Why would many
people prefer to wear a pair of Levi jeans rather than a make provided
exclusively by a local super market? Why would people often choose Nike
trainers rather than another make? Is it because these well known makes provide
better quality, or that those products perform better? Or is it a matter of
status and prestige? Are such questions relevant also when you are choosing
your MBA program and your business school, and if so – when and why?


Brand is important
for many types of product, especially when products from different suppliers
are substantially indistinguishable. So it is particularly important where
products have largely become commodities – widely and easily available from
many sources. Brand confers intangible characteristics on the thing to which it
is attached. Brand seeks to differentiate, often in the absence of other more
tangible differentiators.


Similarly, brand is
important for many types of service, and that is the reason why many hotels,
travel companies, airlines, banks etc vigorously promote themselves.


Certainly some
business schools are far better known than others. Do such schools provide
better programs? Not necessarily. There are very many great MBA programs
provided by lots of schools that few will have heard of outside their immediate
region. Nevertheless, should you always aim to get into a ‘big name’ school?
Not necessarily – as the most important consideration is what suits you. So,
your first thoughts will be about practicality. This refers to location,
structure, dates, duration, cost etc, and about the focus, the syllabus,
content, specializations, and size.


So when might brand
be important to you? There are three parts to the answer to that question.
Firstly, when what you actually want is offered by big name schools (remember
that they don’t all offer everything everywhere). Secondly when you think you
can afford it, as such schools tend to cost more. And thirdly when you think
you could get in, as those schools also tend to have more demanding entry


Two of these three
points (cost and exclusivity) might seem to lend support to the suggestion that
brand is of major importance, but it may not be so. Really there are two
issues, prominence and repute. If the school you choose is well-known and known
to be good, by the people that will matter to you, you will probably not have
much need to explain or justify your choice.


Look at it another
way. Ask yourself whether the school(s) you are considering will be known about
in the place you will be in, or want to be in, later. Irrespective of where you
are now, will those people that matter to you then, know your school? If you
are not intending to have your career take you soon to a different country or
region this will be less of a problem and it will not matter if your school has
never featured in any of the international rankings.


Brand is important
in many situations. However the MBA is not yet a pure commodity and different
programs from different schools can still mostly be differentiated, and thus
the decision to take a particular program should be, convincingly, explainable.
Certainly, other things being equal, most of us will prefer to have a product
or use a service that those who we respect or regard as important will
recognize. However, other things are often not equal, and so we will be careful
not to be tempted to pursue something that does not actually satisfy our main
needs or circumstances.

Republished with
permission from The MBA Program Information Site (www.mbainfo.com), a comprehensive source of
information on MBA programs.