THE INSTITUTE FOR RESEARCH IN MARKETING
A 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF CARLSON MARKETING ACADEMIC
RESEARCH COLLABORATION WITH OUR CORPORATE SPONSORS
Our founding Director and former Department of Marketing Chair, Professor Akshay Rao, had this vision and mission for the Institute in 2005:
“The Institute for Research in Marketing leverages the expertise of the Carlson School's world-class marketing faculty and an advisory board of practitioners from leading corporations to foster rigorous and relevant research that improves the science and practice of marketing.
Through its many initiatives, the Institute provides a forum for dialogue among marketing scholars, industry practitioners, policymakers, and students.
Fostering joint research projects that deliver value to our practitioner Institute partners and our faculty should be our long-term goal.”
During my role as Institute Director these past five years, the Institute has continued that vision by engaging in thought leadership and thought-provoking idea exchanges in our Board meetings. Those meetings have included both theoretical and practical research presentations/discussions from our Corporate Board members and Carlson Marketing Academic professors that have enabled us, together, to learn and confirm what we do and do not know about our profession. The meetings and the Institute have also enabled many of our Board members to know each other in more informal ways that have allowed them to communicate with each other directly about certain aspects of their business in which help was needed or consultative advice was given.
Our Board contribution in financial resources these past 10 years has been close to $1 million and to all of you, we are very thankful. Those resources have put the Institute on firm financial footing going into the future. They have also gone to not only support the Institute, but to support our new PhD students, and our department professors in their academic training and learning sessions. The results of this 10-year Institute effort and investment by our Board members are highlighted in my last newsletter. They are:
#2 in Actively Publishing Faculty in America
#3 in Research Productivity in America
#5 in Research Impact in America
#5 Most Cited Marketing Department in the World
Akshay and I cannot be prouder or more humbly thankful to you, our Board members and our marketing faculty, for your collaborative efforts to make all this happen.
It is time to celebrate this 10-year anniversary and collaboration! Over the next year, Department Chair Vlad Griskevicius and I will be sharing a number of events and ways to be involved within this Research Community and individually with our Board members based on this piece of our vision: “Fostering joint research projects that deliver value to our practitioner Institute partners and our faculty should be our long-term goal.”
Our marketing professors continue to be extremely productive in their research, which is reported on worldwide with the help of the Institute. This coverage enhances the brand image of each faculty member and at the same time, the name of the Carlson School of Management and the Marketing Department.
This faculty research is regularly updated on our Institute website and is accessible on the publications page. Another great website feature is the expertise page, which is categorized by topical areas, making it easier to search for faculty expertise.
In the past six months, our faculty research has received outstanding media exposure in the following:
Additional and international media exposure include:
India Live Today
Our faculty has also been recognized in the past six months with the following awards:
- Professor Deborah John received the Top 10 Reviewer Award for the Journal of Consumer Psychology
- Senior Lecturer Jay Lipe received the Dean's Grant/Teaching Development Award
- Senior Lecturer Seth Werner received the Outstanding Elective Faculty of the Year Award and the new MBA Excellence in Business Practice Award
We're also excited to share that Department Chair Vlad Griskevicius has been appointed to a newly created endowed chair, yet to be named. Thank you to all of our Institute Board members for their dedication, continued support, and engagement with our faculty. Continued best wishes in your marketing and research success!
Wayne G. Mueller
Director, Institute for Research in Marketing
Assistant Professor Alison Jing Xu
Professor Kathleen Vohs
Professor Joan Meyers-Levy
Department Chair Vladas Griskevicius
Professor Rohini Ahluwalia
Associate Professor Carlos Torelli
Professor Akshay Rao
How decision making depletes self-control resources
Over the past 15 years, Professor Kathleen Vohs has done research in the area of self-control. She studies it because she views self-control not only as one of humanity’s greatest strengths but also as a fragile process that’s easily disrupted.
“I love [researching] self-control because I was a person who was constantly using self-control and was very aware of using it,” Vohs said. “I’m a very goal-focused individual, and so as a consequence, I’m always thinking about my goals and I’m trying to change my behavior to be in line with those goals.”
In her research, Vohs and her colleagues have found that when people use self-control, they can be good at it for a brief period of time, but after that, they’re less successful. That’s because people have an internal reservoir of self-control energy. When they use some of that energy, they have less to use the next time self-control is needed.
“I like to say that self-control for humans is like running for a cheetah,” she said. “The cheetah can run the fastest of any animal in the world, but it can only do so for a short period of time. After that, it can’t give anymore. Self-control is like that.”
An aspect of self-control as a limited resource that she really likes is that it can help researchers and ordinary people understand other aspects of human behavior. It can offer insight into why people fail at diets; why people can’t save money and spend too much; why people have trouble getting up in the morning without hitting the snooze button too many times; why they fail to exercise or eat healthy; why, on an interpersonal level, they’re bad partners at work or at home; and can even get into some issues related to addiction and free will.
“It plays a part in lots of the biggest questions I think that scientists have about human behavior,” Vohs said.
Her research that decision making depletes self-control resources and lessens people’s abilities to make decisions later has been used by President Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, and many other important people. Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball, interviewed Obama leading up to the 2012 election. During the interview, Obama discussed how he now only wears gray or blue suits and doesn’t make decisions about what to eat. He said he does this because he has too many other decisions to make and research showed that making those trivial decisions would deplete his decision-making energy. The research Obama refers to is Vohs’ 2008 article Decision Fatigue. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg cited the same research, explaining at a 2014 Q&A at Facebook HQ why he only wears gray t-shirts. He has too many important duties to waste energy on silly decisions. In April this year, The New York Times published a piece titled The Men Powerful Enough to Wear the Same Thing Every Day. This too was about decision fatigue and how powerful men are figuring out it’s senseless to waste their psychological resources on getting dressed.
Vohs plans on continuing her research in self-control, using a new methodology called experience sampling. The researchers are currently performing experiments where participants are tested throughout their day. The researchers review how much self-control the participants use during the day and then see if they can predict whether the participants will be good at self-control later in the day.
Some previous experiments looked at what people desire in their everyday lives – do they want to eat, drink, have sex, be aggressive, shop, use the internet, etc. From there, researchers studied how much people wanted to give into those urges and how frequently they resisted. From their data, the researchers extrapolated that people experience urges about 50 percent of the time. So in a typical day, a person spends eight hours wanting something, whether it’s to go to the bathroom, stretch their legs, check email, etc.
Their current study using experience sampling has to do with what people think about in their everyday lives. The researchers focused on how much people are thinking about the past compared to the present or the future. They found that people focus mostly on the present, which makes sense. What was a little surprising, however, is that people spend more time thinking about the future than the past. Which is in contrast to much of psychology and academic learning that emphasizes the past, such as Freudian and animal models where the idea is that people are just responding to cues from their past when behaving in the present. Vohs and her collogues are using this research to develop new theories about how this positive future orientation is adaptive.
“We find that in contrast to all of those things, people are actually very focused on the future, and the past doesn’t enter into their thoughts very often at all,” Vohs said. “We like this idea because we think it really tells us a lot about the fact that humans are very forward focused and future looking.”
Department Chair’s research shows consumers revert to their ancestral instincts in a recession
After his second year in graduate school, Department Chair Vlad Griskevicius was stressed out. So, he bought some popular science books which were completely unrelated to his study of persuasion and influence. Those books, about how humankind’s evolutionary past influences modern psychology, started him down a whole new research path, and still sit on his office bookshelf.
Currently, Griskevicius’ research focuses on three areas. One, persuasion and influence, deals with altering consumer behavior – for instance, how small changes in wording a message can influence behavior. A second related area is green marketing and pro-environmental behavior. Griskevicius has examined how to motivate people to be environmentally conscious, even when it means they’ll have a worse experience or product. The third area is the evolutionary roots of modern consumer behavior, and whether a look at humankind’s ancestral past might provide insight into how people behave today.
Griskevicius enjoys how multi-disciplinary the evolutionary research is, allowing him to think about what the business world is doing, what’s going on in the psychology world, the anthropology world, with biologists, etc. Most research that happens at a university is very narrow.
“It’s a much bigger picture of research where we have to figure out how does what we study in the business school matter to biologists,” he said. “And the answer is that it all fits together, just not many people are looking at all of these things together. So to me, that’s very exciting, that big picture sense.”
For instance, there is a theory in biology that predicts when animal parents are going to favor male or female offspring. If resources are scarce, parents devote more effort to females because females nearly always have offspring in their lifespan. A huge number of males, however, produce zero offspring, and only a small number produce many. Animals don’t necessarily think about this, but over thousands of generations, natural selection has led them to make decisions that maximize their number of offspring. This animal behavior research led Griskevicius, along with fellow marketing Associate Professor Joe Redden, to wonder if people behaved similarly. So they asked a group of parents, with both boys and girls, if they treated their children differently. Over 90 percent said they treated them equally.
To find out if this was true, the researchers had people read news articles, some of which said the last recession had made things really tough, and things in the future are going to be even worse – meaning jobs and resources would be scarce. Reading this puts people in the mindset that they live in an uncertain time. They were then asked to make choices about (usually) hypothetical children, a boy and a girl. They were asked questions such as how they would split items in a will, or who would get braces if they can only afford one set. The researchers found that when people are thinking about recessions, they prefer girls over boys. Just as it is in the other mammals.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Griskevicius said. “Because if you ask people if they favor boys or girls, they say, ‘No – I treat them equally.’ It’s only when you put them into situations where they really have to choose that you see these effects pop out.”
Now, in cultures with strong gender preferences, this research suggests that when resources are really scarce, preferences should shift closer to girls. It doesn’t mean they’ll be treated really well, but they’ll be treated slightly better.
This research has implications for why shopping preferences change in times of recession or economic booms. Griskevicius and Redden reviewed data of shopping expenditures over the last 25 years and looked at how it relates to unemployment or GDP. He found that when things are going poorly, people really cut expenditures to boys; no new clothing or other items. Not so for girls. When times are good, spending for boys increases, but not necessarily for girls.
“There are lots of individual differences, but it’s shocking to get these effects at any level,” he said. “That’s why I love the multi-disciplinary approach whereby knowing something that happens in a completely different area of the University helped inform how we understand humans and financial decisions.”
As department co-chair, Griskevicius views research as the greatest strength of the Marketing department. Compared to other departments around the world, which often have some faculty members that aren’t very engaged, Griskevicius said it surprised and impressed him how active this one is in cutting-edge research. In fact, the department’s tied for second in the world in this area.
“The expression that comes to mind is, we’re hitting way above our weight,” Griskevicius said. “If you ask people how good should we be, and then you actually look at some of the hard numbers in terms of impact, we’re just off the charts outstanding.”
Another strength Griskevicius sees within the department is good teaching. There are many superb teachers who students just love and who get great evaluations.
“I was really pleasantly surprised that we’re not just a research department sitting in the ivory tower, but we’re making a difference in the classroom,” he said.
The Marketing department is also exemplary at experiential learning for the MBA students through the Carlson Brand Enterprise. It provides MBA students with great projects to work on with real companies and they learn a tremendous amount. Moving forward, Griskevicius would like to bring more of that hard-core learning experience to undergraduate students, but it may take a while with 2,500 undergraduates. The department is also hoping to expand the Institute for Research in Marketing.
“We’re looking for ways to move it forward,” Griskevicius said. “I think the potential there is nearly limitless.”
Factors and influences both for consumers and firms
The first time someone hears a favorite song on the radio it’s very enjoyable. Less so after the 20th time. This phenomenon, known as satiation – as people consume something repeatedly, they tend to enjoy it less and less – is the focus of much of Associate Professor Joseph Redden’s research, including a variety of factors that affect the rate of satiation. For consumers, it’s about slowing satiation and prolonging the enjoyment. For firms, satiation can create a variety of problems from creating an ideal product that everyone loves, but only briefly, to getting consumers to use their products more frequently.
“One of the reasons I really like this topic is it makes sense to the layperson,” Redden said. “You say something’s boring and ask how do you make it less boring?”
His curiosity about satiation was sparked by the differences between himself and his wife. Redden was fine eating sushi every day, while his wife only wanted it once a week. And to her, all sports were the same, whereas he saw tennis to be completely different than, say, basketball. These are both impacted by satiation and Redden found there wasn’t much research on the topic. What little existed referred to animals.
In his research world, there are three types of satiation. One is physiological – a need the body is sending signals about. The second is more perceptual – like general attention or adaptation things. Take, for example, drinking sweet lemonade. At first, it’s really sweet and the sugar is rewarding, but as taste sensors adapt to that level of sweetness, it doesn’t taste as sweet anymore and it’s not as enjoyable. The third satiation type is what Redden calls self-reflective. It’s a person reviewing his or her own consumption habits, whether it’s eating food or listening to music. Most of Redden’s research highlights the self-reflective type and some of the factors that drive it.
“I think the self-reflective is probably the one that as marketers and consumers we can move the most,” he said. “We can’t change feeling hungry, but what we can change when you’re eating is how much you’re paying attention to it and how much effect it’s having.”
One marketing challenge is getting consumers to use products more frequently, which can be a very hard variable to move. Sub categories are one way to make people think they’re having variety, which is seen in product proliferation. For example, M&Ms adding colors to their product. It’s a trivial differentiation that doesn’t affect the flavor, yet it does inject variety, which makes people feel less satiated. Redden has found other factors that change satiation, including the perception of time since last consumed and comparing oneself to a heavy user.
Through his research, Redden has also found three satiation factors that seem to differ in people. One is that people with better memory tend to get satiated more. Presumably, that’s because more of their past consumption is readily available. People who tend to subcategorize, like experts in a category, get satiated less quickly. The wine expert sees red wines as very different whereas the novice just sees shades of gray. An interesting one for health implications is thinking about when satiation would be a good thing, like when trying to limit consumption. They found people who rate high in trait self-control showed an interesting pattern with satiation. They tend to satiate faster when eating something unhealthy and slower when eating something healthy.
“People think self-control is some people are just strong and some people are just weak,” Redden said. “Well, instead of it being will power, it could be some people are better at watching themselves, and by watching themselves, they get satiated faster and actually want it less now. So it’s not that they have more willpower, they just don’t want that bite of chocolate as much.”
Redden also does a lot of research with healthy eating, especially nudges – different environments that encourage people to eat more vegetables, especially school children. He’s done a number of studies in schools, but right now, he is working on a large study that looks at different lab-successful strategies in the home. These include making vegetable portions larger and serving vegetables first by themselves. Another is giving kids a choice between something they don’t like (broccoli) and something they reasonably like (carrots). The idea is they’ll pick and eat carrots because it’s a more attractive option than broccoli.
“I’m interested to see what comes out of that because lab studies are one thing, but when you talk about kids eating at home, it has a big impact in driving those habits,” Redden said. “We just don’t know a lot about how experimental interventions work there because it’s not easy to run.”
In a totally different gear, Redden is also working on a project concerning research at firms. Some companies have tons of money for research, while others have very little. He thinks there’s a niche to have either free or very low-cost tools and methods that can allow companies with small research budgets to run their own market research online, there’s just not a good place for them to get those tools and ideas. So he’s started doing custom work on building tools for companies to use.
“The idea is, it’s not trying to be the most scientific, it’s trying to meet 90 percent of these needs for this group,” Redden said. “They don’t need to do the greatest study ever, they just need to get information about what customers need.”
Advisory Board Academic Representative
Wayne G. Mueller, Director
Ashley F. Dziuk, Program Coordinator & Newsletter Editor
Thank you for your continued support of the Institute for Research in Marketing.
James S. Henney