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2015 Winners

For the seventh 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 Leuven on Thursday, May 28, 2015.

The first-place winner, Eva Anderl, earned a EUR 7,000 cash prize for the dissertation she submitted to University of Passau, in Germany. Her research introduces a graph-based framework analyzing the multi-channel online customer path. The framework offers support to practitioners by facilitating objective budget allocation. Anderl is currently working Senior Consultant Advanced Analytics at the Digital Marketing consultancy Feld M in Munich.

Arjen van Lin, who wrote his dissertation at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, took second place. His research analyses chain versus outlet loyalty in the field of store acquisition. Using a model of consumers' reaction to store acquisitions, it discusses how both can be identified empirically. Lin is currently an assistant professor of marketing at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Third place went to Olivia Petit, who wrote her dissertation at Aix-Marseille University, France and is currently a research fellow at Imagineering Institute, in Johor, Malaysia. For her dissertation in the field of dietary food choice she conducted two experiments to determine whether emphasizing the pleasurableness of healthy food encourages consumers who are not motivated by health concerns to eat it.

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, 42 young scholars from 17 countries took part in the program. Based on novelty, relevance, and conceptual rigor of their submissions, the award jury selected three finalists.

Winning dissertations

Eva Anderl, University of Passau, Germany

Mapping the customer journey: a graph-based framework for online attribution modeling

Advertisers employ various channels to reach consumers over the Internet, but often do not know how much each channel actually contributes to their marketing success. This attribution challenge is of great managerial interest, yet academic approaches have not found wide application in practice so far.

In this study, the authors introduce a graph-based framework for analyzing multichannel online customer path data as first- and higher-order Markov walks. According to a comprehensive set of criteria embracing both scientific rigor and practical applicability, four model variations are evaluated using four large, real-world data sets from different industries. Findings differ substantially from those that result from either commonly used heuristic techniques such as “last click wins” or alternative attribution approaches. Applying the proposed framework to four different data sets enables generalizations and helps identify avenues for future research. The framework offers support to practitioners by facilitating objective budget allocation and allows for future applications such as real-time bidding.

Olivia Petit, Aix-Marseille University, France

Health and pleasure in dietary food choice: brain activity, motivation, and sensory simulation

Excessive focus on eating pleasure is a major cause of overeating, especially in consumers with a high body mass index (BMI). We conducted two experiments to determine whether emphasizing the pleasurableness of healthy food encourages consumers who are not motivated by health concerns to eat it. The first shows that messages about the taste of healthy food are more persuasive to participants with a “promotion” orientation, while messages about the risks of eating junk food are more persuasive to participants with a “prevention” orientation.

In a second study, we performed functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to investigate whether direct attention to the pleasure of eating healthy food facilitates self-control in participants with high BMIs. Results indicate that this strategy leads to an increase of activity in areas of the brain associated with value (gustatory cortex and orbitofrontal cortex) and inhibition (inferior frontal gyrus), and improves healthy food choice for high-BMI participants. In contrast, highlighting health benefits is correlated with a decrease of activity in the gustatory cortex. This clearly indicates that consumers with high BMIs see little value in health benefits and that focusing on tastiness helps to stimulate self-regulation.

Arjen van Lin, Tilburg University, the Netherlands

Shopper loyalty to whom? Chain versus outlet loyalty in the context of store acquisitions

When patronizing stores, consumers may not only exhibit loyalty to a retail chain, but also to a specific outlet. This distinction is important in today’s dynamic retail environment: if a store changes ownership, chain loyalty makes customers inclined to seek out another outlet of the former chain, whereas outlet loyalty increases their stay rate after the takeover. This paper distinguishes the two forms of loyalty and discusses how both can be identified empirically, using a model of consumers’ reactions to store acquisitions.

We apply our model to unique scanner panel data covering more than 200 local Dutch markets characterized by multiple takeovers. Our results confirm that, after an acquisition, consumers exhibit outlet loyalty, irrespective of changes in chain and marketing mix. This implies that acquiring outlets with a clientele in place can lead to higher store traffic than a new owner could reach otherwise. Interestingly, these benefits cannot be reaped if the acquiring chain is a hard discounter, in which case customers’ previous store knowledge is less relevant. More generally, by distinguishing between chain and outlet loyalty, our results may help retail firms to gauge their base of “truly” loyal customers.