Award-winning paper explores link between marketing science and practice


Sales figures tell only one part of the story of why marketers do what they do. By then, it’s often too late to change the ending. An award-winning paper co-written by MBS Marketing faculty member Professor Ujwal Kayande starts from the premise that we know surprisingly little about what happens at the other end of this process: how scientific research is transformed (or not) into the tools marketers depend on to generate insight and decisions.
The article, which was awarded the 2015 European Marketing Academy-International Journal of Research in Marketing (EMAC-IJRM) Prize in June, looks at what the authors call the marketing science value chain. At either end of the chain are academics and marketing managers. As intermediaries between those two groups are the analysts or consultants who have a firm grasp of the quantitative side of marketing, and can be found in big management consulting or market research firms or as in-house marketing scientists at the global brands.
Debates about scientific rigor versus real-world relevance are as old as business education itself. In marketing, the worldwide web may have been the midwife of today’s obsession with analytics, but the concern with data-based decision making goes back much further.
“Marketing science is just the historical term for marketing analytics,” Ujwal explains. “The important thing managers need to know is that high-end companies have a long history of using analytics.”
It makes sense when you consider the interrelationships between marketing and the sciences: marketing eminence gris Philip Kotler (keynote speaker at the MBS Annual Alumni Dinner in 2014) was originally an economist, while John Little — who pioneered marketing’s use of barcode scanner data —began his career in operations research.
Little’s 1983 paper with Peter Guadagni borrowed from economics the logit model, which had been previously used by transport researchers, and married it with the rich household consumption data starting to be made available from barcode scanners. In what remains to this day one of the most enduring, widely adopted innovations in marketing science, they developed a model of brand choice that analysed purchase  behaviour. It has been taken up widely by major consumer packaged goods firms, and underpins loyalty programs, coupons and myriad retail marketing efforts.
Not surprisingly, the Little/Guadagni paper is one of 20 nominated by Ujwal and his co-authors as the top marketing science articles in the past 25 years, notable for their dual impact on both academic and practitioners. Another was Louviere and Woodworth’s 1983 paper on conjoint models of choice, which force survey respondents to trade off their choices against each other rather than simply ranking them numerically. This work laid the foundations for Louviere’s Best Worst Scaling method, still in use today.
The authors found broad agreement between academics and practitioners on where marketing science has had the biggest impact: brand management, pricing, new products, product portfolios and customer/market selection. There is also a thirst for knowledge about consumer behaviour in online environments.
Ujwal and his research partners — John Roberts of LBS/UNSW and Stefan Stremersch from IESE/Erasmus School of Economics — surveyed many of the authors of these seminal papers on how they accounted for their impact. For some, it was timing: new technology presented new opportunities, while for others, working directly with marketing managers proved a rich vein of information on business pain points and an impetus for new directions in research.
Consulting was identified as an important precursor for papers with dual impact, and for adoption of scientific breakthroughs by practitioners. Little and Guadagni both credited the success of their model to their ability as consultants to develop analytical tools based on their work, for practitioner consumption.
Several nominated a tough marketing challenge: the responsibility of academics to diffuse their own research, “not relying on good ideas to automatically be adopted”.
While Big Data poses some serious headaches for marketing managers awash in more data than they know what to do with, that same vastness offers opportunities for the canny researcher. Several of the authors interviewed urged researchers to scout for gaps in knowledge of interest to practitioners. There is a great deal of information on these areas of need, such as the Marketing Science Institute’s 2014-2016 Research Priorities.
Ujwal emphasises that models and tools are only as effective as the insights they enable managers to generate. “It’s not the size of your data that matters, but what you do with it. Companies can have the most impact when they look at the data they already have, rather than simply investing in more data and bigger hammers to analyse it.”
It is also important for managers to look up from their pivot tables once in a while. “Managers are too mired in business reporting, and aren’t sufficiently trained in analytics. So they lose out on the tremendous insights that analytics can generate.”
Ujwal Kayande teaches Marketing Analytics and Marketing Strategy in MBS’s Master of Business Administration and Master of Business Analytics programs.  He is a Professor of Marketing and the Founding Director of  the MBS Centre for Business Analytics.
Full citation: John H Roberts, Ujwal Kayande, Stefan Stremersch, ‘From academic research to marketing practice: exploring the marketing science value chain’, International Journal of Research in Marketing, 31 (2014)127-140.

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