Stefan Michel

Stefan Michel
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.
Stefan Michel

Stefan Michel 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.

While most marketing textbooks discuss marketing instruments and managerial frameworks but fail to link these elements to real impact, this book takes a very 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 that you 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 also named on the Case Centre’s Top 50 Bestselling Case Authors list 2020/21 and has been recognized in several other case competitions.


At IMD, he was Dean of the Executive MBA program from 2014 until 2022 and is currently Director of the Marketing Management course. He also teaches in the Digital Marketing Strategies (DMS) and High Performance Boards (HPB) programs, as well as on the EMBA program.

He is a non-executive board member at publicly listed Swiss company Bossard and family-owned firm Peka Systeme, 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 für 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: Create Your 1-Page Marketing Plan with Better Customer Insights (Business School Press, 2022)

Bill it, kill it, or keep it free (MIT Sloan Management Review, 2019)

Capture more value: Innovation isn't worth much if you don't get paid for it (Harvard Business Review, 2014)

Service-logic innovations: How to innovate customers, not products (California Management Review, 2008)

An expanded and strategic view of discontinuous innovations: Deploying a service-dominant logic (Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 2008)

Why service recovery fails: Tensions among customer, employee, and process perspectives (Journal of Service Management, 2009)

Service recovery paradox: True but overrated? (International Journal of Service Industry Management, 2008)



Named on Case Centre’s Top 50 Bestselling Case Authors list (2020/21)

John Molson MBA International Case Writing Competition (2017)

Emerald Literati award for best paper in Journal of Service Management (2009 and 2010)

Swiss Society for Market and Social Research best dissertation award (1997)




University of Zurich


PhD (Marketing)

University of Zurich

Executive MBA
Provides experienced executives with an opportunity to achieve mastery of business concepts, leadership skills and continuous learning without leaving their job
Foundations for Business Leadership
For professionals wanting to develop cross-functional business skills to become an effective general manager/ business leader. Typical profiles include: Country Manager, Regional Manager, Business Lead, Functional Manager, Department Manager.
Master of Business Administration
Develops young and experienced international professionals into future corporate leaders through an intense one year program focused on leadership and general management.
Orchestrating Winning Performance
IMD's signature program, OWP, brings you the latest business trends, thought leadership and insights to revitalize your business, drive innovation and lead you forward. Fully customizable schedule. For executives and teams.
Digital Marketing Strategies
For senior or mid-level manager with strategic, marketing or commercial responsibilities, looking for the latest digital tools and strategies.
High Performance Boards
Exposes board members to the latest research on top performing boards and shares best practice from different global governance regimes.
All IMD programs
Stefan Michel's Publications
Amazon is disrupting the book market, but differently than you might think
Case study
Real Impact Marketing
Case study