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2009 Winners

This distinguished award for outstanding research in the field of marketing was presented for the first time on May 29 at the EMAC conference in Nantes. The winner of the 2009 EMAC McKinsey Marketing Dissertation Award was Lien Lamey. Lamey, now an assistant professor at Lessius University in Antwerp and affiliated researcher at the Catholic University Leuven, earned a EUR 7,000 cash prize for the dissertation she submitted to Catholic University Leuven, “The Private-Label Nightmare: Can National Brands Ever Wake Up?” She explored strategies that brand-name products can use to limit the strong growth of private-label brands, especially during times of crisis. Zsolt Katona, a graduate of INSEAD business school teaching at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley, took second place. Katona developed a model to explain the apparently random order in which Web sites appear in lists of sponsored links, as well as how this order changes over time. Third place went to Jana-Kristin Prigge, who wrote her dissertation at the University of Mannheim. Prigge, a business economist, analyzed approaches to product eliminations in the B2B environment and their impact on customers and providers. The second- and third-place finishers received prizes of EUR 3,000 and EUR 1,000, respectively.

Approximately 70 young scholars from more than 20 countries submitted papers to the 2009 competition. The authors of the top three entries were invited to the final round at the EMAC conference in Nantes. They presented their work to a four-person jury of EMAC professors and McKinsey marketing experts and answered questions posed by the jury members. In judging the presentations, the jury considered the novelty, relevance, and conceptual rigor of the participants' dissertations.

Winning dissertations

Lien Lamey, Catholic University Leuven, Belgium

The Private-Label Nightmare: Can National Brands Ever Wake Up?

One of the most salient changes in the grocery environment has been the explosive growth of private-label sales – a trend that continues today. This research focuses on the question: “How can brand manufacturers counteract the success of private labels?” Doing so requires detailed insights into the determinants of this success as well as ways to offset it. This research demonstrates a link between private labels and cyclical economic fluctuation. While consumers are more likely to purchase private labels during downturns, some continue buying them in good times – leaving permanent scars on national brands’ performance levels. Moreover, manufacturers’ typical reflexes in bad economic times (i.e., cutting advertising, scaling back innovation, and decreasing price-promotional activity) actually help strengthen private-label popularity. Therefore, when the economy slows down, brand manufacturers should introduce innovative new products, avoid advertising cuts, and “temporarily” heighten their price-promotional activity to stave off private-label success. Still, not every new-product introduction is able to shift private-label sales – their effectiveness depends upon the type of private label (budget-standard-premium) as well as characteristics of the innovation, the mother brand, and the category.

Zsolt Katona, INSEAD Business School, Fontainebleau, France

Buying and Selling Traffic: The Internet as an Advertising Medium

The Internet has grown rapidly as a marketing medium in recent years, changing the way advertising budgets are allocated and revenue is earned. Two formats dominate in online advertising: (i) Web sites buy advertising links from one another and (ii) search engines sell sponsored links on their results pages. Studying the former advertising model and investigating the network structure emerging from advertising links reveals that sites seem to specialize in terms of revenue models: high commercial content sites tend to earn revenue from sales of content, whereas low commercial content sites tend to earn revenue from sales of traffic. In the other dominant form of online advertising – paid placement – search engines auction sponsored links that appear next to the search results, and advertisers submit bids for the price that they are willing to pay for a click. A model focusing on key characteristics of this development produces findings that explain the seemingly random order in which sites appear on the sponsored links list and their variation over time. The results of this research have important managerial implications for both sellers and buyers of online advertising.

Jana-Kristin Prigge, University of Mannheim, Germany

Management and Consequences of Product Eliminations: A Customer and a Company Perspective in a Business-to-Business-Context

In their quest to best fulfill customer needs and capture new markets, companies have placed tremendous emphasis on new product development. Consequently, the complexity of product portfolios and related organizational procedures has increased drastically, binding resources and raising costs. Also, high new-product failure rates and shrinking product life cycles mean a considerable number of products eventually become unprofitable. Addressing these challenges requires companies to increasingly streamline their product portfolios by eliminating products. But product eliminations can negatively impact customer loyalty and relationships – which are especially critical in the business-to-business (B2B) setting. Also, such steps are often less successful than expected. There are two phenomena that cause the “elimination dilemma” – many companies fail both to fully tap the potential offered by eliminations and to mitigate the negative consequences for customers. As research on this topic is somewhat limited, this dissertation focuses on finding answers to questions about how product eliminations affect customers and customer-company relationships in the B2B environment. It is based upon two cross-sectional studies conducted in a B2B setting, including the responses of 248 customer companies affected by a product elimination.