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Anderson, Lin, Simester, and Tucker Receive 2020 Weitz-Winer-O’Dell Award for “Harbingers of Failure”

Anderson, Lin, Simester, and Tucker Receive 2020 Weitz-Winer-O'Dell Award for "Harbingers of Failure"

Eric Anderson, Song Lin, Duncan Simester, and Catherine Tucker have been selected to receive the 2020 Weitz-Winer-O’Dell Award for their article “Harbingers of Failure,” which appeared in the October 2015 issue (Vol. 52, No. 5) of the Journal of Marketing Research (JMR).

The Weitz-Winer-O’Dell Award honors the JMR article published five years earlier that has made the most significant, long-term contribution to marketing theory, methodology, and/or practice. The award committee this year included Pradeep Chintagunta (University of Chicago), Rebecca Hamilton (Georgetown University), and Russ Winer (New York University). The committee provided the following statement about their choice of Anderson et al.’s paper for this award:


The “Harbingers of Failure” paper makes the novel prediction that the early success of a product among certain customers may have negativerather than positiveimplications for the long-term success of the product. As the authors of the paper point out, most models used to forecast the success of new products, such as the classic Bass (1969) model, assume that early sales of a product are positively correlated with its long-term success. Further, models that have given more weight to the responses of specific customer segments, such as lead users, have given more weight to positive responses among these segments. In contrast, Anderson et al. propose that retailers should interpret high sales to Harbinger customers as a negative signal for a product’s long-term (three years or more) success.

To test their predictions, the authors use both customer-level data, obtained from loyalty program members for a period of two years, and store-level transaction data, obtained from 111 individual convenience stores over a period of six years. The customer-level data identified over 8,800 new product purchases over the two years, 40% of which survived for at least three years, making them “successful new products.” By grouping customers according to the number of unsuccessful versus successful new products they purchased (their “Flop” affinity), the authors illustrate the usefulness of this classification for predicting the success of subsequent new product introductions. Tracking the purchases of customers who purchase more unsuccessful new products during an initial period allows retailers to identify other new products that are likely to fail in a subsequent period; Harbinger customers (those with high “Flop” affinity) are more likely to purchase both, even if the new products are as different as hair styling gel and cookies. 

Consistent with JMR’s goal of publishing research that is relevant to practice, “Harbingers of Failure” has been presented at Marketing Science Institute conferences and webinars and featured in over 100 popular press articles in outlets including the New York Times, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NBC, BBC and NPR. Coverage has spanned geographic areas including the United State, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, India, China, and South Africa. A follow-up paper, Simester, Tucker, and Yang’s “The Surprising Breadth of Harbingers of Failure,” was published in the December 2019 issue (Vol. 56, No. 6) of JMR, and we look forward to more work on this topic.

Two other excellent papers were named finalists for the 2020 Weitz-Winer-O’Dell Award:

Congratulations to the authors of all three of these papers. The authors will receive the award during the awards luncheon at the AMA Summer Academic Conference in San Francisco (August 21-24, 2020). A special session will be devoted to the paper and other finalists at the conference as well.


Bass, Frank M. (1969), “A New Product Growth for Model Consumer Durables,” Management Science, 15 (5), Theory Series, 215–27.

Simester, Duncan, Catherine Tucker, and Clair Yang (2019), “The Surprising Breadth of Harbingers of Failure,” Journal of Marketing Research, 56 (6), 1034–49.