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

Program structure:

  • Designed for the working professional
  • Three years post-graduate work experience required for admittance
  • 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.

Advanced Brand Management

Advanced Brand Management is for students seeking modern marketing solutions to some of the main issues facing brand managers today. The curriculum includes lectures, expert guest speakers, real-world case examples and group work. Students will practice their skills on a real-time, multi-week case project with a corporate partner. The course will incorporate insights, sales, field marketing, media and consulting, helping students learn how different functions contribute to strong brands. Students will develop an understanding of the part that everyone in an organization plays in building a brand. Students enrolling in this course should ideally have a foundational understanding of brand marketing and concepts introduced in the Brand Communication Decisions course.

B2B Marketing: A Consumer-Centric Approach

Business to Business (B2B) marketing is rapidly changing as businesses adopt new digital technologies and platforms. In this course, students will learn about the different kinds of B2B buying models and drivers of purchasing decisions. Students will understand how sales and marketing resources can work together and why collaborative, account‐based marketing strategies are effective. Students will understand why branding is important to B2B marketing, and how brands leverage their owned media and content to achieve business outcomes. Students will understand the power of social platforms and earned media and when to invest in paid media to scale up marketing programs and generate leads.

Finally, students will gain analytical skills to determine what is working and how to use data to improve marketing effectiveness. This course mixes strategy with practical applications to solve B2B marketing problems. Students learn by analyzing real-world data sets and by using an industry-leading CRM tool in class. More importantly, the course is designed to help students succeed in B2B marketing by taking a customer-centric and strategic approach.

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 peoples’ 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 with 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 critical component of most IMC strategies today in both B2C and B2B marketing organizations. This 10-week course will deliver both strategic planning frameworks as well as tactical execution tools for achieving marketing and financial goals. Students will learn from case analysis and a variety of high-level texts, and through a group project creating and testing content strategy in a real-world scenario. C-level guest lecturers from leading organizations will share their experiences curating, creating and analyzing the effectiveness of their recent projects.

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.

Culture and Inclusion in Marketing

Culture and Inclusion in Marketing examines the growing impact of culturally inclusive advertising, branding, communications and media on business outcomes. This course will feature conceptual foundations anchored in academic research, current marketplace examples, and hands-on skill development and application to deepen students’ knowledge of inclusive marketing principles and best practices, and develop competency in inclusive marketing content strategy and execution. When possible, industry leaders will be invited to speak to help punctuate lesson topics and discussion.

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.

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 Marketing Activation

Digital Marketing Activation 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.

From Insights to Innovation

The purpose of this five-day course is to provide students with an immersive, hands-on design-thinking experience and help them translate that experience, as well as their learnings, into practical applications that they can immediately implement in their jobs. Students will work on a real-world business challenge presented by a partner organization; at the end of the week, they will present their innovative ideas to the company leadership based on the consumer insights they gleaned in the process. In doing this, students will:

  • Learn and apply the tools, mindsets and modes of design thinking
  • Learn how to better understand customer experiences and develop deeper customer insights
  • Gain practical knowledge that's immediately applicable for driving innovation in their own companies

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:

  • The First Amendment and its protection of commercial speech, the legal basis for marketing communications
  • The U.S. legal system and its relevant statutory, administrative and case law
  • Contracts
  • Intellectual property, including copyright and trademark law
  • Privacy, as it pertains to the collection, aggregation, sale and use of personal data
  • Ethics, as there is significant overlap between law and ethics when it comes to making good business and policy decisions

Investor Relations: From Wall Street to Board Rooms

Investor Relations will help students build a good understanding of the role of the investor and why this stakeholder is so important to corporations irrespective of whether they are a blue-chip, mid-cap, small-cap or start-up company thinking about going public. In this course, students will learn how financial markets work and what companies do to access these markets. This class will not only help build students’ business and financial acumen, but students will understand the way the C-suite thinks and, hence, be more strategic in dealing with senior executive leadership.

Leadership Strategies

Leadership Strategies focuses on how students’ success as future leaders is allied with their ability to be part of an organization’s growth. The course first looks at how students inspire others, a central aspect of leadership. It then looks at organizational development, the skills needed to run organizations, and how to manage innovation.

Students use readings, role-playing and discussion to improve their experience with managing and overseeing talent, organization, economics and finance, accountability and business planning. The course will help students learn to communicate ideas, become self-aware of areas of development, participate effectively in organizations, develop business acumen and create and evaluate growth plans for businesses.

Managing Digital Products and Technologies

Managing Digital Products and Technologies equips students with the frameworks, tools and hands-on experience to become effective marketers for technology products. The course focuses on managing digital products in startup firms and large firms and students will gain hands-on experience making their pitch in teams.

Two defining characteristics of the technology industry are its dynamic nature and the interconnected nature of technology products and services. This results in a continuous need for new products, and for managing all aspects of discovering, designing, developing, supporting and monetizing innovations. In technology companies, the product management organization is responsible for the “inbound” product development activities as well as “outbound” product marketing activities: discovering customer needs, defining product requirements, orchestrating the development of products and solutions to address these needs, taking new products to market and managing products over their life cycle. In a technology startup, a product manager is often a co-founder of the firm. Larger technology firms have specialized product/tech organizations consisting of various types of roles, including product managers and their core cross-functional teams—product marketing managers, program managers/scrum masters, engineers, UX/UI designers and content strategists, and data scientists.

This course brings digital and software product management framework and knowledge, as well as cutting-edge industry cases together. Students will gain hands-on experience building a real product from the concept all the way to an actionable plan with detailed feature requirements that’s ready to be coded, marketed and funded.

Marketing Metrics

Marketing Metrics delivers an applied understanding of 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 and 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.

Marketing Strategy

Marketing Strategy introduces students to the fundamentals of strategy that they will be regularly using as marketing practitioners. 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.

Segmentation and Lifetime Value

Segmentation and Lifetime Value covers quantitative models for identifying, understanding and valuing customers and their behaviors. Topics include understanding different types of customer data and analyzing data from relational databases. Students learn specific skills in data preparation and market segmentation methods, including cluster analysis, latent class analysis and predictive "scoring" models such as regression and tree-based approaches. The course also covers lifetime value models based on the geometric distribution, Markov chains and survival analysis.

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 solid 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

Social Commerce Strategy

Social Commerce Strategy addresses ways to design, develop and execute effective integrated, web and social marketing programs successfully. The course uses a business planning model which allows students to justify, build and execute social and integrated marketing programs with bottom-line ROI. Students learn to identify and measure high-value market segments, use web and social analytics to evaluate competitors, and convince management of the value of digital and social marketing.

Students gain hands-on experience with analytic and marketing software research and develop social media marketing. To develop proficiency and expertise with the social business model, they conclude the course with a team project for developing actual social and integrated marketing programs for sponsoring companies.

Strategic Creativity

Strategic Creativity will explore how to craft creative ideas that are data-driven but still large in scope and ripe with innovation. This course will teach students how to leverage strategy and data to develop, validate and sell-in creative ideas. Students will examine the creative process and learn how to bring data in this process as a muse and inspiration. Using this data-inspired framework, students will learn how to develop big ideas and innovative solutions to solve marketing problems and how to validate those ideas with data. The course will explore concepts of idea scale, risk, creative courage and inspiring creative thinking in others. Students will participate in discussions and activities, explore case studies and work with a client to demonstrate their knowledge and help solve a real business problem. By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Analyze data to uncover insights that inspire creative ideas
  • Apply a creative process for strategic idea generation that results in strategies, ideas, programs and/or big thinking concepts that creatively address a business problem and are substantiated in data insights
  • Identify and classify dimension and scale of creative concepts and ideas as it relates to business problem-solving
  • Evaluate and validate ideas/concepts against strategic business alignment, consumer insight alignment and potential to drive business outcomes
  • Utilize data to strengthen creative courage and sell-in ideas
  • Inspire creativity in others

Immersive Courses (1 credit each)

Taught in cities all over the world, immersive courses provide in-person learning opportunities within this hybrid program. Learn more about them here.

Building Brand Advocacy

This course provides students with inspiration and insights necessary to think bigger about the role brands can play in the lives of their most valued customers, prospects and employees.

Students will learn how some brands deliberately transcend transactional relationships and not only get consumers to buy, but to buy in. Students will learn eight proven “cult brand principles” uncovered from 10+ years of primary research. We’ll dissect how some marketers are reaping enviable benefits associated with earning heightened brand advocacy. We'll also explore why new leaders beyond the CMO (such as CXOs, chief customer officers, chief growth officers) are being given broader responsibilities for products, services and branded interactions. This course teaches vital marketing skills beyond traditional customer research, optimizing media channels, producing content marketing, or crafting promotional campaigns. We’ll expound upon executives’ growing desire for businesses to be used as a force for good, how and why the customer experience must become central to a firm's competitive advantage, and branding is more important than ever (and more inclusive of purpose and culture).

Design Thinking

This hands-on course helps you translate your experience and learnings into practical applications that you can immediately implement in your jobs. You will work on a real-world business challenge presented by a partner organization. At the end of the week, you will present your innovative ideas to the company leadership based on the consumer insights you gleaned in the process.

In doing this, you will:

  • Learn and apply the tools, mindsets and modes of design thinking
  • Gain a better understanding of customer experiences and develop deeper customer insights
  • Gain practical knowledge that's immediately applicable for driving innovation in your own companies

Digital Leadership

Leaders in the digital economy are made, not born. The key is understanding and never forgetting the powerful harmony between the offline and online. This class is designed to facilitate the understanding and mastery of digital leadership for today and the future. Students will hear presentations from influencers and digital marketing thought leaders, analyze case studies, review articles and videos from prominent journals and business media, develop skills in the quantitative and qualitative metrics to monitor digital strategies, and practice building skills for current and future business.

Global Perspectives—London

We will visit London to explore the people, organizations and places that drive change to attract international audiences and grow brands beyond the communities that birthed them. We will also use this time to stretch students’ global acumen. Companies in many fields are similar in how they attract customers/clients, conduct research, consider supply chains and think about payments. We will explore facets of international considerations, visiting different companies and institutions to see firsthand how organizations are moving to be ready for the next decade.

Introduction to MarTech

Marketers have access to hundreds of vendors offering diverse technology applications such as campaign management, marketing resource management, marketing analytics and content marketing.

Introduction to MarTech introduces students to the opportunities and challenges of using these marketing technologies. The opportunities range from targeting the right audiences to personalizing messaging to leveraging new digital technologies to effectively managing complex multi-channel marketing campaigns. The challenges include the gap between how marketers think of their problems and how technology providers describe their solutions and then selecting the best solutions.

Students will learn how marketing executives decide which technologies are right for addressing their marketing problems. This course is meant to be introductory in nature, but should be useful for students who may work with a subset of marketing technologies but feel like their knowledge is primarily operational and/or focused on very specific technology applications. The course will equip students to ask insightful questions and have informed discussions with marketing and IT colleagues and vendors. Specific components of the course include the marketing technology landscape, the marketing technology stack, marketing technology competencies that matter, and the future of marketing technologies.

Investor Relations: From Wall Street to Board Rooms

This course helps students build a good understanding of the role of the investor and why this stakeholder is so important to corporations, irrespective of whether they are a blue chip, mid cap, small cap or start-up company thinking about going public. Students will learn how financial markets work and what companies do to access these markets. This class will not only help build business and financial acumen, but understanding of the way the C-suite thinks and enhanced strategy in dealing with senior executive leadership.