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Rethinking Marketing: Koen Pauwels

Koen Pauwels

Koen Pauwels
Northeastern University

My contribution in this area is on marketing democracy. I see two major ways we can contribute. 

First, democracy is in decline. Over the last decade, democracy has been decreasing worldwide, even in countries we think of as stable democracies. Previously, we didn’t have to market democracy because democracy was linked to economic progress. Now, the west is in an economic downturn, whereas China is on the rise. There is an increased confidence in authoritarian leaders. The perception has changed. If we believe in democracy, there is a need to market it. 

Second, good governance requires that voters, the press, and policy makers have good information. Do we have any empirical evidence on the prevalence and impact of falsehoods in offline and online ‘news’? Can we offer guidance to policy makers on which kind of statements help or hurt their chances of election? 


To answer this we need good data. For example, in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the offline polls showed Clinton ahead but the online USC/LA Times Daybreak Poll accurately predicted Trump’s win. When Trump spoke out against authority his offline and online polls went up. When Clinton she spoke in favor of the system, her offline polls were flat but her online polls went way down. 

For brands, if you take a political stance, does it help or hurt you? Recent data from Engagement Labs shows that online and offline word of mouth diverge when companies take a political stance. When Delta broke ties with the NRA this year, online sentiment went down, but offline sentiment actually went up. This effect was even stronger for MetLife. 

If you care about political society, marketing can help us understand how to advise policy makers and brands who engage with policy.

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Koen Pauwels is Professor of Marketing, Ozyegin University (Istanbul), and Associate Professor of Business Administration, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College.