The Atlantic Covers Susan Fournier’s Deep Influence on Brand Theory
An Interview on Brand Relationships, New Paradigms, and Moving Beyond Metaphor
As an introduction to a new series in The Atlantic on academia’s most influential research papers and their authors, the magazine profiles Boston University School of Management’s Susan Fournier, Associate Professor of Marketing and Dean’s Research Fellow.
In the piece “This Is Why You Fall in Love With Brands,” The Atlantic focuses on the 1998 Journal of Consumer Research article “Consumers and their Brands,” for which Fournier was recently honored with a Long-Term Contribution to Consumer Research Award,” one the world’s most prestigious marketing accolades.
In science, size is everything. Studies that boast large samples are more likely to get accepted for publication, while research papers with few participants are usually tossed out, purportedly because their findings can’t be projected onto the population with “confidence.”
Susan Fournier’s groundbreaking study on brand relationships…is the clear exception. With a super-small sample size of three, her research, which also established a framework for the evaluation of consumer-brand connections, didn’t just survive the peer review process. Since its publication in the Journal of Consumer Research in 1998, it has also accumulated at least 2,310 citations, the surest sign of academic validation.
“Since publication in the Journal of Consumer Research in 1998, [the paper] has accumulated at least 2,310 citations, the surest sign of academic validation.”
But Fournier didn’t just have to contend with her University of Florida advisers, who opposed her decision to eschew surveys and group discussions for in-depth one-on-one case interviews. For the better part of the 90s, cognitive psychologists were loath to collaborate with marketers since doing so was considered the academic equivalent of selling out. And things weren’t any better on the marketing side. Though relationships weren’t an alien concept to the field, they were used as mere metaphors for utilitarian exchanges. The concept of brand loyalty, for instance, typically just referred to repeat business.
In the Q&A below, Fournier looks back on the rocky journey behind her seminal study, discusses how far the literature on consumer behavior has come, and shares why she despises society’s eagerness to equate materialism with consumerism.
Read the full profile of Professor Fournier at The Atlantic.