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Rethinking Marketing: Darren Dahl

Darren Dahl

Darren Dahl
University of British Columbia

When I think about “better marketing” and “better world”, the first thing that pops into my mind is “change.” When I think about the world and how it’s changing, I see a lot of opportunities for us, as researchers, to ride along with that change to make life better with our research.

For example, one domain that is experiencing change is entertainment. If you look at advertisements about TV from the 50’s and 60’s, you can see that marketers shaped the concept of watching TV to be family time—when watching TV, you would all be together in the living room and you would be happy because you would be watching TV with your family. Now, families, including my own, still watch TV together, but it is very different today. With platforms like Netflix, people have access to all manner of content, and one can flip through options and choose to watch anything one wants. It even gives a score of how much any given show or movie aligns with what you’ve watched before. With this change comes questions that can impact both consumers and marketers. For example, does unlimited freedom in choice benefit the consumer? Does binge watching make you happy? Is it better for platforms like Netflix if people binge watch? Or is it better if viewership is spread out more evenly over time? Can marketers gain insights into how TV and other entertainment activities can lead to happier individual and family lives and teach or help consumers achieve these patterns of behavior?

Another emerging phenomenon is crowd-sourcing. The wisdom of the crowd has been utilized for a variety of purposes ranging from micro-financing to product development. For example, a US nonprofit, Carrotmob, uses a crowd-sourcing strategy to evoke change and has partnered with companies like Unilever to advance social values in their business. How can the crowd be utilized, studied, and motivated to help marketers contribute to a better world? Opportunities for research here include everything from defining the most effective extrinsic motivation signals that engage the crowd to defining functional website design that facilitates an effective crowdsourced communication. Understanding how crowdsourcing has brought change to the marketplace will enable consumer researchers to have substantive impact on both for profit and non-profit organizations. 


Opportunities for consumer researchers run in tandem with the changes we see around us. I would encourage us to interpret and embrace change for the potential it provides us in defining better marketing for a better world.

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Darren W. Dahl is Senior Associate Dean of Faculty, Director of the Robert H. Lee Graduate School, BC Innovation Council Professor, and Professor of Marketing and Behavioural Science, University of British Columbia, Canada.