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Positioning Strategy Approach for Executive Education Leadership Programs

Testing a Positioning Strategy Approach for Kellogg School of Management

Executive Education is a large, growing market in the US, estimated to reach $1.2Billion in 2022. Insight to Action tested the appeal of positioning strategy approaches to three different leadership programs.   

The Kellogg School of Management is a leading player in this market along with UCLA Anderson, Wharton, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, University of Chicago Booth and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and others.

Positioning Strategy Approach for Executive Education Leadership Programs

Target Customers for Executive Education

The target customers include previous executive education students as well as two types of prospects. Most of these customers were seriously considering executive education in the next one or two years, and Kellogg was the top program in their consideration, followed by Harvard and Wharton. The vast majority came from organizations with revenues over $100 million. At least half came from organizations that occasionally or regularly send their management to executive education programs, so they were clearly a qualified target group.

Positioning Strategy Approach Questions Addressed

Target customers assessed the positioning strategy approach through several different filters, including:

  • The appeal of the complete concept description in terms of likelihood to enroll
  • The key drivers of the program’s appeal
  • Open ended likes and dislikes about the program
  • Appeal of alternative short program names
  • Appeal based on longer program names

We also examined the ability to distinguish between program, clarity of the program description, and the leadership skills that the targets were most interested in developing.

Positioning Strategy Approach for Executive Education Leadership Programs

Overall Positioning Strategy Approach: Focus on the Leader’s Transformation

The results were highly consistent across all the measures and questions.  The most appealing positioning strategy for the executive education program focused on the leader enhancing his or her leadership skills.

Key Drivers of Appeal (Benefits and Reasons to Believe)

The key drivers of appeal were greater self awareness of the leader’s motivations and drivers as well as an enhanced understanding the motivations and drivers for the leader’s team.  The reasons to believe included a unique approach with a more holistic view of leadership for increasing productivity and intensive reflection. Example quotes included:

“Like the inward focus. Improving leadership through improving oneself.”

“Sounds like a deeper dive than other programs.”

While this was an appealing positioning strategy approach overall, there was an element that needed modification, as it tended to come off as too conceptual.

“I prefer practical over philosophical at this point in my career.  This does not seem action-oriented.”

Leadership skill areas of interest aligned with the most appealing positioning strategy approach.  Before reviewing the concepts, executives indicated interest in interpersonal influence and persuasion, creating alignment on ideas and business plans and understanding the factors that make a great leader and how to become one.

 Positioning Strategy Approach Framework

  • To (target) Executive education previous users and prospects
  • (brand) Kellogg’s Reinventing Leadership program is the
  • (frame of reference) Executive Education program that
  • (point of difference) gives you enhanced leadership skills, greater self awareness and understanding of others
  • (reason to believe) because it is a unique approach with a more holistic view of leadership for increasing productivity and intensive reflection.

With these clear results in hand, the Kellogg team moved to make the recommended improvements.

If you’re interested in research to test positioning strategy approaches, contact us.