If you go to college with an assumption that you’ve learned everything there is to learn about writing essays back in high school, then you are in for a nasty surprise. A college marketing essay is an entirely different beast from what you’ve been taught before. In high school, it was enough to rehash the relevant chapter from a textbook and “express your thoughts”. In college, nobody is interested either in textbook material or in your thoughts unless they are backed up by original research and, preferably, grounded in practice.
In this guide we will cover, step by step, how to write a marketing essay you won’t have to rewrite half a dozen times to impress your professors.
Choosing a Topic
Marketing deals with current problems and issues, which means that you can earn bonus points with your professor or tutor if you find a topic that is relevant here and now instead of repeating the same generalities as everybody else. Here are a few ways to get ideas for a topic:
- Go to the Marketing section of Quora and take a look at what questions people are asking right now. Topics discussed there are not only current and interesting but often contain usable links to information sources and allow you to get in touch with specialists you can consult;
- Visit marketing websites like GrowthHackers or Social Media Examiner and see what’s trending;
- Look for marketing communities in social media, LinkedIn first of all;
- Read mass media sources like AdNews and AdWeek to spot the current trends;
- Brainstorming with mind mapping is a fun and surprisingly effective tactic. Write down the general idea of your topic in the middle of a page (it may be just “Marketing” for now) and start jotting down ideas all around it. Go for quantity, not quality, simply put on paper everything you come up with. Turn off your internal censor and don’t be afraid to write a bad idea – it will help to spur your creativity;
- Check if it is relevant for your course and you can find enough material on the topic before you commit to it;
- Narrow down your topic if necessary. Essays are relatively small assignments, not very well suited to discussing broad subjects. For example, “Social media marketing” is way too vague a topic. “Facebook marketing campaigns” is better. “Use of video in Facebook marketing campaigns” is better yet;
- Discuss the topic with your supervisor and ask if your choice is a good one. It can just as well be a step one – simply say that you want some advice. Your supervisor probably did it many times before and knows what would be the best course of action.
However, before you proceed with writing, you should ask yourself a few questions:
Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?
- Do you have access to data relevant for your topic (market researches, consumer reports, current statistics, etc.)?
- Do you have contacts of people from whom you can get the necessary information? These are not always necessary but can give your essay extra credibility?
- Is your topic original? You probably won’t be able to find a topic that has never been touched upon before, but if it is something every other student writes about, you will have a hard time impressing your professors?
- Is your topic relevant? Is it important in today’s world? Can studying it be useful?
If you need more specific ideas, consider these prompts – each of them can serve as a basis for a dozen original and interesting essays:
- Analyze a particularly imaginative and successful marketing campaign and discuss what makes it so;
- Analyze a marketing campaign that backfired spectacularly and discuss what mistakes were made and how they could have been avoided;
- Discuss the importance of taking local culture and realia into account when planning marketing campaigns for foreign markets and potential blunders that can result from failing to do so;
- Compare two marketing campaigns promoting similar products and point out their strong and weak suits;
- Discuss the reasons why viral marketing campaigns are so powerful and analyze some examples.
Tips from Our Experts: Before You Start Writing
Gathering Enough Information
Just as with any other writing assignment, you start your job with gathering enough reliable sources of information to support your point of view and demonstrate that it is based on existing body of research, not just your own conjectures. In fact, it is best to do a bout of information before you settle down with a topic to make sure you will have enough material to work with.
How many sources you need may vary – if it isn’t mentioned in the assignment you should consult your supervisor. Some students decide that the more the better – however, it isn’t always true. Using fifty sources to write a one-page essay is a bit excessive (and makes the professor doubt whether you really used all of them or simply added them to works cited page to make a better impression). General rule of a thumb is this: start with at least 3 sources and add one for each page after the first one.
Also, consider the quality of the sources. Although marketing as a discipline is less conservative than, for example, psychology or physics, you still have to maintain certain standards. For example, blog posts aren’t usually considered to be a viable source of information. This, however, doesn’t mean that you cannot use online sources – you simply have to look for them using special academic search engines like Google Scholar. When choosing sources, follow these guidelines:
- Try to choose the most recent ones. Marketing is a volatile discipline that is subject to quick changes, and data that has been relevant five years ago may be hopelessly obsolete today;
- Prefer articles published by well-reputed magazines and universities. Irrespectively of their true value, they immediately add gravitas to your argument;
- Books and newspapers with good reputation are also suitable, although mass media in general are considered less valuable sources than proper academic materials, so don’t rely on them too much;
- Use a variety of sources without fixating on any one type in particular to make your research more well-rounded;
- Using case studies is a good idea in almost all situations. Any marketing assignment that uses data about real-life situations is going to be treated better than a purely theoretical work.
Do Market Research
In order to write most marketing essays you have to prepare at least a superficial market research related to your topic, even if you are dealing with a past case. Its details may vary, but most commonly you should do the following:
- Study the target demographic of the product or service you research. Before you do anything else, consider who its main intended consumer is. How does the company position the product? Is this positioning in alignment with how it is perceived by the public? Can this perception be changed with marketing methods?
- Do demographic research. Once you’ve formed your preliminary judgment, back it up with real research. Marketing reports are especially helpful when gathering this sort of info, but you shouldn’t forget about other sources: corporate websites and social media accounts, magazines and advertisements promoting the product. Document the trends trying to use as much objective facts and numerical data as possible. Support your conclusions with quotations from academic sources;
- Use input from psychology. Marketing isn’t the only discipline that studies advertisements and their influence. Psychology does so as well, and by looking at the subject from this unusual perspective, you can gain valuable insights into the situation: what psychological impact the ads in question have and how they can be altered.
Introduction and Thesis Statement
Just like any other academic assignment, a marketing essay should start with a thesis statement – that is, the primary idea behind your writing, your viewpoint on the subject you are about to discuss and the purpose of your essay condensed to one or two sentences.
Depending on the size of your essay, place thesis statement either in the introduction (in smaller assignments) or in the second paragraph (in larger ones). Be concise and straightforward and avoid vague expressions. However, don’t run the opposite extreme – phrases like “the topic of my essay is…” and “the purpose of my essay” are fit for middle school, not college.
You should formulate your thesis statement before writing anything else, as the entire essay revolves around it. If by the time you finish writing you feel that your perception of the subject changed, don’t hesitate to come back and alter it to suit the final variant of the essay better.
Introduction per se serves a technical purpose – it should grasp the reader’s attention and lead him up to the thesis statement. Use anything that will cause the necessary effect. Here are some tips that will help you write a better introduction:
- Start with an interesting, probably unexpected fact about the industry in question (e.g., “Although there is twenty times as many consumers in the country as there are business buyers, the total volume of business market far surpasses that of that of consumer market”);
- Don’t repeat what you’ve said in the title. Better yet, use something seemingly completely unrelated to it;
- Keep it short. Introduction should lead the reader up to the main content, not replace it;
- Don’t forget to point out why your essay is important.
Marketing is more concerned with provable facts and methods used to achieve the results and less with your personal thoughts and opinions on the subject. If you cannot prove that certain results are connected with certain factors, your opinion doesn’t mean much. That is why you should pay special attention to describing how you reached your conclusions:
- Where did you get your data?
- What methods did you use for data collection?
- What statistical procedures have you applied?
- How did you analyze your information?
- Why have you chosen this particular methodology (in case you had a viable alternative)?
The number of body paragraphs, carrying the main content of the essay, can vary, but they are usually written following the same structure (sometimes called TEEL or TEECL):
- Topic sentence. Each paragraph should deal with a single idea or claim, and it is the job of the topic sentence to introduce it;
- Explanation. A few sentences to elaborate on the idea or claim in greater detail;
- Evidence. Back up the idea or claim with proof. This is where all your information sources come into play. Don’t forget that all sources should be cited using the academic style you’ve been assigned with;
- Comment. An optional yet very helpful part. Think about strong and weak points of your arguments and explain how your evidence supports your claim. Consider potential counter-arguments and answer to them preventatively;
- Link. Sum up the main idea of the paragraph, point out how it refers to the rest of your argument and why it is an important part of the bigger picture.
Marketing is all about practical application of knowledge and information, and it is not enough to just analyze the subject. That is why in conclusion – in addition to summing up your argument and explaining the value of your research – you are expected to offer your recommendations to solving the problem discussed in the main part.
Ideally, you should set your essay aside for at least a day or two before revising it. Immediately after you’ve finished writing you are too used to your own words and sentence structures to notice most of the mistakes you’ve made. Better yet, have a trusted friend or a professional proofreader (or both) read your essay and point out all the errors they’ve noticed.
However, this doesn’t replace a dedicated effort at proofreading on your own. Here are things you should pay attention to in addition to grammar and syntax:
- Eliminate any logical inconsistencies you find;
- Check if you answered all the questions you’ve asked. Make sure your answers are clear, comprehensible and unambiguous;
- See if you use unnecessarily long and complex words and sentence structures to make your writing appear more scientific. Remove them;
- Check if you follow “one paragraph – one idea” rule;
- Make sure you use passive voice only if it is absolutely necessary;
- Do you see any unnecessary words, sentences or even paragraphs? More isn’t always better, so if something isn’t needed to convey your thoughts, eliminate it without doubt.
Style and Formatting
When you are first given an essay to write you are assigned an academic style to use: APA, MLA or some other. You can find most information needed to successfully write an essay using one of them on websites like Purdue Owl. However, getting a relevant style guide is still a good idea.
You will probably have most trouble with citations and bibliography page. If you have problems keeping in mind all the requirements in the style guide, consider using one of the websites generating citation entries based on your input.
Finally, a word to the wise. Don’t put writing off until the last possible moment – it always tends to take more time than you expect. If, however, you manage to finish the assignment a few days before the deadline, take a little break and then reread it carefully. If you find that you don’t like some parts of it, don’t hesitate to cut and rewrite – it may mean all the difference between a passing and a failing grade.