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2014 Winners

For the sixth time, the European Mar­keting Academy (EMAC) and the McKinsey & Company manage­ment consultancy have awarded the "EMAC McKinsey Marketing Dissertation Award" for outstanding research in the field of market­ing. The award was made public at the EMAC Annual Conference in Valencia on Friday, June 6, 2014.

The first-place winner, Ezgi Akpinar, earned a EUR 7,000 cash prize for the dissertation she submitted to Erasmus University, in the Netherlands. Her research examines drivers of "valuable virality" – in particular, whether certain types of advertising appeals can bolster both ad- and brand-related outcomes. The results suggest that if a viral ad could just as easily be for an entirely different brand or product category, it is less likely to end up being effective. Instead, companies should make their product and the brand logo an essential part of the content they generate. Akpinar is currently an assistant professor at Vrije University, in Amsterdam and will join MEF University in Istanbul.

Alexa Burmester, who wrote her dissertation at Universität Hamburg in Germany, took second place. Based on a large-scale empirical study, her work analyzes the relative impact of publicity and advertising on sales. Burmester is currently an assistant professor at Universität Hamburg.

Third place went to Johanna Slot, who wrote her dissertation at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and is currently an assistant professor at the Pennsylvania State University in the United States. Her dissertation studies the impact of involving third parties in new product development.

The "EMAC McKinsey Marketing Dissertation Award" honors the authors of outstanding dissertations on marketing topics submitted to universities in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa. This year, 36 young scholars from 14 countries took part in the program. Based on novelty, relevance, and conceptual rigor of their submissions, the award jury selected three finalists.

Winning dissertations

Ezgi Akpinar, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, the Netherlands

Valuable virality

Many marketers today want to design content that gets shared on social media, while still improving brand-related outcomes such as brand attitudes, recall, and purchase likelihood. This paper examines drivers of "valuable virality" – in particular, whether certain types of advertising appeals can bolster both ad- and brand-related outcomes. A mix of field and laboratory investigations show that soft-sell narratives emphasizing emotion are more likely to be shared. At the same time, hard-sell appeals that explicitly emphasize product features boost brand attitudes, purchase intention, and brand recall because the brand is an integral part of the ad content. Soft-sell appeals in which the brand is integral to the plot combine the benefits of both approaches – they boost sharing while also bolstering brand-related outcomes. These findings have important marketing implications.

Our results suggest that if the viral ad could just as easily be for an entirely different brand or product category, it is less likely to end up being effective. Instead, companies should make their product and the brand logo an essential part of the content they generate.

Alexa Burmester, Universität Hamburg, Germany

Pre- and post-launch effects of publicity and advertising on sales of hedonic goods

When it comes to marketing, recent management practices have tended to favor publicity over advertising. This phenomenon is noteworthy because the body of research addressing the relative effectiveness of publicity and advertising is both inconsistent and incomplete. Although existing studies provide a comprehensive overview of the fundamental processes underlying the impact of both formats, empirical evidence regarding the pre- and post-launch effects of publicity and advertising on behavioral outcomes (e.g., sales) is lacking.  

Based on a large-scale empirical study that assesses publicity and advertising campaigns for 3,319 hedonistic products, this paper analyzes the relative impact of both marketing instruments on sales over a 52-week period that spans the life cycle of the examined products. This longitudinal approach makes it possible to capture changes in the effectiveness of publicity and advertising. The results of the study demonstrate that the effects of publicity and advertising differ substantially between the pre- and post-launch phases. This finding indicates that publicity and advertising should be used in different ways, depending on the life cycle of the product being marketed.

Johanna Slot, ’Tilburg University, the Netherlands

Crossing Boundaries: Involving External Parties in Innovation

In an attempt to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the new product development process, firms are increasingly turning to open innovation practices. This three-part dissertation looks at three types of external parties in new product development: suppliers, customers, and the "crowd." In the first two sections, the authors examine the impact of involving suppliers and customers in development work and the dynamics of development outsourcing. The section in focus for the competition deals with online idea-generation contests. Calls to participate in such contest are open to the "crowd": an undefined group of individuals external to the company. The study examines how a such a contest's prize structure characteristics – specifically, total prize value, the number of prizes, and the prize spread – impact idea creativity, a core element of innovation strategy.

The results show that idea creativity increases along with total prize value and the number of prizes, but falls as prize spread increases. Furthermore, the effects of prize structure characteristics on idea creativity are interdependent. These results translate into concrete guidelines on managing crowdsourcing.