Institute Director Wayne Mueller

Extraordinary Results from the Carlson School's World-Renowned Marketing Faculty

#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


These amazing results are the outcome of decades of great faculty productivity in research in the Department of Marketing at the Carlson School of Management. This worldwide recognition has enabled us to attract even more outstanding faculty from around the globe, which in turn allows us to remain a productive leader in marketing research.  

Some of the substantial recognition that has come to the Department of Marketing these past 10 years is a direct result of partnering our outstanding faculty with our world-class Corporate Marketing Officers through the Institute for Research in Marketing Board.

A newPDF iconMarketing Department brochure (1.65 MB) with these impressive standings was recently mailed out to thousands of constituents, marketing departments, and alumni. The brochure was developed by Vladas Griskevicius, our recently appointed Marketing Department Co-Chair, Ashley Dziuk, our Institute Program Coordinator, our Carlson School Communications Department, including Bridget Aymar, Dana Oelfke, Karina Carlson, and Betty Klein, and myself in order to further illustrate and recognize so many of our outstanding faculty achievements over the years and to give great credit to our Institute Board members for all they have done to help us achieve these great heights in research recognition around the world.  We thank you all and are deeply indebted to your ongoing support, trust, and your continued confidence in our mission. And now you see the results!!! Thank you!


Our board is our strength and provides a conduit between its corporate research needs and our faculty. It is a prestigious group of research and marketing executives from Fortune 500 corporations across many of the major industries. Some of these corporations include Augeo Affinity Marketing, Best Buy, Cargill, Ecolab, G&K Services, General Mills, Polaris Industries, The Schwan Food Company, Target, United Healthcare, and Wells Fargo.

Our Vision and Mission for the Institute Board continues to be the following:

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.

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:

Daily Mail
Duluth News Tribune
Financial Times
Fox Business
Huffington Post

National Law Journal
New York Magazine
Pacific Standard
Pioneer Press
PR Newswire
Scientific American

Star Tribune
The Atlantic
The New York Times
The Wall Street Journal
Time Money
USA Business Daily
USA Today
Yahoo (Globally)

Additional and international media exposure include:

20 Minuten
American Psychological Association
BBC News
Business Insider (Globally)
Business Standard
Capital Public Radio
CNN Indonesia
Global Post

Healthy Woman (Kenya)
Independent (UK)
International Business Times Australia
Law 360
Linked In
Medical Xpress
Metro India
Phys Org
Psy Post
Psych Central

Psychology Today
Science Daily
Science Newsline
Small Business Trends
The Agency Post
The British Psychological Society
The Gazette (Montreal)
The Times of India
The University of Chicago Press
Vermont Public Radio

Our faculty has also been recognized in the past six months with the following awards:

  • Assistant Professors Maria Ana Vitorino and Alison Xu received the MSI Young Scholar Award
  • Associate Professor Vladas Griskevicius  received the HBES Early Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution

Thank you to all of our Institute Board members for their dedication, continued support, and engagement with our faculty. Thank you also to Marketing Department Co-Chair Vladas Griskevicius and Associate Dean George John for their on-going support of the Institute. Continued best wishes in your marketing and research success!

Best wishes,
Wayne Mueller signature

Wayne G. Mueller
Director, Institute for Research in Marketing

Kindness Boosts Status in Some Cultures

Associate Professor Carlos Torelli   

BBC logoNostalgia 'Makes People Spend More Money'

Professor Kathleen Vohs

WCCO Radio logoBusiness By George

Associate Dean George John

Phys Org logoAchieving Your Goals: Does Removing Yourself From the Big Picture Help?

Professor Joan Meyers-Levy

NPR LogoHow Private Colleges Are Like Cheap Sushi

Professor Akshay Rao

Pioneer Press LogoWhen Walmart Leaves, There Go the Shops in the Neighborhood

Associate Dean Mark Bergen

Against the Grain LogoAlibaba – Meet China’s Online Giant

Associate Professor Tony Cui

CKGSB LogoCoke’s Secret Formula: Cultural Equity

Associate Professor Carlos Torelli

Phys Org logoMaslow's Pyramid Gets a Much Needed Renovation

Associate Professor Vladas Griskevicius

Yahoo! LogoThe Genius of Wearing the Same Outfit Every Day

Professor Kathleen Vohs


Assistant Professor Alison Xu

Alison Jing Xu


PhD 2010

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

BA 2003

Beijing Foreign Studies University, China                                       

How mindset and physical environment can affect behavior

Assistant Professor Alison Jing Xu is fascinated by decisions – specifically the decision-making process and how people grapple with, then make, what they believe to be “right” decisions. When it came to working with the Carlson School of Management, however, Xu said the decision was a simple one, given its reputation for being a very research intensive and active school with marketing faculty who are productive and well-known in the field.

“It’s very enticing to come here and work with this faculty, which will make my research even more productive,” she said. “And it’s a collegial department. I was very impressed.”

Most of Xu’s studies and research examine how a behavioral mindset impacts people’s judgments and decisions. For example, if someone hears a speech by a politician they support on TV, they’re more likely to make supportive elaborations. In contrast, if they hear a speech by a politician they oppose, they’re more likely to counter argue. These dispositions can activate different mindsets which can carry over and influence subsequent behavior. So if people see an ad immediately after the speech, the bolstering or counter arguing mindset can carry over and change how they react to the ad. Therefore, advertisers need to closely monitor the context in which their ad appears.

Xu also studies how people make sequential decisions about products in different categories. For example, what happens if someone is making preference decisions about two vacation packages and is subsequently sold candy? Making comparative judgments about vacation packages can actually activate a comparative judgment mindset, making them more likely to question which candy to buy, rather than if they want to buy candy at all. Their mindset can be altered by previous behavior and affect their subsequent decisions.

Some of Xu’s other research looks at how physical environment may shift behavior, like how light brightness or space availability changes consumption decisions. Previous research shows that, under bright sunlight, people feel more positive and have higher satisfaction with their life. Therefore, an inference could be made that the suicide rate would be lowest in the summer. But Xu and her fellow researcher found opposing research indicating that the highest rate of suicide occurs in late spring and summer. That’s a puzzle.

To reconcile these seemingly inconsistent findings, Xu and a fellow researcher suggest that bright light amplifies a person’s initial affective response, no matter if it is positive or negative. In one experiment, participants were shown either positive words, like “flowers” or “smile,” or negative words, like “medication” or “dentist,” which in turn elicited positive and negative initial feelings, respectively. As they were looking at the words, their positive reactions to positive words were more extreme when the light was bright and their responses to negative words were even more negative. So basically, the light amplified their emotional reactions.

Another bright light experiment looked at the preference of spiciness. Many people eat spicy food because they seek some excitement from the experience, which is a positive reaction. In the lab, Xu manipulated the brightness, and gave participants the choice of 16 flavors of varying spiciness of Buffalo Wild Wings’ wings. The researchers asked participants to choose which wings they would want to eat. They found that participants in bright light chose higher levels of spiciness. Those in the dimmed environment chose more mild flavors. This is apparently mediated by their positive affective reactions to spice.

Xu also looked at other negative domains. In one experiment, she showed participants a scenario featuring a man who was late for work, anxious, and impolite. Participants were then asked to judge this person’s personality. Participants judged this person to be more negative under bright light than dimmed light. When asked to judge the attractiveness of good-looking women based on pictures, they judged women to be more attractive under bright light. So the light can change people’s perceptions of others both positively and negatively.

Xu’s brightness study received a lot of media attention and generated a lot of interest in how light levels can influence our mood and well-being on a daily basis. For example, if someone is arguing with their spouse, it’s probably a good idea to turn down the light, and try to calm down. Or if someone goes to the store to buy flowers, making the environment brighter can intensify the positive affective reactions towards the product.

The findings have clear implications for both retailers and workplaces. If a shop is selling positive products, the environment should be bright. But in workplaces bright light can heighten conflict if it arises, at which point an employer may lower the light to lessen the employees’ tension. In negotiation situations, if there is disagreement, dimming the light will alleviate people’s negative emotions.

“I think there are people who definitely found this research to be helpful either for the businesses, management in general, or for personal emotion control,” Xu said.

What surprised Xu was the increased interest from the engineering field. Previously, engineers looked at how different kinds of lighting save energy, but they didn’t pay attention to how different kinds of light influence people’s well-being. Now, they are motivated to find out how to design lights and environments to enhance people’s subjective wellbeing.

“I may collaborate with those engineers and find out what kind of research would be most beneficial to practice and to people’s personal wellbeing,” Xu said.

Associate Dean Mark Bergen

Mark Bergen


PhD, 1990

University of Minnesota

BS, 1982

University of Wisconsin - Madison                                

Envisioning new ways to connect business, community, and education

During the past two years as Associate Dean of Executive Education, Professor Mark Bergen has spent much of his time reimagining education; looking at how to take the tremendous assets of a large, urban, public research active university and figuring out how to create and share more value with students, organizations, corporations, and the community.

“I have found that we’re not currently built to meet people in the rhythms of their lives,” Bergen said. “The saying is, ‘The University is open for business’ but what that means is that we’re open for someone to come join us in how we do business. I think for universities to survive we have to learn to be open to do business as they do business.”

Individuals only meet the University from one to four years in the degree-granting programs, yet have entire careers where the knowledge that’s being created and the expertise they’re learning is incredibly relevant. The University could become much more valuable if it’s set up so that people can connect with the University and access knowledge as needed throughout their life.

“We need to find ways to connect Carlson School expertise with people and organizations when it matters most,” Bergen said. “My vision is that Executive Education can fill that customer need.” 

In the last few years, Executive Education has partnered with companies to develop skills in areas such as building pricing capabilities, fighting price wars, multi-channel problems, branding, developing leadership competencies, and creating global marketing organizations; across a variety of industries, from healthcare to agribusiness to retail. 

“Bring us your biggest and most difficult problems, we have experts that can work through it with you. And by the end of it, you not only know the answer, you also have the capabilities to do it yourself,” Bergen said. “That’s really our Exec Ed trademark. If you just want the answer, we’re not the people. But if you want to have us help you navigate from what you know to what the solution is, and build the capabilities to do this yourselves, I can’t think of anyone who’s better.”

Executive Education continues to grow each year, and Bergen strives to continue that trend, making it a more robust and meaningful part of the lives of students, corporations, and the community.

“As Associate Dean of Executive Education, we think of the Institute for Research in Marketing as a great place for us to connect with corporations, for them to bring their biggest problems so that we can help them find solutions, strategies, and build capabilities,” he said.

Before he came to the Carlson School, Bergen got his start as a trained industrial organizational economist, and studying price and distribution channels was the natural entry point into marketing. Now, many years later, he’s an expert in pricing and channels.

“Pricing’s just an area of passion,” he said. “You can study really wild, edgy things from gray markets to pricing as truces between people, there are price wars, and branded variants. Part of the fun is the ability to study interesting phenomenon that are just really exciting.”

Some of Bergen’s most recent research has focused on what he calls ‘a relational perspective on pricing.’ This involves the more human aspects of pricing, like how people think about the effects of an exchange and how they make sense of it relative to other people and the prices they see.

Bergen and his team studied a firm during the pricing process and found that its problem was not in the data or analysis, but rather how the different groups within the organization interpreted that information and worked with each other. Many of the final set prices didn’t take all information into account, because doing so caused more disagreements. It turns out a lot of barriers to pricing effectively are relational, as much as they are technical or market-based. His team has also been studying the role of the sales force in terms of pricing.

“I like to say that I study price in space and time. Space being discriminating across different people and the time is discriminating across different time periods,” Bergen said. “People have spent their whole lives studying these topics individually, but I think they’re actually interrelated at very fundamental levels. I’d like to unify our theories of price rigidity with our theories of price discrimination to a more singular view – creating a general theory of pricing across both areas.”

This has also required a great deal of field work. Bergen, along with a few applied anthropologists, has been examining how people set prices and build capabilities – a strange method for someone who started as an economist doing game theoretic models. Now most of his insight comes from watching managers and realizing the problems they’re having is due to the way they are thinking. Bergen plans to continue his research on the relational aspects of pricing, while also paying more attention to the big picture.

“As a single faculty, if you do one small area, that’s about all you can handle both in terms of research/teaching, but also in terms of consulting and service,” he said. “Now that I am an Associate Dean, I see that there is so much more that we could do if I thought more broadly, beyond pricing.”

Associate Dean Michael Houston

Michael Houston



University of Illinois                                                         


University of Illinois


University of Illinois

Exploring global partnerships and consumer differences across cultures

Prior to becoming Associate Dean of Faculty and Research in the 90s, Professor Michael Houston didn’t have much interest in international subjects. But that changed when the school began a global initiative and Houston became involved.

From there, the Carlson School developed an Executive MBA program in Warsaw, Poland, in which Houston taught. After serving as associate dean for five years, he returned as a faculty member to teach international marketing and research global issues in marketing.

“It was really the result of an administrative experience and some exposure to global issues and global initiatives in the school that really turned me onto it,” Houston said. “Of course that has led to my current administrative role, as Associate Dean of Global Initiatives. So now, my research and my administrative role are all global in nature.”

Houston oversees the Carlson Global Institute (CGI), including the China and Vienna Executive MBA programs. CGI also handles the education abroad programs for the Carlson School, which has a wide network of exchange partners and several short-term, faculty-led programs that result in almost 800 Carlson students studying abroad per year.

In October this year, Houston spent time in Vienna, Austria as a professor participating in research seminars and collaborating with research partners. As part of his associate dean role, in the same month he spent time in China, starting a new group of students in the China Executive MBA program in Guangzhou and traveling to Shanghai to meet with a university about starting a joint research center.

Although the Twin Cities business community benefits from many of the Carlson School’s international initiatives, one program in particular stands out – an education abroad program that is really a global consulting project. Carlson School students take on a challenge that a corporate partner is facing in some part of the world, such as entry into a new foreign market. The students then go abroad to a foreign university partner located in the area where the company is facing this challenge. After being put into teams with students from the partner university, they work together in cross-cultural teams on the project for the company.

“By involving the local students, we bring a local perspective to the issue along with the global perspective that our students bring,” Houston said. “So we do these projects for companies and they get some really good recommendations and input as a result.”

Houston’s primary research focus these days is on consumer behavior differences across cultures. In particular, Eastern consumers versus Western consumers. As part of that, he’s interested in cross-cultural differences in how people think about brands and other various global branding issues, including how global brands compete with local brands.

Working with doctoral students, Houston has looked at how consumers in different cultures organize their knowledge about brands. He and Sharon Ng, now at Singapore’s Nanyang Business School, found that there’s a tendency in Eastern cultures for consumers to, when thinking of a brand, think of a product that the brand offers. So if someone mentions Sony, the first thing in his or her mind will tend to be a TV, or a product that Sony makes. In Western cultures, consumers tend to come up with a dimension of the brand, like “high quality” or “high priced.” That leads to a different structure of knowledge for Eastern consumers versus Western consumers.

For example, one key source of growth for a company involves brand extensions. Because Eastern culture consumers think of a specific product when thinking of a brand, companies wanting to extend that brand by adding a new product will find it difficult to establish its identity. But in Western cultures, if a company creates a brand extension, the consumer will attach the brand dimensions to that new product, so its image or identity is more readily achieved.

Other Carlson School marketing faculty members’ research has shown that if a brand extension fails, it can potentially harm the parent brand. So in an Eastern culture, if that brand extension, which was more difficult to establish, fails, it will have less harmful effects on the parent brand than a brand extension that fails in a Western culture because that automatic connection between products isn’t there.

Although cultural differences are his dominant research interest, Houston also is interested in how consumers evaluate the sustainability, especially the environmental sustainability, of brands. Recent research with colleagues in Vienna looked at how consumers evaluate a brand’s sustainability in the absence of explicit information. Using a European sample, the researchers found that consumers use two key pieces of information: price and country of origin. If a consumer doesn’t know how sustainable a brand is, but it’s made in a questionable country, they might infer that it isn’t sustainably produced.

“As the sustainability of a brand becomes more important to consumers,” Houston said, “if a brand has a country of origin not noted for environmental sensitivity, the company may want to think about whether its marketing efforts should try to address that.”

Advisory Board Academic Representative

David Hopkins
George John
Akshay Rao

Institute Staff

Wayne G. Mueller Director
Ashley F. Dziuk Program Coordinator

Thank you for your continued support of the Institute for Research in Marketing.


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