Category: Faculty Profiles

The Atlantic Covers Susan Fournier’s Deep Influence on Brand Theory

May 1st, 2012 in Academic Departments, Faculty, Faculty Profiles, Marketing, News


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.

They write,

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.

Samina Karim on Executives as Conduits of Organizational Transformation

March 6th, 2012 in Emerging Research, Faculty, Faculty Profiles, Strategy & Innovation

“Structural Knowledge” Forthcoming in Strategic Management Journal

Samina KarimA new article by the School of Management’s Samina Karim, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Innovation, and co-author Charles Williams (Bocconi University, Milan), studies executives as vehicles for organizational change, particularly in organizations experiencing acquisitions or restructuring. The paper, “Structural Knowledge: How Executive Experience with Structural Composition Affects Intrafirm Mobility and Unit Reconfiguration,” is forthcoming in Strategic Management Journal (June 2012). It explores how executives’ knowledge, gleaned from their experience with different types of business units (e.g. internally developed, acquired, or recombined), affects both their mobility within the firm and the subsequent structural change of units to which they move.

The authors argue that “structural knowledge” (defined as knowledge of the tasks and challenges within units of different “structural composition”) is significantly associated with executives’ horizontal, intrafirm mobility, and thus an important knowledge form, although one that has been little studied to date. Among their findings are the following:

  • Executives from internally developed units may ultimately move to any unit, either via a recombined unit that is a combination of acquisitions or one that is a combination of internal developments.
  • The same is not true of executives starting with acquisition experience. Their path is more likely to lead them to acquisitions that are combined together and then perhaps to cases where acquisitions are combined with internally developed units.
  • Executives who experience the fewest transitions to units of different structural composition are those who start at units that are combinations of acquisitions and internal development. They are most likely reassigned to similar units.

Managerial Implications

Applying these findings to executives’ personal career strategies, Karim and Williams advise:

Executives should be conscious of the structural composition of units with which they are gaining experience. Our findings show that it is difficult for executives with experience in one type of unit to necessarily make the transition to another type of unit. If the executive wants to specialize in one form of structural composition, the two that predominantly serve similar units are executives from internally developed units (may be reassigned to other internally developed units) and those from units combining acquisitions and internal units. The latter can be limiting in that it is unlikely for this position to be reassigned to other types of units; it may be enabling for those executives who are integration specialists and can apply their specialization in this context

Executives should try to gain experience at internally developed units, as they seem to be where initiators of change reside within the firm with regards to participating in recombinative opportunities. These executives also exhibit the greatest degree of mobility to, ultimately, units of various structural compositions.

Leveraging Executives’ Mobility To Create Firm Value

In exploring how executive mobility can impact organizational transformation, the authors discover that when comparing units receiving simply more transferred executives, executives with recombination experience, and executives from core internal units, the units with greater influx of the latter are those  with a greater likelihood of being recombined, “while units receiving executives from previously acquired units will tend to remain unchanged.”

Ultimately, Karim and Williams show how executives serve as “containers of knowledge and know-how,” and how mobility catalyzes both knowledge transfer and creation of new knowledge within the executive through his or her new experience.  The study, they write, also “reveals how firms may be leveraging executives’ expertise with structural composition across business units within the firm to create further value.”

Read more about the study “Structural Knowledge: How Executive Experience with Structural Composition Affects Intrafirm Mobility and Unit Reconfiguration” as well as related research in the working papers “Executive Links and Strategic Change: Is Unit Spanning by Executives Associated with Market Entry and Exit?” and “Acquirers’ Goals’ Influence on Acquirer-Target Bilateral Interactions.”

Ben Lawrence, Doctoral Candidate / Lecturer, Marketing

May 18th, 2010 in Faculty Profiles

Ben Lawrence,  Doctoral Candidate / Lecturer, Marketing

Ben Lawrence, Doctoral Candidate / Lecturer, Marketing

BS, Cornell University
MBA, Texas A&M University

What are your primary research interests?
My primary research interests include community formation and maintenance, social identification, and the impact of community participation on relationships. My dissertation investigates independent franchisee associations – a unique organizational entity that exists within various franchise systems. I’m working to understand the factors that lead to their various organizational forms, their impact on franchisee identification, and their role in influencing relationships between franchisee and franchisor. Several other projects with various faculty members include one on consumer-generated advertising and consumer engagement, and one investigating the impact of community involvement on the price sensitivity for new and used products.

Why is the School of Management a good fit for you?
The School provides a rich cross disciplinary working environment. Faculty members reach across research domains to collaborate on projects, bringing diverse perspectives and research skills. Within the marketing department and in the school as a whole, diversity in methodological and theoretical expertise provides doctoral students both the width and depth of knowledge with which to explore and learn. 

What’s been your biggest gain since coming to the School?   
The ability to develop, conceptualize, and investigate interesting and impactful research topics. I have always been able to come up with questions but lacked the knowledge and skill to understand which questions were worth researching. 

Is there any BU resource you would highlight as having enhanced your experience here?
The faculty and their willingness to integrate me into their research projects have been the most valuable learning experience. As a doctoral candidate the most important role to play is an active mentee. Luckily at SMG I have been afforded multiple mentors who have guided me through the process.

Samina Karim, Assistant Professor, Strategy & Innovation

May 18th, 2010 in Faculty Profiles

Samina Karim, Assistant Professor, Strategy & Innovation

Samina Karim, Assistant Professor, Strategy & Innovation

BS, Electrical Engineering, Cornell University
EdM, Education, Harvard University
MAE, Applied Economics, University of Michigan
PhD, Corporate Strategy, University of Michigan

What are your primary research interests?

  • Organizational restructuring, reorganization
  • Mergers & acquisitions
  • Market entry and exit
  • Innovation within established firms
  • Post-acquisition integration

Why is the School of Management a good fit for you?
It exemplifies what I think are the three critical components to an excellent business school: dedication to research, dedication to teaching, and dedication to informing teaching through research.

What’s been your biggest gain since coming to the School?   
The School is a melting pot of scholars from all over the world with different academic training and studying all sorts of business problems – but something that ties us together is that we’re all interested in how organizations can improve. What I’ve gained from the School is a deeper appreciation of other areas within business and their relevance to my own research, and growing as a scholar from exposure to colleagues’ breadth of perspectives.

Is there any BU or Boston resource you would highlight as having enhanced your experience here?
As professors in Boston, we’re spoiled compared to many of our colleagues! The Boston area is the most richly endowed academic region. There is the abundance of scholars and universities which leads to sharing of knowledge through seminars open to the community; there exist both established and entrepreneurial organizations from which to learn and study; and finally, Boston attracts many of the top students from around the world!

What business problem do you most want your work to help solve?
Generally, I hope that my research will help businesses address the issue of how to best organize themselves to create more value. Specifically, organizations must actively choose how to structure tasks and responsibilities within functional and business divisions; these structures can be modified to be more centralized or decentralized, vertical or horizontal, modular or integrated. Firms also often acquire other businesses – other structures that now need to be organized within the firm. Along with the organization (or reorganization) of structure comes the question of what resources should reside within or be managed by these structures? I hope my work helps us understand how to allocate resources (both in the form of executives and product market activities) to improve the innovativeness of firms.