Skip to main content

2010 Winners

This distinguished award for outstanding research in the field of marketing was presented on June 4 at the EMAC conference in Copenhagen. The winner of the 2010 EMAC McKinsey Marketing Dissertation Award is Steven Sweldens. He earned a EUR 7,000 cash prize for his dissertation “Evaluative Conditioning Can Forge Direct and Indirect Affective Responses to Brands” which he submitted to the Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University. Sweldens drew on his background in psychology to demonstrate the different ways in which emotions can become attached to brands triggered by evaluative conditioning – in other words, by embedding a brand in positive contexts. Since completing his doctorate, he was named assistant professor of marketing at INSEAD. The award includes a cash prize of EUR 7,000.

Taking second place was Eva Blömeke, a graduate of the University of Hamburg in Germany. Her work shows that companies that terminate loss-making customer relationships do not suffer negative effects in terms of customer satisfaction or word of mouth. Third place went to Maarten Gijsenberg, who wrote his dissertation at the Catholic University Leuven in Belgium. He developed a mathematical model that can help companies better time their marketing investments both during fluctuating business cycles and over shorter time horizons. The second- and third-place finishers received prizes of EUR 3,000 and EUR 1,000 respec­tively. All three award recipients were recognized at a gala dinner during the EMAC Annual Conference in Copenhagen on Friday, June 4.

Approximately 60 young scholars from more than 20 countries submitted papers to the 2010 competition. The authors of the top three entries were invited to the final round at the EMAC conference in Copenhagen. 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

Steven Sweldens, RSM Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Evaluative Conditioning Can Forge Direct and Indirect Affective Responses to Brands

One common approach to building brand equity is to create favorable attitudes toward brands. Marketers thus use advertising, event sponsorship, product placement, and a host of other tactics to embed a brand or product in favorable contexts for consumers. The simplest technique for building positive brand attitudes is to pair a brand with a positive affective stimulus, such as a celebrity endorser or pleasant image. Three experiments show that the affective responses established by such evaluative conditioning can be either indirect or direct. Indirect affective responses occur when a brand (consciously or unconsciously) activates the affective stimulus, which then elicits an affective response. In a direct affective response, in turn, the brand generates the affective response on its own, without activating the memory of affective stimuli with which it was previously paired. Indirect affective responses are sensitive to retroactive interference (e.g., subsequent competitive advertising), concept revaluation (e.g., endorsers losing their luster), and attempts to resist persuasion, whereas direct affective responses are not. Distinguishing between these two types of affective responses provides insight into brand equity development and branding decisions.

Eva Blömeke, University of Hamburg, Germany

Should they stay or should they go? Reactivation and Termination of Low-Tier Customers: Effects on Satisfaction, Word-of-Mouth, and Purchases

Most literature on managing customer relationships focuses on retaining and cultivating customers in the upper tiers of the customer pyramid. Many companies, however, have a substantial number of low-tier customers – those whose inactive buying behavior means companies earn little or no profit from serving them. In this situation, marketers face the questions of whether and how to reactivate or terminate relationships with low-tier customers. To find an answer, they must better understand the actions that can be applied to low-tier customers and how customers respond to these actions. A field study conducted in conjunction with a B2C catalog retailer looked at 12,000 customers who, due to inactivity, were on the brink of becoming unprofitable. Some of these low-tier customers were sent a marketing “last call” action specifying two possible outcomes: reactivation if they placed an order and termination – or discontinuance of all catalogs and other mailings – if they failed to respond. The findings indicate that this “last call” marketing effort not only reactivated some customers, but had no negative impact on customer satisfaction or word-of-mouth, suggesting that relationship termination is a viable option to managing the low-tier segment.

Maarten Gijsenberg, K.U. Leuven, Belgium

Timing is Money. In Search of the Role of Timing in Marketing Decisions and Effectiveness

Over the past decade, the way firms look at marketing expenditures has fundamentally shifted. Once treated as mere costs, they are now increasingly considered to be investments – and firms want to realize the highest possible return on them. One of the crucial determinants of the success of marketing investments their timing. Understanding the role timing plays in marketing-mix decisions and their effectiveness is essential to develop strategies to maximize the performance of and returns on marketing efforts. Firms can benefit from understanding the timing of their marketing investments in two distinct but related dimensions. The first is the macro dimension, related to the timing of investments across years over the business cycle. The second – the micro dimension – consists of the timing of individual actions at the weekly level. A mathematical model developed and applied for this study using available economic, marketing, and consumer-research data suggests that companies can improve the effectiveness of their marketing investments in two ways: by better allocating budgets for price-related and advertising efforts based on the state of the business cycle and by understanding and predicting the behavior of their competitors. In other words, good timing is money.