Marketing Professor George John shares answers to five questions that reveal the issues he's studying, following, teaching, and reading about today. Plus a peek into the life he imagines, were he not teaching at the Carlson School. 


Q: What is/are your current area(s) of research? What business challenges are you helping to solve?

A: Marketing channels is an extremely expensive undertaking (with much greater spending than advertising), yet it is relatively neglected by scholars. I have been studying issues of vertical integration and governance in channels for a long while. The latest paper we published (with my colleague Mark Bergen and our ex-PhD student, Sourav Ray) asks why we see for sale only a small subset of the assortment of technologically compatible mixed-and-matched products. For example, all Intel-based Windows and Mac machines can run each other’s operating systems, but you cannot find all the viable combinations of machines and operating systems in stores. It turns out that the struggle between manufacturers and distributors for their own margins limits the assortment combinations, even for fully compatible items.


Music and Media

My prediction is that Yahoo will make no difference to Verizon. Call me three years from now.


Q: What current business issues or stories in the news are you following and why?

A: Verizon has just bought Yahoo to add more content based revenue to their infrastructure based revenues. It may surprise you that economy-wide, firms in the “content” business (books, movie studios, music, newspapers, TV studios, websites, etc.) generate much less revenue than “pipes” firms (landlines, cell phones, cable, broadband, etc.), yet the glamor of content invites entry. My prediction is that Yahoo will make no difference to Verizon. Call me three years from now.


Q: What is your favorite class to teach?

A: I include channels topics as part of a number of different classes, and I truly enjoy getting people to pay attention to this overlooked domain of marketing.


Students in classroom

I truly enjoy getting people to pay attention to this overlooked domain of marketing.


Q: If you weren’t a business school professor, what would you be doing?

A: I would love to be a salesman for Boeing if they would have me. As an Aeronautical Engineering undergraduate, that job would combine my fascination with everything that flies with my love of understanding how people and companies buy big, shiny things.


Q: What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

A: I love reading “smaller” books that are now easily available online. Many of you have likely seen Angelina Jolie’s movie “Unbroken” and the media dustup involving a reference to cannibalism in the book by Louis Zamperini, a World War II American POW. After reading Unbroken, I located a slim memoir by John Crasta, an Indian Army POW of the Japanese in World War II titled Eaten by the Japanese: The Memoir of an Unknown Indian Prisoner. It is a gripping account of those times, and would recommend it to anyone interested in neglected voices and narratives.