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Top MBA Programs Build Brands to Remain Competitive in MBA Admissions

Posted by Chioma Isiadinso

Branding is crucial, and not just for MBA applicants. We talk a lot about how personal branding great improves a student’s MBA admission chances at the world’s top MBA programs. However, branding is also critical to the success of those top MBA programs, as they work to attract MBA applications and remain competitive with other elite institutions, and now, with cheaper online MBA programs.

top mba programs

Currently, the Kellogg School of Management offers the most visible example of re-branding among top MBA programs. This Poets & Quants article chronicles the Kellogg MBA program’s rebranding after current dean Sally Blount took over four years ago.

The school first moved to a “Think Bravely” slogan, with the motto that, “We believe that business can be bravely led, passionately collaborative, and world changing.” Now, Kellogg has introduced a new brand tweaking the bravery concept- “Growth”. In full, the new tagline is, “Kellogg: Where brave leaders inspire growth in people, organizations and markets.”

Kellogg did not just randomly come up with their new “growth brand”. As the Poets & Quants article highlights, the Kellogg’s upper level management spent several years talking with stakeholders, including students, faculty and alumni, trying to distill which Kellogg traits mattered most.

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Then, once they had distilled that feedback into a brand, they implemented it across all of their marketing materials, from on-campus banners to communications with prospective students.


Kellogg used relentless self-examination to arrive at a concise and consistent message. And, that is the essence of what you, as an MBA applicant, must do to build a successful MBA admissions strategy.

  • Examine all areas of your life for patterns and common traits. Like Kellogg, you must ask yourself what the most consistent and important elements of your life are. What matters most to you?
  • Distill those values into brand themes. Kellogg’s brand themes are growth, bravery and inspiration. What are yours?
  • Communicate your brand in every aspect of your MBA application. Your MBA admissions essays, your resume, your recommendations, your interviews… everything should clearly reflect your brand.
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Kellogg is not the only top MBA program to focus on its brand. All top MBA programs have realized that they must develop their own niche appeal to MBA applicants, and, because millions of dollars are at stake, they have put a lot of work into responding to market demand and creating that appeal.

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Harvard Business School, for example, has developed a lot of programming to appeal to entrepreneurs (check out The Rock Center for Entrepreneurship) and STEM students (the HBS 2+2 program is a great option for STEM students).

HBS wants to remind applicants that their brand extends beyond general management. Stanford Graduate School of Business, perhaps facing the opposite problem, overhauled their curriculum a few years ago to create a more customizable, globally-focused MBA that would appeal to entrepreneurs and corporate managers alike.

Like business schools themselves, MBA applicants must include branding as a crucial starting point for the rest of the MBA admissions process. Those that do will have a much better shot at distinguishing themselves from the competition.