Stefan Michel

Professor of Strategy and Marketing

Stefan Michel is Professor of Strategy and Marketing. He is Director of the Marketing Management course and was Dean of the Executive MBA program at IMD from 2014 until 2022. He also teaches in the Digital Marketing Strategies (DMS) and High Performance Boards (HPB) programs, as well as on the EMBA program. specializes in customer-focused strategy, strategy execution, corporate governance, and pricing. He has particular expertise in marketing strategy and is the author of a practical guide on marketing impact and the writer of numerous case studies on the topic.

Michel believes that the key to a successful marketing strategy lies in an in-depth understanding of an organization’s customers. It is his belief that failing to understand your customers can waste marketing resources and create a useless strategy, leaving your company with lackluster results.

His book Real Impact Marketing, co-authored with Lisa Duke, helps decision makers improve the impact of their marketing efforts by aligning customer insights, value co-creation, value communication, and value capture, and provides a unique one-page marketing plan summarizing the actions a company can take to achieve this objective.

When done right, marketing has the ability to make a real impact. But it needs fuel from customer insights, value communication, and strategies powered by consumer behavior. Without them, you’ll build your marketing efforts on shaky ground.

While most marketing textbooks discuss marketing instruments and managerial frameworks but fail to link these elements to real impact, Michel’s book takes a practical approach and focuses on the real and visible impact that marketing can have. Based on years of interacting with executives about what they need to know to deliver results effectively, the book, now in its third edition, is intended as a guide for all business leaders on the contribution that marketing can make to a firm’s success.

Michel has also written several other books and book chapters on the topic, along with numerous newspaper articles and academic articles that have appeared in journals including Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, California Management Review, and the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

He has directed or taught in IMD custom programs for more than 70 organizations including ABB, Adecco, AGC, Aggreko, Air France KLM, Allianz, AXA, CLP, CMS, Coca Cola, Commerzbank, Danske, Deloitte, DNB, Ericsson, EY, Everbright, Evonik, Hertz, Holcim, IBM, ISS, JTI, Liberty Seguros, Maersk, NCC, Nestlé, Nilfisk-Advance, Novartis, Pon, PwC, Rexel, Securitas, Siemens, Skanska, Sulzer, Svitzer, Swiss Post, Swisscanto, TUI, Visa, and Wolseley.

When advising executives and entrepreneurs on marketing strategy, Michel says they should focus on three points. First, answer the question, “What the heck is going on?” Avoid getting lost in the details of the market analytics and trend reports. Instead, put all the pieces together to define the current external and internal context, and opportunities and risks. Second, make sure to discuss real choices that include some trade-offs and come with a risk and reward profile. And finally, align all your actions with overcoming the biggest hurdles that your organization is facing.

Michel was named on the Case Centre’s Top 50 Bestselling Case Authors list 2020/21 and has been recognized in several other case competitions.

He is a non-executive board member at publicly listed Swiss company Bossard and family-owned firm Peka-System and is a strategy and marketing consultant for several Swiss top 50 companies and SMEs. He is also President of the Foundation Board of the Swiss Society for Marketing (Gesellschaft fĂĽr Marketing GfM).

Before joining IMD in 2008, Michel was a tenured Professor of Global Marketing at Thunderbird School of Global Management in the United States, where he introduced a number of successful teaching innovations and received several awards for excellence in teaching. He previously worked as Professor of Marketing at the University of Applied Science in Lucerne and Lecturer of Marketing at the University of Zurich, University of Berne and SAWI Biel.

Selected publications
Real impact marketing 3e: Create a 1-page marketing plan with better customer insights
Book
Real impact marketing 3e: Create a 1-page marketing plan with better customer insights
Failing to understand your customers can waste marketing resources and create a useless strategy, leaving your company with lackluster results. And social media content and digital initiatives aren...
Published 4 April 2022
Article
Bill it, kill it, or keep it free?: B2B companies can seize new sales by charging for services they’ve been giving away
In tough times, companies hunt for new sources of profitability and growth, frequently ranging far beyond their traditional offerings. Yet in doing so, many of them overlook opportunities for gener...
Published 2 January 2019
Article
Capture more value: Innovation isn't worth much if you don't get paid for it
Businesses innovate constantly to create new value for customers. But unless they also revisit how they capture value, they might not be adequately compensated for those breakthroughs.¦A new framew...
Published 1 October 2014
Article
Service-logic innovations: How to innovate customers not products
The article focuses on value creation, which is defined by customer use, and a service-logic approach to innovation. Value propositions are created through an interaction of buyers and producers wh...
Published 1 May 2008
Article
An expanded and strategic view of discontinuous innovations: Deploying a service-dominant logic
The service-dominant logic (S-D logic) provides a novel and valuable theoretical perspective that necessitates a rethinking and reevaluation of the conventional literature on innovation. This liter...
Published 1 January 2008
Article
Why service recovery fails: Tensions among customer, employee, and process perspectives
The keys to effective service recovery are familiar to many throughout industry and academia. Nevertheless, overall customer satisfaction after a failure has not improved, and many managers claim t...
Published 1 January 2009
Article
The service recovery paradox: True but overrated?
The service recovery paradox refers to situations in which the overall satisfaction levels of recovered customers exceed those of customers who did not encounter any problemswith the initial servic...
Published 1 January 2008
Academic publications
Book
Real Impact Marketing
Published 9 April 2019
Article
Mass-customised products: Are they bought for uniqueness or to overcome problems with standard products?
Through mass customisation, firms can offer individualised products at little cost, which has prompted extensive research into the supply side but less investigation of consumer attitudes. Customer...
Published 1 January 2009
Article
ImplementierungshĂĽrden des Value Based Pricing
In der Theorie besteht weitgehend Einigkeit darĂĽber, dass das Value Based Pricing dem kostenbasierten und dem konkurrenzbasierten Pricing ĂĽberlegen ist. In der Praxis dominiert jedoch nach wie vor ...
Published 1 January 2009
Article
Solution readiness: A guiding framework for supplier firms
Many suppliers follow the trend of offering business solutions prematurely. In this paper, the concept of "solution readiness" is hence explored, drawing on in-depth interviews with 23 solution sup...
Published 1 April 2013
Article
Identifying the right solution customers: A managerial methodology
The purpose of this paper is to develop and apply a methodology for identifying, assessing and segmenting customers for business solutions. Firstly, criteria for evaluating solution customers are i...
Published 24 April 2016
Article
Shaping, organizing, and rethinking service innovation: A multidimensional framework
The purpose of this paper is to review key research contributions that may be useful for rethinking service innovation. Service innovation is not a monolithic construct; therefore, the opportunitie...
Published 1 January 2012
Article
Guaranty Trust Bank of Nigeria: From niche positioning to mass-market branding
This case describes a strategic marketing dilemma facing Tayo Aderinokun, the cofounder and managing director (CEO) of the highly successful Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) of Nigeria. In its initial ...
Published 23 June 2009
Article
Why service recovery fails: Tensions among customer, employee, and process perspectives
The keys to effective service recovery are familiar to many throughout industry and academia. Nevertheless, overall customer satisfaction after a failure has not improved, and many managers claim t...
Published 1 January 2009
Insight for Executives
Inflation: How to raise prices and preserve margins (without losing consumers)
Article
Inflation: How to raise prices and preserve margins (without losing consumers)
Companies can offset the pressure on their cost base by rethinking products, supply chains, and pricing strategies.
Published 5 September 2022
Books to inspire, inform and entertain 
Article
Books to inspire, inform and entertain 
From dealing with burnout and bullsh*t to the joys of friendship and climbing mountains, IMD professors offer a varied choice of summer reading material.
Published 16 June 2022
Agile pricing will help firms profit from supply chain constraints 
Article
Agile pricing will help firms profit from supply chain constraints 
An inability to change prices more frequently is the source of a huge missed opportunity when supply is limited, particularly for automakers.
Published 14 April 2022
How to raise prices in times of inflation 
Article
How to raise prices in times of inflation 
Consumer psychology is key when passing on costs: maintaining profit is considered fair but increasing profit is not. Inflationary times can enable companies to review their entire pricing strateg...
Published 16 February 2022
Article
Strategically pay your customers for their productivity
Your customers want to work for you. They are willing to help you with everything from innovation to generating additional revenue. The question is how. From 1,723 articles on co-creation, we extra...
Published 1 September 2020
Article
Pricing co-created value: An integrative framework and research agenda
Two-sided markets, free pricing, and offerings with network externalities represent exciting variations in the market. And while all embody theoretical advancements in marketing describing situati...
Published 1 December 2019
Thomas Cook collapse: The seven signs it will happen to your business
Article
Thomas Cook collapse: The seven signs it will happen to your business
Thomas Cook’s journey ended yesterday. To make sure that your company does not face the same fate, assessing the seven factors that endanger your profit pool is a good first step toward a proactive...
Published 24 September 2019
Article
Bill it, kill it, or keep it free?: B2B companies can seize new sales by charging for services they’ve been giving away
In tough times, companies hunt for new sources of profitability and growth, frequently ranging far beyond their traditional offerings. Yet in doing so, many of them overlook opportunities for gener...
Published 2 January 2019
Bill it, kill it, or keep it free
Video
Bill it, kill it, or keep it free
Professor Stefan Michel looks at whether companies can benefit from charging for previously free services in the first episode of a new video series on influential research by IMD faculty.
Published 21 December 2018
Article
Why YouTube’s attempt at a new music service will fall flat
YouTube announced a new music streaming service—a revamped version of the existing YouTube Music. Launching Tuesday, the free, ad-supported version will remain in place, and there will be a Premium...
Published 21 May 2018
Article
Wo spĂĽren Sie die Digitalisierung im Marketing in Ihrem Unternehmen am besten?
Die Digitalisierung im Marketing wird leider zu häufig reduziert auf Social Media und bezahlte versus organische Klicks. In jedem Unternehmen gibt es aber zustätzlich drei Marketingprozesse, die di...
Published 13 March 2017
Capturing value and avoiding commoditization through pricing excellence
Article
Capturing value and avoiding commoditization through pricing excellence
While organizations might think they understand competitive pricing, potential sales are often lost because of price competition. The challenge that most businesses face is that they cannot afford ...
Published 21 December 2016
Is personalized pricing fair?
Article
Is personalized pricing fair?
In Switzerland, one of the country’s largest grocery retailers has recently rolled out personalized discounts based on shopping data collected from customer reward cards. The move has been met with...
Published 9 December 2016
LinkedIn Learning: loading education 4.0?
Article
LinkedIn Learning: loading education 4.0?
LinkedIn recently announced that it was entering the professional development market. Surprisingly, this news barely caused a ripple. Will 22 September 2016 go down in history as a key milestone in...
Published 14 October 2016
How good preparation can save your organization in a crisis
Article
How good preparation can save your organization in a crisis
The Swiss Armed Forces method of understanding, deciding and communicating when the going gets tough.
Published 7 September 2016
Article
Ne gâchez jamais une bonne crise
A quoi reconnaît-on une excellente formation en management? A sa composante pratique. Les dirigeants d'entreprise ont de moins en moins de temps à consacrer à la réflexion et à la formation continu...
Published 2 October 2015
Article
8 reasons companies don't capture more value
In general, companies don’t devote enough time to thinking about value capture.Their innovation efforts tend to be focused wholly on the creation of new value; meanwhile, the question of how exactl...
Published 8 April 2015
Article
Let your customers segment themselves by what they’re willing to pay
If you’re out to capture more value, one surefire tactic is to figure out a way to charge different prices to customers with different willingness-to-pay (WTP). Economists sometimes call this “pric...
Published 11 March 2015
Article
Savoir réagir à la hausse du franc grâce à la psychologie des prix
De nombreuses entreprises, à commencer par celles des domaines du tourisme et de l’export, ont vécu l’abandon du taux plancher le 15 janvier comme un vilain accident. Chacun savait que cela pouvait...
Published 6 February 2015
Article
Erschliessen Sie ihrem Unternehmen neue Werte
Die richtige Verwertung neuer Ideen ist so wichtig wie die Innovation selbst. Denn was bringen die tollsten Produkte, wenn keiner fĂĽr sie bezhalt?
Published 1 February 2015
Article
L'art de défendre des produits chers
Le marketing est une discipline très important pour notre économie. Nous devons notre prospérité en grande partie aux exportations, à savoir aux biens et services que nous produisons en Suisse et v...
Published 7 November 2014
Article
Capture more value: Innovation isn't worth much if you don't get paid for it
Businesses innovate constantly to create new value for customers. But unless they also revisit how they capture value, they might not be adequately compensated for those breakthroughs.¦A new framew...
Published 1 October 2014
Article
Une victoire suisse rapporte 150 fois la mise
Sil'on en croit les bookmakers anglais, l'équipe suisse ne¦part pas favorite au titre de championne du monde de football 2014. Eux misent plutôt sur le Brésil, l'Argentine, l'Espagne ou l'Allemagne...
Published 10 June 2014
Article
Un salaire minimun Ă©quitable et faux
Dans quelques jours, nous voterons sur l'initiative pour un¦salaire minimal, et deux arguments se distinguent.¦Ses partisans déplorent les différences salariales dans les¦entreprises. Et, après «Mi...
Published 13 May 2014
Article
Le système politique suisse fonctionne
Le mécontentement à l'égard de la politique suisse s'est répandu sur l'ensemble du territoire national.¦Personnellement, je ne fais pas partie du choeur des mécontents et je pose la question suivan...
Published 15 April 2014
Article
La durabilité plutôt que Christoph Blocher
Une courte majorités'est prononcée en faveur de l'initiative¦«Contre l'immigration de masse». La stupide remarque de¦Blocher concernant le patriotisme des Romands a fait les gros titres des journau...
Published 18 February 2014
Article
Le management a besoin de preuves
Les dirigeants d’entreprise et les médecins font des métiers très différents, mais ils ont au moins un point commun: ils doivent analyser des situations critiques, poser des diagnostics, puis ordon...
Published 7 February 2014
Would you trust Mickey Mouse to teach your kid English?
Article
Would you trust Mickey Mouse to teach your kid English?
Most of us grew up with Mickey and Minnie Mouse. We learned some elements of romance from Lady and the Tramp and we were terrified about lying thanks to Pinocchio. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs t...
Published 26 September 2013
Article
Gemeinsam lösungen finden
Warum Unternehmen auf dem Weg vom reinen Produzenten zum Dienstleister oftmals scheitern. Eine Anleitung, wie sie mit Partnerschaften dagegen vorgehen.
Published 1 June 2013
Obstacles to implementing value-based pricing
Article
Obstacles to implementing value-based pricing
Practitioners and researchers largely agree that value-based pricing leads to higher profits than cost- or competition-based pricing. Yet, despite the fundamental superiority of VBP, studies contin...
Published 9 May 2013
Article
MarketingUberlegenes Marketing
Die häufigste Klage, die man 2012 von Marketing-Führungskräften hört, lautet etwa so: "Wir sind Marktführer¦und unsere Produkte sowie Dienstleistungen sind qualitativ besser als die der Konkurrenz....
Published 1 November 2012
Article
The case study: Cultural change is part of the process; define and implement a new brand
The story. In 2005, Axa, the France-based insurance provider, had just celebrated 20 years of growth and become a world market leader. Henri de Castries, chief executive, decided to launch an initi...
Published 10 March 2011
From producer to service provider
Article
From producer to service provider
Industrial companies are increasingly defining themselves as “service providers” and offering customers “one-stop solutions”. They promise “total customer solutions” thanks to “integrated value cha...
Published 16 April 2010
Article
Von operativer zu strategischer Preiskommunikation
Published 7 April 2010
Article
Vom Produzenten zum Dienstleister: Knackpunkt Solutions
Industrielle Unternehmen definieren sich immer häufiger als Dienstleister und bieten den Kunden «Lösungen aus einer Hand». Sie versprechen «Total Customer Solutions» dank «Integrierten Wertketten»....
Published 3 April 2010
Article
Innovative Wertkonstellationen schaffen
Strategisches Marketing Wie werden sich die Innovationen der Zukunft von den Innovationen der Vergangenheit unterscheiden? Die Aufgabe des strategischen Marketings ist es, nicht nur die BedĂĽrfnisse...
Published 28 October 2009
Article
Turning customer frustration into customer loyalty
Service failure isn’t necessarily a disaster for a company. If the service recovery – the actions taken in response to the failure – is handled well, then customer satisfaction, trust and loyalty c...
Published 25 February 2009
Article
Customer service: Making the most of customer complaints
Nobody's perfect. That's a fact, not an excuse.¦Which is why it's crucial for companies to realize that the way they handle customer complaints is every bit as important as trying to provide great ...
Published 22 September 2008
Article
Service-logic innovations: How to innovate customers not products
The article focuses on value creation, which is defined by customer use, and a service-logic approach to innovation. Value propositions are created through an interaction of buyers and producers wh...
Published 1 May 2008
Article
The upside of falling flat
The article discusses the venture by fast-food giant McDonald's to build and operate two four-star hotels in Switzerland in 2001. The hotels were sold in 2003 because they were not successful. The ...
Published 1 April 2007
Real Impact Marketing
Book
Real Impact Marketing
Real Impact Marketing helps decision makers to improve their Marketing Contribution Impact by aligning customer insights, value co-creation, value communication, and value capture.
Published 1 January 0001
Programs