By Tracy L Slater

The School’s New Full-Time Faculty Hires and Promotions

November 19th, 2013 in Accounting, Faculty, Finance, Information Systems, Marketing, Markets, Public Policy & Law, New Faculty/Promoted, Organizational Behavior, Strategy & Innovation

Boston University School of Management is delighted to welcome our new full-time faculty members and to extend congratulations on the following recent hires and promotions:

New Associate and Assistant Professors


Dirk Hackbarth
Associate Professor, Finance

Dirk Hackbarth earned both his PhD and MS at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley; his MSc at the London School of Economics; and a diploma in business economics at the University of Cologne. As an internationally leading scholar in dynamic corporate finance, his research focuses on capital structure, distress risk, corporate investment, mergers and acquisitions, and real options. His papers have been presented at many competitive conferences and published in a variety of top-tier academic journals. He currently serves as associate editor of Management Science and Review of Finance. Recent appointments include the Robert and Karen May Faculty Fellow and associate professor of finance, College of Business, University of Illinois.

Olga2Olga Hawn
Assistant Professor, Strategy & Innovation

Olga Hawn received her PhD in 2013 from Duke University, her master’s from the University of Oxford, and her bachelor’s and master’s from Plekhanov Russian Academy of Economics. Her research focuses on global strategy issues from a neo-institutional perspective, particularly the effect of legitimization on firm performance. Her work also places special emphasis on corporate social responsibility issues. Olga’s scholarship has been selected for AoM’s Best Paper Proceedings, SIM Division Best Paper Award, as well as nominated for SMS Best Paper Award. She has been published in Research Policy and serves on the editorial board for Strategic Management Journal.


Koichiro Ito
Assistant Professor, Markets, Public Policy & Law

Koichiro Ito holds a PhD in agricultural and resource economics from the University of California, Berkeley; an MA in economics from the University of British Columbia; and a BA in economics from Kyoto University. His research focuses on environmental and energy economics, industrial organization, and public economics. He has work forthcoming in the American Economic Review and served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, as well as a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Other honors include the UC Berkeley Competition Policy Center Dissertation Award and the Resources for the Future Joseph L. Fisher Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

Elizabeth Rouse

Elizabeth (Bess) D. Rouse
Assistant Professor, Organizational Behavior

Bess Rouse earned both her PhD in management and organization in 2013 and her MS in organization studies from Boston College, and her SB in brain and cognitive sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on the experience of creative workers in contexts such as entrepreneurship, video game design, modern dance, and product development. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Bess worked at McLean Hospital’s brain imaging center. Her honors include being named runner-up in the INFORMS/Organization Science Dissertation Proposal Competition; finalist for the Best Student Paper Award, MOC Division, Academy of Management; and winner of the OB Division’s Best Symposium Award from the Academy of Management.

Gustavo_110x110Gustavo Schwenkler
Assistant Professor, Finance

Gustavo Schwenkler received his PhD in management science and engineering in 2013 from Stanford University and his diploma in applied mathematics and economics from the University of Cologne. His research focuses on the development of statistical and computational tools for the measurement of financial risks. Prior to pursuing his doctorate, he served as a summer associate in the unit of investment banking strategies at Goldman Sachs; an intern in risk and portfolio management at Sal. Oppenheim, Jr. & Cie.; and an intern in sales and trading at Deutsche Bank. Gustavo’s academic honors include the Gerald J. Lieberman Fellowship and the Stanford Graduate Fellowship, both from Stanford University.

Jiayin “Monic” Sun

Monic Sun
Assistant Professor, Marketing

Monic Sun holds a PhD in economics and an MA in political economy from Boston University, as well as a BA in economics from Peking University, P.R. China. Her scholarship marketing models to topics such as social networks, Internet marketing, and information search and disclosure. Monic was previously a visiting assistant professor of marketing at USC Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California and an assistant professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Her honors include being a finalist for the John D.C. Little Award, the NET Institute Summer Research Grants, and the Management Science Journal Meritorious and Distinguished Service Awards.

Yuan “Estelle” Sun

Yuan (Estelle) Sun
Assistant Professor, Accounting

Estelle Sun earned both her PhD in accounting in 2013 and her master of science in business administration from the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, as well as a bachelor of commerce in accounting from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Her research focuses on earnings management, accounting fraud, accounting conservatism, voluntary disclosure, and auditing. She has work forthcoming or appearing in the Journal of Accounting & EconomicsJournal of Accounting and Public PolicyAccounting and Finance, and the Journal of Contemporary Accounting and Economics. Estelle was awarded both the Crawford Dissertation Fellowship and the Crawford Research Assistant Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley.


Georgios Zervas
Assistant Professor, Marketing

Georgios Zervas holds a PhD in computer science from Boston University, an MA in interactive media from the London College of Communication, and an MSc and BEng in computer science from Imperial College. Previously a Simons Postdoctoral Fellow in computer science at Yale University, Georgios’s research explores the intersection of economics, marketing, and computer science, identifying unique online phenomena, acquiring novel data through creative web scraping, and applying creative empirical techniques. Among other publications, his paper “The Groupon Effect on Yelp Ratings” appeared in the Proceedings of the 13th ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce. Georgios’s honors include the Departmental Research Achievement Award from Boston University’s computer science department.

New Lecturers


Ann Halford
Executive Director, Digital Technology
Executive-in-Residence/Lecturer, Information Systems

Ann Halford earned her BA in zoology from the University of Tennessee and an MS in computer science from the University of Memphis. Thirty-six years ago, she began her career as a programmer and has since managed product development and IT organizations. She has worked with a wide variety of technologies—from chips to massively parallel supercomputers. She has had e-commerce, mobile device, and large global data center responsibilities, as well as held various executive positions in both start-ups, including her own, and Fortune 100s. Her past employers include Data General, Alliant Computer Systems, Sun Microsystems, Amadeus Global Travel, and, most recently, Staples.

Paul Hutchinson

Paul Hutchinson
Lecturer, Organizational Behavior

Paul Hutchinson earned his MS in experiential education from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and BA in history from Gettysburg College. He taught at New England College and Lynchburg College before becoming an adjunct professor at Boston University School of Management, where he now moves to full-time. A frequent conference speaker on experiential education and outdoor education and leadership, his practical experience includes a leadership position in experience-based training at Boston University Metropolitan College and coordinating the Outdoor Adventure and Leadership Development programs at Lynchburg College. Paul is currently writing his dissertation to complete his PhD in American and New England studies at Boston University.

Gina Powers

Gina Powers
Lecturer, Markets, Public Policy & Law

Gina Powers holds a juris doctor from the New England School of Law and both an MEd and BA in English and communications from Boston College. She is an attorney and sole practitioner in residential and commercial real estate and has served as an expert witness in real estate litigation matters. She has been a guest lecturer at the New England School of Law and instructor for the Greater Boston Real Estate Board. Gina also serves as a director for One Mission, a pediatric cancer foundation, through which she has hosted fundraisers to benefit Children’s Hospital Boston and the Jimmy Fund. Since 2005, she has served as an adjunct professor at the School, now becoming a full-time lecturer.

David Spieler

David Spieler
Lecturer, Finance

David Spieler holds an MBA in finance from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, an MS in civil engineering from Bucknell University, and a BS in civil engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Prior to joining SMG full time, David was a managing director in the Valuation Advisory Services practice at Duff & Phelps, LLC, and leader of the firm’s Boston office, managing director with Standard & Poor’s Corporate Value Consulting, and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He was also a senior consultant and the financial management unit leader at Arthur D. Little, Inc. David is a Chartered Financial Analyst who has expertise in business planning and valuation, intellectual property valuation, and providing expert testimony.

Recent Faculty Promotions

Samina KarimSamina Karim
Associate Professor, Strategy & Innovation

Samina Karim holds a PhD in corporate strategy from University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, a master’s in applied economics from University of Michigan’s economics department, a master’s in education from Harvard University, and a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Cornell University. A leading expert in the area of corporate restructuring and the reconfiguration of resources and market activities, Samina is especially interested in mobile devices and services, and has extensive experience in the medical sector both in her research and her previous work as an R&D engineer with Hewlett-Packard’s former medical products group.

Tim SimcoeTim Simcoe
Associate Professor, Strategy & Innovation

Tim Simcoe received his AB in Applied Math and Economics from Harvard University, and an MA in Economics and PhD in Business Administration from the University of California at Berkeley. An expert in the area of compatibility standards, Tim focuses his research on innovation, science and technology policy, intellectual property, and corporate strategy. Before joining the School of Management, he worked at the University of Toronto and Ernst & Young, LLP. He is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Shuba SrinivasanShuba Srinivasan
Professor, Marketing
Dean’s Research Fellow
Academic Co-Lead, Digital Technology Sector

Shuba Srinivasan obtained her MS in physics and MBA in marketing from the Indian Institute of Management, and her PhD in marketing from the University of Texas at Dallas. A professor of marketing, a dean’s research fellow, and academic co-lead in the digital technology sector at the School, Shuba’s research focuses on strategic marketing problems, in particular linking marketing to financial performance. With her co-authors, Shuba was awarded the 2010 Google-WPP research grant for research on audience-based online metrics. Other honors include the 2010 Broderick Prize for excellence in research at the School, as well as the 2001 EMAC best paper award.

Griner_KathrynKathryn Griner
Master Lecturer, Finance

Kathryn Griner holds a BA in economics from Wellesley College and an MBA in finance from Harvard Business School. A senior lecturer in finance, Kathryn received the 2001 Broderick Prize for Service to the Undergraduate Programs at the School, as well as served on the academic conduct, scholarship, undergraduate program development, and technology committees. Before joining the School in 1994, Kathryn served as vice president of the investment banking department at Credit Suisse First Boston, advising industrial and technology accounts in the New England region.


Mcmanus_PaulPaul Mcmanus
Strategy & Innovation Executive-in-Residence
Executive Director, Social Enterprises and Sustainability Sector

Paul McManus received his MBA from Boston University and his BS in mechanical engineering technology from Wentworth Institute of Technology. A lecturer in the Strategy & Innovation department, Paul serves as the executive director of the newly formed Social Enterprise & Environmental Sustainability Initiative, in which he leads the School’s emerging focus on this sector and is responsible for the creation and implementation of related practice-oriented programing for undergraduate and graduate students. Prior to joining the faculty full time in 2006, Paul was the Human Capital Partner at Boston Millennia Partners, a $740M venture capital fund with international investments in early-stage technology ventures in the life sciences, healthcare, medical device, information technology, and telecommunications industries.

David Randall

David Randall
Master Lecturer, Markets, Public Policy & Law
Faculty Director, Undergraduate Honors Program

David Randall obtained a BA in political science from Boston University College of Liberal Arts and a JD from Northeastern University School of Law. A senior lecturer of business law, Internet law, privacy law, and real estate law in undergraduate and graduate programs, David serves as the faculty director of the SMG undergraduate honors program and received the Broderick Award for Service to the Undergraduate Program in 2012. He was formerly the president and CEO of Metro Health Foundation, Inc., as well as a part-time lecturer in business law at Babson College.

Chris Dellarocas on Why Linking to Your Competitors May Benefit Everyone

October 22nd, 2013 in Digital Technologies, Digital Technology Sector, Emerging Research, Faculty, Information Systems, News, Uncategorized

From Dellarocas, C., Katona, Z., & Rand, W. (2013). Media, aggregators and the link economy: Strategic hyperlink formation in content networks. Management Science, 59 (10), 2360-2379.

In today’s link economy, whether a blogger paraphrases news articles or a fully automated aggregator harvests content from across the web, the pathways between content producers and audiences have become increasingly complex. So how should content producers respond to competition from aggregators and from each other?

How should content producers respond to competition from aggregators and from each other?

A new study from Boston University School of Management’s Chrysanthos Dellarocas, professor of information systems and director of Boston University’s Digital Learning Initiative, together with Zsolt Katona (University of California at Berkeley) and William Rand (University of Maryland), is the first to model the complex, interrelated implications of strategic hyperlinking and investment in content production. Their analysis, demonstrating scenarios in which such links can boost everyone’s profits, thus yields important implications for professional content producers who have until now been reluctant to link to competitors.

When Linking Increases Profits

Addressing questions relevant to both firms and regulators, Dellarocas et al. identify gaps in existing network economics research around the impact of freely established links and the strategies that motivate their formation. For example, what are the effects of linking to competitors, and when should inbound links be refused?

Dellarocas and his co-authors show that although linking can result in low-quality sites free-riding on high-quality content, “in settings where there are evenly matched competitors, the option of placing links across sites may lead to equilibria where some or all sites are better off relative to a no-link setting.”

Links between peer content sites can increase profits by reducing competition, overproduction, and duplication. The intuition is that, instead of each site expending resources to produce what is essentially duplicate content, everyone can benefit if one site specializes in producing really good content and other sites link to it. Sites that invest in high-quality content benefit from additional referred traffic, while those publishing the links become trusted hubs that attract visitors without having to pay the cost of content production. Different sites might specialize in producing content on different topics, one on politics and another on sports, for example. Thus, all sites produce the type of content they are best at and link to the rest. In this scenario, consumers benefit all-round.

The authors point out that the above scenario can sustain the market entry of inefficient players, allowing them to free-ride on the success of other content sites by linking to them, potentially denting the revenues of target sites. Still, no content site would benefit from unilaterally blocking such links, because then free-riding sites would simply link to their competitors.

The Impact of Aggregators

Acknowledging that aggregators ‘steal’ traffic from content sites, the authors also point out that, “by making it easier for consumers to access good content, aggregators increase the attractiveness of the entire content ecosystem and, thus, also attract traffic away from alternative media.”

While aggregators may direct more traffic to high-quality sites, they also take away a slice of profits from content sites. This happens because some aggregator visitors check article headlines and snippets at the aggregator but never click through to the original articles. Furthermore, aggregators tend to increase competition between content sites. This may boost quality but reduce content producer profits.

See more about “Media, Aggregators and the Link Economy: Strategic Hyperlink Formation in Content Networks,” at Management Science.

Are Today’s Students “Ethically Broken?” Academy of Management Review Consults BU’s Kabrina Chang

June 26th, 2013 in Faculty, Faculty in the News, Markets, Public Policy & Law, News, Social Impact

A recent post on the Academy of Management Review’s (AMR) Ethicist Blog explores new questions gaining traction in management education: Are today’s students “ethically broken” when they enter business schools? And, “through the use of ‘normal’ business school language, modeling, and metrics,” in the classroom, does management faculty “perpetuate ‘broken’ student perspectives and behaviors”?

AMR turned to Boston University School of Management Assistant Professor Kabrina Kebrel Chang to answer these questions, writing, “Chang and her holistic re-framing of how Boston University School of Management is approaching business ethics were featured in a recent Wall Street Journal article. She is a lawyer who teaches business law and ethics at BU, and her research includes how social media is fundamentally influencing employment decisions.”

Asked about how she approaches ethics, particularly in the undergraduate classroom, Chang explains,

I am at a b-school in the Northeast and students are uber-motivated. Being in a business school, sadly I take it as a given that we will need to break many of the money=happiness equation. Breaking the equation has to happen in more than one class, and they have to see real examples.…My focus is on the critical thinking skills—getting [students] to broaden their horizons when it comes to decision-making will have a real impact on their ability to make decisions that will take into account the betterment of people and not just the betterment of their business….My take on ethics and the take I employ now…is not to teach [students] right and wrong but to teach them that there’s more to think about with a decision.

Read more on the Academy of Management Review’s blog The Ethicist, or learn more about Kabrina Chang.

New Research from Yanbo Wang on Motivations for Cross-Border Reverse Mergers: Bonding Vs. Defrauding

June 26th, 2013 in Emerging Research, Faculty, News, Strategy & Innovation

From Siegel, J.I., & Wang, Y. (2012). “Cross-border reverse mergers: Causes and consequences.” Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 12-089.

A new study by strategy scholars Jordan I. Siegel of Harvard Business School and Yanbo Wang of Boston University School of Management looks at the intersection of cross-border reverse mergers, corporate governance outcomes, and the motivational role of bonding vs. defrauding.

Firms typically pursue reverse mergers (where a non-U.S. company seeks to adopt U.S. state- or Federal-level corporate law by targeting a U.S. shell company bound by U.S. state- or Federal-level corporate law and merging with it) to gain a higher or lower level of legal oversight.

In their paper “Cross-Border Reverse Mergers: Causes and Consequences,” Siegel and Wang note that the literature on bonding has paid scant attention to reverse mergers involving state-level corporate law. They aim to correct this, in part because studying these mergers enables a comparison between firms who adopt only state-level corporate law and those renting both state-level corporate law and U.S. federal securities law.

Debunking assumptions about Chinese & Canadian firms in Nevada & Delaware

The researchers compile a study-set using statistics on cross-border reverse mergers into the U.S.; financial data from Capital IQ, Thomson ONE, Worldscope, and Osiris; SEC filing restatements and auditor changes from Audit Analytics; and data on formal enforcement outcomes. They then apply this data to widely held assumptions about cross-border reverse mergers. They explore such questions as:

  • Is Delaware vs. Nevada a good proxy for a firm’s decision to bond itself vs. to defraud investors?
  • Does the choice of a Big Four auditor prove far more important in determining the quality of corporate governance than the choice of U.S. state?
  • Do Chinese reverse merger firms show more frequent negative corporate governance outcomes that Canadian reverse merger firms (the two main sources of cross-border reverse mergers into the U.S.)?

They find that:

  • Later cohorts—companies who adopted the strategy of reverse mergers later, after the first wave of reverse-merger pioneers—tend to display more problematic accounting than the early adopters.
  • Firms with Big Four auditors tend to display less problematic accounting.
  • Chinese firms have no greater tendency to display problematic accounting than any other firms in the data set.
  • The location of Nevada for the reverse-merger  incorporation makes no difference in the likelihood of a firm displaying problematic accounting.

Are cross-border reverse mergers more corrupt than domestic ones?

The study also addresses whether the incidence of bad governance among the cross-border reverse merger sample proves different from among domestic reverse merger firms or American OTC firms in general. Among its findings:

  • The cross-border reverse mergers had lower incidences of trading suspensions than U.S. OTCs for nearly all of the sample time period.
  • The cross-border reverse mergers had lower incidences of SEC enforcement than either the domestic reverse mergers or the American OTC firms for nearly the entire sample time period.
  • The cross-border reverse mergers had an incidence rate of private litigation that was mostly the same or lower than the two comparison groups for most of the sample time period.

Download a copy of the paper “Cross-Border Reverse Mergers: Causes and Consequences.”

New Research from Erin Reid Explores the Boundaries of Work and Non-Work Identities

June 6th, 2013 in Emerging Research, Faculty, News, Organizational Behavior

From Ramarajan, L., & Reid, E. (Forthcoming). Shattering the myth of separate worlds: Negotiating non-work identities at work. Academy of Management Review.

How much of our self is defined by our work?

Assistant Professor Erin Reid

Assistant Professor Erin Reid

Now, with fundamental changes in the social organization of work, this fairly simple question has become surprisingly difficult to answer. Where, for example, do small business owners’ professional and personal identities begin and end? What about those of doctors, oil rig workers, or priests?

A new paper by Erin Reid, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Boston University School of Management, and Harvard Business School’s Lakshmi Ramarajan, brings the importance of these questions to light. Their article, forthcoming in the Academy of Management Review, departs from a decades-old “myth of separate worlds” about the personal and professional, as well as from the limits of past management research on identity, which has primarily focused on at-work identity.

Based on an extensive review of research on management, gender and work, work-family, and sociology, Reid and Ramarajan develop a new theory of how people manage their non-work identities in the workplace, arguing that exploring the former has become increasingly important to understanding productivity, employee engagement and well-being, and power dynamics in the latter.

A New Focus on the Importance of External Identities

Attributing the blurring of work and non-work life domains to the combined effects of declining job stability, rising workplace diversity, and the growth of communication technologies, the authors argue that many workers—whether an Indian call center employee posing as an American, a priest juggling a parish and a same-sex relationship, or a female engineer modifying her gender expression to increase perceived competence—must renegotiate the boundaries of their identities.

Due to a combination of work and life pressures and personal preferences, workers develop different strategies for negotiating gender, family, nationality, and other “non-work” selves in the workplace, Reid and Ramarajan find. Varying degrees of alignment between one’s preferences and the pressures they face both affects how workers manage their non-work identities and impacts their experience of the power relationship between themselves and their organization or occupation. “The greater the alignment,” the authors write, “the more likely people are to remain unaware of this power relationship or experience it as enabling.” Conversely, “the greater the misalignment, the more likely people are to acutely experience the power relationship as a constraint.”

Different Strategies, Different Selves

Through a literature review of 117 articles and books published between 1990-2012 or cited in research from this period, and using direct commentary from workers about their efforts to negotiate their non-work identities at work, Reid and Ramarajan create a matrix encompassing various pressures, preferences, strategies, and outcomes.

They identify pressures and preferences as either:

  • Inclusionary, wherein people are encouraged to merge their work and non-work identities, or do so by choice; or
  • Exclusionary, wherein workers are encouraged to keep their identities separate, or do so by choice.

The authors then map different worker strategies within varying combinations of pressures, preferences, and outcomes:

  • Assenting strategies (such as luxury resort workers’ preferences for non-committal friendships and romantic relationships, due to a career requirement for frequent relocation), which are likely to improve workers’ well-being in the short term. However, in the long term, well-being may decline.
  • Compliance strategies (exhibited, for instance, by a lesbian female priest who chooses to hide her sexual identity), which may appear positive for the organization, but can negatively impact well-being and may in the long run harm productivity and efficiency.
  • Resistance strategies (found among Israeli Foreign Service employees who responded to employer pressure to curtail boisterous conduct by playing loud music), which may reduce commitment and be problematic in the short term, though offer potential for long-term positive change.
  • Inversion strategies (whereby people neither comply with nor resist pressure but instead try to reinterpret the pressure to align with their personal preferences), which tends to offer positive short-term consequences with more ambiguous long-term effects.

Offering their map of findings as a foundation for future study, Reid and Ramarajan urge continued research on the symbiosis of work and non-work identities, as well as its critical consequences for organizations.

Read more about “Shattering the myth of separate worlds: Negotiating non-work identities at work.”

PBS NewsHour Blog Features Zvi Bodie on Investment World’s Best-Kept Secret

May 16th, 2013 in Faculty, Faculty in the News, Finance, News, Risk Management

Bodie, PBS notes, is “perhaps country’s foremost expert on pension finance”

The NewsHour blog “The Rundown” features insight on little-known safer investing strategies by the School of Management’s Zvi Bodie, “perhaps the country’s foremost expert on pension finance.” Bodie is Boston University’s Norman and Adele Barron Professor of Management in finance and author, most recently, of the books Risk Less and Prosper and Essentials of Investing, 9th Edition.

In his latest NewsHour post, titled “The One Safe Investment and Why You Never Hear About It,” Bodie writes,

…I recommend that for people concerned about preserving the purchasing power of their savings, an investment program should start with the purchase of US Treasury Series I Savings Bonds, of which you can purchase up to $10,000 per year per person….I Bonds provide the ultimate in long-run liquid financial security to residents of the U.S. An investor in these bonds cannot lose any money or any purchasing power for up to 30 years, despite either inflation or deflation. They provide a return at least equal to the rate of inflation and, often, have paid a “premium” of interest above and beyond inflation.

At the moment, because of historically low interest rates, that premium is zero, but it is reset every six months. If, in September (or the following March or a year from September, etc.), new I Bonds do offer a premium, you can sell the current ones and use the money to buy the new ones.

Read the full post, see all the comments it has inspired, and watch a related video on “The Rundown” blog.

Susan Fournier on a New Science of Negative Brand Relationships

April 26th, 2013 in Emerging Research, Faculty, Faculty in the News, Marketing, News

From “Relating Badly to Brands,” appearing in the April 2013 Journal of Consumer Psychology

Brand managers may dream of customers relating to their brands as committed partners, best friends, soul mates, or allies, but what if a brand portfolio offers rocky marriages, one-night-stands, power plays, stalkers, and secret affairs?

How, for example, should the New York Philharmonic react to recent news that a large percentage of first-time ticket buyers felt “stalked” by their customer service calls? What about  frequent flyers’ mixed—and often negative—emotions about their airline of “choice”?

We recognize negative relationships with other people and appreciate how complex and powerful they can be. So why not in our bonds with brands?

A recent study by Boston University School of Management professor Susan Fournier and doctoral candidate Claudio Alvarez “Relating Badly to Brands” (Journal of Consumer Psychology, April 2013) calls for a new science of negative brand relationships, a field overlooked by much current research. Fournier is a professor of marketing and has been named one of academia’s most influential researchers for her work on brand theory.

Alerting brand managers to the importance of the negative

Fournier and Alvarez note that although negative brand relationships are more common and frequently more powerful, positive brand relationships are supported by much richer academic frameworks.  ”Negative brand relationships are in fact more common than positive relationships,” they write, “with an average split across categories of 55%/45% for negative and positive relationships, respectively….Without a formal accounting of negative relationships, our brand management frameworks are misleading and incomplete.”

Applying new data to a marketing theory by Park et al. called the “Attachment-Aversion continuum,” Fournier and Alvarez conduct two studies using subjects across four countries to identify the range of relationships people have with a variety of brands. They first identify four dimensions along which brand relationships vary: positive/negative, significant/superficial, equal/unequal power, and deliberate/not under my control. They then have consumers assign brands to categories resembling their own primary personal relationship dynamics.The results highlight 27 significant types of consumer-brand relationships, including “flings,” “broken engagements,” “stalker-prey,” “addict/dealer,” “fleeting acquaintance,” and more.

Are we really distant from all the “bad” brands in our lives?

One important finding from these studies is the challenging of the assumption that brand negativity stems from perceived distance between consumer and product. Building on their comparison between brands and interpersonal dynamics, the authors argue, “negative relationships do not all involve distanced self-connections and low interdependence between partners.” For instance, the authors point to past studies exploring the following brand relationships, encompassing both the passionate (or close) and the negative:

  • The ”monstrous relationships” fans have with the Twilight media brand, which justifies partner violence and emotional abuse as an ultimate act of protection and love
  • Products that generate compulsive consumption, addictions, and dependencies, from alcohol to cigarettes to social media
  • Credit card and consumer lending agencies, including ones where “consumers are lured into lending relationships with a courteous attitude and quick, easy credit offered under conditions that are not fully disclosed”

As negative brand relationships are common and cause damage to both consumers and companies, Fournier and Alvarez urge, “managing negatives may actually be more important for brand equity development than cultivating positive connections with brands.”

Read more about “Relating Badly to Brands” in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

Professor Alan Cohen Joins Federal Advisory Panel on Improving Healthcare Systems

April 16th, 2013 in Faculty, Health Sector, Honors & Awards, Markets, Public Policy & Law, News

Assisting Institute on Research for Better Patient Decisions & Outcomes

Professor Alan CohenBoston University School of Management’s Alan Cohen has been appointed to the federal Advisory Panel on Improving Healthcare Systems by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), created by the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

PCORI is an institute authorized by Congress to research and provide information to both patients and health care providers with the goal of enabling more informed medical and health-related decisions.

According to PCORI, the Advisory Panel on Improving Healthcare Systems is one of four panels appointed to represent the institute’s “broad stakeholder community.” In addition to enhancing healthcare systems, these expert panels will guide PCORI’s efforts to improve patient engagement, address disparities, and enable better patient and practitioner assessment of options for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Along with twenty other leading researchers, clinicians, industry representatives, policymakers, and patient advocates in the field of improving healthcare systems and outcomes, Professor Cohen will help the institute “refine and prioritize research questions, provide needed scientific and technical expertise….and help us model full and meaningful patient and stakeholder engagement efforts.”

Cohen is a professor of health policy and management at Boston University and executive director of the School’s Health Policy Institute. He was formerly vice president for Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s largest philanthropic organization dedicated solely to public health, where in 2012 he was named a “Luminary” for his role in research and initiatives having a major impact on the field in the previous forty years. Cohen is also principal author of the book Technology in American Health Care: Policy Directions for Effective Evaluation and Management.

Read more about PCORI, the Advisory Panel on Improving Healthcare Systems, or Professor Cohen’s honor as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation “Luminary.”

Professor N. Kulatilaka: Turning Green into Green

April 12th, 2013 in Emerging Research, Energy & Environment Sector, Faculty in the News, Finance, News, Social Impact

The annual magazine Research at Boston University has profiled the pioneering work and social impact of the School of Management’s Nalin Kulatilaka. In their feature “Considering Community,” they write,

Perhaps it is no wonder that an electrical engineer who became a professor of finance would take an interest in how green buildings can provide monetary benefits for the people who have the resources to fund renewable energy projects….

That’s part of the story of Nalin Kulatilaka, who teaches in the School of Management and is a codirector of the Clean Energy & Environmental Sustainability Initiative.

“My research is on sustainable energy investments,” Kulatilaka says. “From renewable energy sources like solar and wind to energy conservation and energy efficiency investments like building retrofits.”

The thrust of his work is to incentivize the up-front funding for green energy buildings from banks and other sources by writing a new kind of contract for the loans that fuel such changes. The contracts are intended to monetize the savings that green energy can achieve, so that the investors who put up the capital can capture some of the money saved as revenue from the project.

“We are now designing contracts where the building owner and tenant could share the savings.”

Recently, Kulatilaka has worked on buildings owned by the Cambridge Housing Authority in Central Square. Some were heated entirely by electricity, some were particularly leaky, and all lacked the investment capital needed for retrofits.

“My contribution there, with Professor of Earth & Environment Robert Kaufmann and a team of students, was to first assess the opportunity; to try to quantify what the savings would be by using various statistical techniques that analyze the demand patterns of the building,” he says.

“We are now designing contracts where the building owner and the tenant could share the savings. These would occur in such a way that funding could be attracted from conventional—or at least semi-­conventional—sources like large banks.”

Read the full article at Research at Boston University, or see another profile of Professor Kulatilaka’s work on “New Approaches to Funding Social Enterprises.”

Washington Post’s Wonkblog Spotlights Keith Ericson on Obamacare, Enrollment, and Labels

April 4th, 2013 in Faculty, Faculty in the News, Health Sector, Markets, Public Policy & Law, News

“It’s a mandate! It’s a tax! How word choice effects Obamacare enrollment.”

Keith Marzilli EricsonThe Washington Post‘s Wonkblog, in their Health Reform Watch column, recently spotlighted a study co-authored by Boston University’s Keith Marzilli Ericson on the impact of terminology on enrollment in mandated health insurance. Ericson, an assistant professor of markets, public policy, and law at the School of Management, is also co-author of a related National Bureau of Economic Research paper titled “Pricing Regulation and Imperfect Competition on the Massachusetts Health Insurance Exchange.”

As The Washington Post reports,

It was this week, one year ago, that the Affordable Care Act had its day in court—the Supreme Court, that is.

The health care law had the longest oral arguments of any case the high court has heard; supporters lined up for a seat in the courthouse four days in advance.

Obamacare’s mandated purchase of health coverage survived the challenge. It may not, however, have gotten off scot free: New research suggests the controversy over the mandate may been a blow to its credibility—and Americans’ willingness to comply.

That’s the takeaway from a new paper, authored by Boston University’s Keith Marzilli Ericson and University of Pennsylvania’s Judd Kessler that looks at the difference between describing the health law’s penalty for not carrying insurance as a “mandate” or a “tax.”

The two are, as Ericson describes it, “logically identical.” Beginning in 2014, a person who fails to purchase health insurance will pay a $95 fine, regardless of whether they consider that a tax penalty or a fee for non-compliance with the mandate.

Ericson, whose research focuses on the intersection of health insurance and behavioral economics, had an inkling that the description would matter. He has researched the Massachusetts health reform effort, where a mandate helped the state achieve the highest rate of insurance in the country.

“We expected that the mandate would encourage insurance purchase more than a tax,” he says. “We thought that it establishes a social norm, and a sense of obligation.”

Read the full article at The Washington Post‘s Wonkblog.

Banner photo courtesy of flickr user