Domino’s Pizza has cultivated 10 million Facebook followers. Target’s page has collected 20 million. And Nabisco’s Oreo cookie page exceeds 40 million Facebook likes.
Such large numbers demonstrate a shift toward social media marketing and the expanding role of commercial branding in today’s online world, according to Dr. Jay I. Sinha, an Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
Sinha’s latest research publication, “The Risks and Rewards of Brand Personification Using Social Media,” which appeared in the Boston Globe and MIT Sloan Management Review, digs into social media’s role in rewriting the consumer-producer relationship for today’s top brands. More than 92 percent of marketers responded in 2014 that social media marketing is important for their businesses, and 80 percent indicated these efforts increase traffic to their websites, Sinha noted.
“Social media marketing is the new big thing,” Sinha said. “It allows a company to stay close to its customers, being responsive, engaging them, and evolving with them through time.”
Tweeting its core values or responding to Facebook comments about a new product gives a company a human-like presence, Sinha said. This personification, he added, deepens consumer loyalty and buyer-conversion rates, or the number of consumers making online purchases. So whether it’s an international company like Domino’s Pizza, or a hyper-local grocery store chain, photographs, hashtags, and followers are a part of the new normative advertising pattern.
“In the past, a satisfied customer typically told three other people, while a dissatisfied customer griped to 11 people,” Sinha said. “Nowadays, each has the potential to tell the entire world – by virtue of being on social media.
The globalization of online marketing, to Sinha, emphasizes the need for well-written, interesting and visually appealing content. He indicates Whole Foods’ strategy on Instagram that focuses on striking food photography with the use of no captions, while Target uses #tbt, or ThrowbackThursday, to promote its 1980s-inspired fashion line.
Sinha notes the line between trendy and offensive, however, can be a tipping point.
“Firms should not regard social media as the space where they can emulate private individuals and espouse extreme viewpoints, launch attacks against business rivals, or castigate those who post negative reviews,” he said. “This is off-putting and unprofessional.”
To diminish the chance for error, using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest as primary social media platforms is enough, Sinha indicated, as many users are engaged with just two or three of those sites. He also urged firms to cultivate the smartphone app market with which millennials, or those between the ages of 18 and 35, are engaged. YouTube, he continued, is a way to corner members of the baby-boomer generation who aren’t as engaged on Facebook or Twitter.
Expanding on social media brand personification, Sinha said he is currently researching the “culture-jacking” phenomenon, which refers to a company’s attachment of itself to a trending topic in order to increase followers. Companies’ successes with this tactic, Sinha noted, is not foolproof, as there are several documented missteps.
“All of this shows that companies need to use social media with proper judgment and planning, and steer clear of topics that may be remotely controversial,” Sinha said.
There’s a crucial strategy in online advertising that could revolutionize the way marketing agencies target online consumers, according to Fox School of Business researcher.
Dr. Xueming Luo studied how the strategy of competitor-poaching in online advertising influences consumer behavior. His most-recent publication on the topic was named Best Track Paper in Social Media & Digital Marketing at the 2015 American Marketing Association Winter Educator Conference Feb. 14 in San Antonio, Texas. It also received the conference’s honorable-mention distinction among all submissions.
Competitor-poaching in online advertising is responsible for why consumers can search the term “iPhone” using Google’s search engine, and corresponding ads for the Samsung Galaxy, Apple’s closest competitor, will appear, said Luo, Professor of Marketing, Strategy, and Management Information Systems. In his research, Luo uncovered that this strategy results in “clicks wasted,” as consumers glance over the competitor’s ads while remaining loyal to their initial preferences.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Luo said. “You can increase the impression of the competitor’s brand, but you cannot get consumers to purchase the poaching brand.”
This effect is partly seen because online consumers often develop specific brand loyalties by word of mouth or from reviews that sites like Amazon and Google provide, he said. Firms, Luo found, seek to continually build brand equity and increase positive socialization around their products in order to thwart attempts at online poaching.
“Online poaching impresses non-loyal customers, but fails to get more sales conversion from customers who have high loyalty to the brand under attack” Luo said.
Asking a consumer why they want or prefer a certain product or brand, and how price influences their decisions, can help clarify what incentivizes shoppers, Luo said. Marketing agencies should then target their competitor’s keywords with advertisements that include discounts, he suggested, to capture consumer curiosity.
“To switch consumers from a brand, you need a deeper incentive, such as a 30-percent discount,” Luo said. “If you do this the wrong way, you’ll waste your money. That method can only engender clicks, but not sales conversion.”
This research, Luo said, is a part of his greater interest in how online marketing interweaves big-data analytics, mobile strategies, and consumer insights. As founder of the Global Center on Big Data in Mobile Analytics, which is housed at the Fox School, Luo is interested in investigating how big data gleaned from search engines reveal varying patterns in the evolving sphere of online ads and mobile targeting.
“This is a great way to outsmart competitors and connect customers for superior company performance,” Luo said.
Overlooking the Center City from the top floor of Alter Hall, marketing doctoral students and faculty from colleges and universities in the Mid-Atlantic region gathered as part of the Fox School of Business’ third-annual Mid-Atlantic Doctoral Symposium (MADS).
PhD students from Rutgers University, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Fox School joined distinguished faculty from the region to discuss burgeoning research on big data analytics, marketing communications, consumer behavior and more at the day-long event, held March 27.
“It’s great for faculty and doctoral students to come together and learn,” said Andy Reinaker, a fourth-year doctoral candidate at the Fox School, who helped co-coordinate the event.
The impetus of former Fox PhD student Mike Obal, now a marketing professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, helped spur the event’s creation three years ago. The Mid-Atlantic Doctoral Symposium has seen a steady rise in attendance, as researchers have shown an interest in networking with others in their field.
To expose the attendees to the diverse interests in the room, students from myriad universities presented their latest research throughout the day to the larger group. Trading places with the student researchers, the faculty members in attendance also hosted panels on transitioning from doctoral studies to professorships, as well as lessons they had learned from years of research.
In addition to the presentations, students and faculty were invited to network with one another. Going beyond discovering common interests, students and faculty were encouraged to consider chances for collaboration and foster relationships that cross state and university lines.
“Because it’s such a small group, it’s a great place to have these types of conversations. We build the day for that to happen,” said Lindsay Clark, Assistant Director of Special Projects in the Office of Research, Doctoral Programs, and Strategic Initiatives at the Fox School.
In his opening remarks, Fox School Dean M. Moshe Porat reflected upon the opportunities the Mid-Atlantic Doctoral Symposium presents to students from colleges and universities located from Connecticut to North Carolina.
“Beyond our distinguished guest speakers, this symposium affords everyone here a chance to develop both research and social relationships that will foster the success of your future projects,” Porat said in his address.
Echoing Porat’s sentiments was Dr. Paul A. Pavlou, Associate Dean of Doctoral Programs and Chief Research Officer for the Fox School.
“It is my pleasure to continue to support this event,” Pavlou said. “We pride ourselves on the successes and achievements of all of our students in their academics and future careers.”
Tyrha Lindsey-Warren, a PhD candidate from Rutgers University interested in marketing communications, who has attended the symposium since in its inaugural year, said she returns to the event annually “because of the intimacy and the environment created. It’s not stuffy, and you feel comfortable.”
Keynote speaker Dr. David Griffith, of Lehigh University, agreed that the experience at the Mid-Atlantic Doctoral Symposium is unique.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for doctoral students to learn about what it takes to be successful,” Griffith said. “It’s becoming a very premier event.”
Researchers at Temple University’s Fox School of Business have identified an area of the brain that can significantly better predict the success of TV advertising.
Professors Angelika Dimoka, Paul A. Pavlou and Vinod Venkatraman led the research study at Temple’s Center for Neural Decision Making at the Fox School of Business. The research team received a $286,000 research grant from the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), a non-profit group that provided TV ads from major sponsor companies in the consumer-goods, financial, technology, travel, and pharmaceutical industries.. The study sought to understand whether measures obtained in the lab when a small number of consumers watched these TV ads can predict the success of these ads in terms of increasing sales in the market.
Their research paper recently has been accepted for publication in the Journal for Marketing Research, a top marketing journal. They completed the study in collaboration with researchers from New York University, Duke University and the University of California, Los Angeles, who analyzed available sales and success data from the TV ads.
Fox School’s research team evaluated the responses of more than 300 participants to television advertisements using eight distinct methods: traditional surveys; implicit measures; eye tracking; heart rate; skin conductance; breathing; and brain activity, as measured by fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and EEG (electroencephalography).
“This is the first study to relate individual-level measures in the lab to market-level behavior,” said Venkatraman, lead author and Assistant Professor of Marketing. “We show that physiological and brain responses to a 30-second TV advertisement can provide reliable markers for evaluating its actual success in the market.”
“Based on our research and findings, from all seven neurophysiological methods, brain data collected using fMRI, were the most predictive,” added Angelika Dimoka, Director of the Center for Neural Decision Making, and an Associate Professor of Marketing. Specifically, we are able to show that activation in an area of the brain known as the ventral striatum, the reward center of the brain, can predict a TV ad success. The higher the activation in the ventral striatum, the higher the success of the TV ad. Nobody has ever been able to make such a linkage.”
The findings suggest that a key to a successful TV ad, Venkatraman noted, is the ability to increase the desirability of the product featured in the TV ad – a construct that is difficult to measure through the use of traditional, self-reported measures.
“A researcher might ask a test participant, more traditionally, ‘Do you like this ad? Are you likely to purchase this product?’” said Pavlou, Fox School’s Associate Dean of Research and Chief Research Officer. “While subjective measures like traditional questionnaires can still predict the success of TV advertising, the use of neurophysiological measures, especially fMRI, can almost double the power of our prediction.”
Dimoka, Pavlou and Venkatraman began their research December 2012, after meeting ARF officials at the second Interdisciplinary Symposium on Decision Neuroscience, spo nsored and hosted by the Fox School of Business. They concluded their testing and research six months later.
A PhD student from Temple University’s Fox School of Business proved she can stand out in a crowd. Michelle Andrews received the Best Conference Paper Award at the 2014 American Marketing Association Summer Educator Conference Aug. 2 in San Francisco.
Andrews’ paper, titled, “Using Mobile Technology to Crowdsense,” employed crowdedness as an environmental factor that affects how people respond to mobile advertisements. The study for her research paper, which was co-authored by Xueming Luo, a Professor of Marketing in the Fox School’s Marketing and Supply Chain Management department, was conducted within subway trains.
In the context of a subway train, the measurement of crowdedness – a sometimes-abstract entity in research, Andrews remarks – becomes more precise.
“The reason we chose the subway train context was that it was unique,” said Andrews, who will earn her PhD in Marketing from the Fox School in Spring 2015. “During a subway commute, you’re surrounded by others in a public environment with little to do.”
Andrews, who signed a non-disclosure agreement regarding her research paper, could not specify which specific subway system she used for her research paper, but noted it was located in southeastern China, where, as Andrews pointed out, subways are mobile-equipped. That enabled Andrews and her co-authors to determine the number of mobile users within the specific dimensions of a subway train.
“We predicted crowdedness would increase immersion into mobile devices,” she explained. “We found that in congested trains, purchase rates were significantly higher than in uncongested ones.”
Andrews’ winning paper was co-authored by Zheng Fang, of China’s Sichuan University and Anindya Ghose, of New York University.
Also at the conference, Andrews’ research papers earned two further distinctions. The same paper that received the conference’s overall Best Paper Award also garnered the Best Track Paper Award in the Digital Marketing & Social Media track. Another of her research papers, titled “The Effectiveness of Cause Marketing” received the Best Track Paper Award in the Social Responsibility & Sustainability track.
“Michelle is so hard-working and innovative in her thinking for what’s coming next for the Marketing discipline, and the Best Conference Paper Award recognizes her for that,” Dr. Luo said. “Hopefully, this significant award will be influential, not only for our school but also for marketing on the whole, in demonstrating how to connect with consumers anytime, anywhere.”