for business consumer marketing situations.

Data Science Foundations

Data Science Foundations will cover advanced concepts on hypothesis testing, cluster analysis and multiple regression techniques for linear and non-linear models. Students will gain hands-on experience carrying out analysis of real world data to estimate the ROI of marketing efforts to acquire and retain customers. The course will also help students build models to understand the drivers of segmentation and customer lifetime value (CLV). Students will be exposed to the state of the art methods used in contemporary marketing research and will gain a better understanding of how marketing analytics can influence strategic marketing and communications decisions in the marketplace.

Digital Analytics

Digital Analytics delivers an applied understanding of digital analytics tools, methods and organizational approaches that will let students connect the dots between digital analytics and digital communications strategy, design and delivery. The goal of the course is to give students the capability to lead the evolution of digital marketing practices in their organizations through an understanding of the collection and application of data to solve marketing problems. Students will have exposure to an array of the most current digital analytics tools, and will conduct exercises and engage in discussions that illustrate how data and analytics should ideally shape marketing planning, content strategy, digital design and marketing performance evaluation. The course will cover the collection of data from web, email, social, mobile and paid display media through tagging, testing and survey, and will explore the marketing and business application of this data for performance evaluation, communications planning, design and content development & targeting. The application of marketing analytics in the overall emerging "big data" structures in organizations will be explored. The progression toward increasing capabilities for real-time 1:1 marketing through algorithmic targeting and content personalization will also be discussed in this context, as will the ever changing privacy landscape and questions around who “owns” consumers’ digital data.

Digital Marketing, Media and Innovation

Digital Marketing, Media and Innovation covers how marketing leaders face the daunting challenge of picking the best direction for their company, while dealing with constantly increasing data sources, evolving analytics tools, hyper-segmented consumer insights and channel explosion, all within ever shifting marketing conditions. This course will introduce students to the fundamental considerations for developing a digital marketing and media strategy and facilitating the continuous innovation of products and services, including the organizational, cultural and infrastructural considerations for marketing strategists working in today’s digital world. The course will also cover theories related to Marketing and Innovation Management as the cornerstone for developing and implementing strategies that retain existing customers and acquire new ones within an increasingly complex web of marketing communications. In addition, students will also be provided with a more tactical introduction to new and emerging digital channels, platforms and technologies that are driving innovation in virtually every aspect of marketing, including social and mobile. The course will include interactive workshops and guest lectures from digital marketing leaders of global brands and innovative technologies.

Digital Strategy

Digital Strategy provides a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental components of marketing in the digital age. The course helps students learn how to identify the core objectives of a digital marketing strategy by pinpointing a target audience and developing a plan around them. Students gain a better understanding of search engine optimization, paid search, web analytics, programmatic as well as many different aspects of content and social media marketing. The course provides hands-on opportunities for students to work in small teams and craft a digital marketing plan. This course is suitable for marketers of consumer goods as well as business-to-business products and services.

IMC Law, Policy and Ethics

IMC Law, Policy and Ethics enhances students’ abilities to make better marketing communications and business decisions. This will be achieved through an in-depth study of the areas of law and ethics that are the most critical to business judgment and decision making. Students delve into 1) The First Amendment and its protection of commercial speech, the legal basis for marketing communications, 2) The U.S. legal system and its relevant statutory, administrative and case law, 3) Contracts, 4) Intellectual Property including copyright and trademark law, 5) Privacy, as it pertains to the collection, aggregation, sale and use of personal data, and 6) Ethics, as there is significant overlap between law and ethics when it comes to making good business and policy decisions.

Managing Integration

Management of the organizational issues that arise when implementing IMC initiatives is a challenge that we often find ourselves unprepared to face in today’s complex and rapidly changing IMC environment. This course is designed to provide you with the tools to identify issues, solve problems and subsequent to the completion of this course, apply your own “model” as a manager, team member or collaborator. You will be able to do this whether you work in an Advertising Agency, PR Agency, consulting firm or a complex organization. The tools are robust and apply to a variety of different settings. More specifically, managing integration involves organizing and effectively implementing a broad range of IMC activities that are internal to an organization and at the same time aligning these activities with external vendors, customers and third parties. If this seems complex – it is! However, the tools you will learn to master over the next ten weeks will take the complexity out of all of this and boil it down to YOUR OWN approach that you can use wherever you choose to work in the future.

Marketing Strategy

Marketing Strategy introduces students to the fundamentals of strategy that they will be regularly using as a marketing practitioner. The course will familiarize students with different types of business strategies and models. Students will also learn the key components of a marketing strategy and how they are applied to different business situations. Finally, the course will introduce students to the concept of customer centricity and its role in developing an IMC strategy. The course readings, case studies and other instructional material will help students understand how business and marketing strategies crafted from an IMC point of view drive superior financial and marketplace outcomes.

Media Foundations

Media Foundations is designed to help students demystify the current turmoil in the media world by providing the necessary history and context that helps to explain where we are today and where we may be headed. This course will equip students with theories and frameworks that can give them the confidence to make bold decisions and defend their strategies. The course uses a diversity of learning techniques: from self-reflection, to collaborative quizzes, to group debates of issues for which there is no right/wrong answer and also a critique of contemporary media cases. The course will help students gain a better understanding of the evolving media landscape, the role of marketers in shaping the media economy, new digital media marketplaces and how the IMC process can help marketers make sound media allocation decisions using technology and Big Data.

Shopper Marketing

The purpose of Shopper Marketing is to define and explore Shopper Marketing as a growing practice area and identify where it fits within the broader marketing mix. Within this course, we will look at Shopper Marketing from every angle and give students a good understanding of the following: The difference between “consumers” and “shoppers” and how to uncover unique insights that can be used to drive the most successful Shopper Marketing programs. How to identify how best to manage the conflicting interests of retailers and manufacturers as they attempt to market to their shared target audiences. Best practices for the various in-store, near-store and online tactics that are used by today’s leading Shopper Marketers. Metrics used to assess program success. How Shopper Marketing organizations are integrating their efforts with their overall marketing mix and how retailers are working with manufacturers to develop successful shopper programs. The tools and understanding needed to develop and execute a comprehensive Shopper Marketing program.

Strategic Communications Foundations

Strategic Communications is a vital part of the Integrated Marketing Communication mix for all organizations and businesses spanning both not-for-profit and for-profit entities (both B to B and B to C). Leading corporations effectively use communications as a strategic tool/enabler to drive business results. The Foundations of Strategic Communications is a prerequisite for all IMC students who desire to take any of the additional strategic communications classes.