This article is part 4 of 4 on marketing education and qualifications that first appeared in the June 2011 issue of Marketing magazine, comprising four perspectives: The Researcher, The Boss, The Educator/Practitioner and The Independent.

 

The Independent

Linda Loose, DM Hall of Fame honouree, is a failed New York cabaret singer who found her truer calling in direct/digital marketing. One-time GM JWT Direct NY and Australia, she now dishes out independent advice, creative and training to marketers looking for better measurable results. You can contact her via linda@lindaloose.com

Jonathan Pratt, marketing director of StudyLink, a service provider to the international education sector, already knew a bit about higher education qualifications before he decided to further his own. This UK import and former international marketing manager at Monash University says he didn’t have to think too hard about which qualification he’d pursue.

“I completed the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Professional Diploma in the UK and really enjoyed it,” Pratt explains. “It was more rigorous and challenging than most academic work I’ve done. The networks I developed from it have been exceptionally valuable. And there’s nothing else that’s recognised around the world like this is.”

So when Pratt decided to pursue his next educational milestone here in Australia, he went to the Australian College of Marketing (ACM) – the only CIM accredited study centre in this country. He’s currently working toward his next CIM qualification – the Chartered Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing. And he says he’s finding the experience here just as challenging, and rewarding.

Pratt is just one of the ACM students and graduates I’ve been chatting with about their educational experiences. As a sometimes teacher, and perpetual student, I was intrigued when I heard that this globally recognised qualification had finally come to our shores. And I thought I’d dig a bit deeper into just what CIM and this ‘chartered marketer’ stuff was all about.

 

World’s oldest and largest body for professional marketers

When Carmen Sederino, bathroom field marketing manager at Reece, decided she needed further marketing qualifications to advance in her career, she did some serious homework into the CIM. And from an international colleague who she called on to investigate – a respected trainer from the UK – she got an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Which is just what a lot of overseas marketers would expect.

Established almost 100 years ago, the UK-based CIM now has 300 study centres worldwide, supporting over 50,000 marketers each year. Mention ‘chartered marketer’ in London or Hong Kong or any of 55 countries where CIM has a presence, and it’s instantly acknowledged, commonly understood and well-respected.

Here in Australia, the Australian College of Marketing, established in 2009, offers four CIM professional marketing qualifications on a pathway to chartered marketer status. Included is a world first – a dual award offered in conjunction with Charles Sturt University that leads to a combined Master of Management (Chartered Marketer) and CIM Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing.

Though the CIM chartered marketer status isn’t as widely recognised here yet, it’s well-known among a cadre of cluey marketers who’ve come across it elsewhere in the world – and among its growing stable of Australian students and graduates and their employers.

Here’s what they say makes it a cut above. (Upfront admission: I’m talking with the converted here! These marketers are dead keen on ACM, the CIM, the coursework and what it’s done for them professionally and personally. And, after talking with them, I’m feeling the love myself.)

 

That ‘chartered marketer’ status

Australian marketers have been banging on about it forever. Marketing, the profession, needs and deserves more consistent, concrete and recognisable standards – and greater profile and status within the business and boardroom. But I’ve always questioned whether ‘accreditation’ is part of the answer. Could our yin/yang, right brain/left brain discipline really be shoehorned into the same kind of standardised assessment that’s applied to more black and white fields like accounting and engineering?

Well, these folks are winning me over. The rigour of the CIM approach to marketing education is well-honed. So is the consistency in content and assessment. And, importantly, those with chartered credentials or working toward them say it makes a real difference to how they’re perceived in the workplace.

Kate Liscombe, marketing adviser at consulting engineers Golder Associates, is currently studying for the CIM Professional Diploma. “Around here, it’s instantly understood,” she says. “It’s not about the status of one university or another. Especially among the chartered engineers and scientists I work with, it conveys immediate credibility, and helps me explain where marketing fits and what we’re doing.” Liscombe’s boss, Corey Simpson, takes that a step further. Simpson says that, as a result of her professional development at ACM, “Kate has played a key part in building the credibility of the marketing function at Golder.”

Of course, that’s not just because ‘chartered’ is in the name. What seems to be impressing both students and their employers is the quality of the work resulting from their learning.

 

Bloody hard – and so it should be

One thing with which everyone I speak with concurs is the rigour and depth of the coursework. Every module is exhaustive, every assessment demanding, with some downright daunting. (Emma Blackburn, ACM’s principal, is not shy about reporting that one of the most challenging modules has sometimes had just a 50 percent first-time pass rate worldwide.)

This may not appeal to the student who wants creds on the business card without putting in the hard yards. But for those who want learning that actually makes them demonstrably better at their job – and more promotable to the next one – it’s a large part of the appeal.

Pratt, who is no stranger to higher level academic qualifications, goes so far as to say, “The level of analysis and interpretation, the assessments, the depth of learning and degree of difficulty is greater on the CIM Postgraduate Diploma I’m taking now than for any Masters in Marketing.”

To him, this is a very good thing.

Appealing too is the fact that the standards established for each unit and qualification level are consistent across CIM study centres worldwide – providing a sort of shorthand ‘skill and knowledge’ meter for any employer anywhere in the world looking at an Australian CV.

But perhaps the most enthusiastic praise I hear from everyone involved is for the actual course content and teaching – how different and productive their ACM studies are compared to their other academic or industry education experiences.

 

A dose of vocational reality

A core principle underpinning the CIM approach is that all qualifications are developed in consultation with business and taught by practising marketers. ACM may have lofty academic standards, but it’s also firmly grounded in the real business world: the current trends, the daily demands on working marketers, and the ever-changing knowledge and skills requirements of their employers.

Each course also involves the students in work-based assignments, so they’re applying the tools and disciplines they’re mastering to live issues and data from their own organisations. And each module builds directly on the previous one, carrying those work-based assignments forward to successive levels of analysis and interpretation.

OK, I know, this sounds whizzy on paper. But what does it really mean?

Every student or grad I hear from says some version of the same thing: they have been given tools, skills and real work they have taken directly into their workplaces and used to further their companies’ fortunes – and their own.

Now, I’m never happy with generalities. So I ask, “What exactly did you use back at work, give me an example?” and “What specific difference did it make?” I get some very specific answers (see sidebar).

 

Flexibility of study

ACM courses are structured as a combination of intensive face-to-face study days and ongoing distance learning – ideal for those who want to do the highest level learning, but have work and other commitments that make full-time, scheduled university study impractical. And they benefit from small class sizes, lots of interaction during and after the intensive face-to-faces and extensive personal support from the tutor. Students tell me that this flexible format worked a treat for them.

 

And, of course, the network

ACM graduates, like any students, value highly the cadre of marketing peers and friends they connect with during their study. What sets the CIM network apart is its wide global embrace. Graduates have affiliation with all CIM graduates worldwide, as well as permanent access to the organisation’s substantial online tools and resources, and entrée to ongoing networking and education events in Australia.

 

The best testimonial

For all the enthusiasm of students and graduates, perhaps the best advertisement for ACM and the CIM qualifications comes from the people they work for. For CIM Professional Diploma student Fiona Coles, a marketing executive at Shoal Bay Resort and Spa, one direct result of her study was particularly sweet. She used her coursework to prepare the submission that won her employer a New South Wales Tourism Award. But even sweeter is hearing what her boss, marketing manager Rebecca Smith, has to say: “Fiona’s CIM study has definitely contributed to her success. It has pushed her to challenge processes and policies, encouraged her to look for best practice and provided her with a solid overall business perspective, which allows her to operate effectively within the broader business team.”

And that, I’d venture, is what serious marketing education is all about.