This annual award is given to the Journal of Marketing article that has made the most significant contribution to the advancement of the practice of marketing in a calendar year. It is cosponsored by the American Marketing Association and the Marketing Science Institute and honors past AMA Board Chair H. Paul Root, who also served as president of MSI from 1990 to 1998. The winners of the 2021 AMA/MSI/H. Paul Root Award are Stephen J. Anderson, Pradeep Chintagunta, Frank Germann, and Naufel Vilcassim for their article “Do Marketers Matter for Entrepreneurs? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Uganda,” published in Volume 85 of the Journal of Marketing in the special issue on “Better Marketing for a Better World.”
Entrepreneurship has been touted as an antidote to poverty in the developing world. Entrepreneurs create employment, spur innovation, and empower individuals. Most academic work in the area has focused on financing and innovation as routes to entrepreneurial success. Largely ignored has been the role of marketing expertise in business success. Anderson and coauthors partnered with a UK nonprofit on an ambitious multiyear randomized field experiment comparing a control group of entrepreneurs with no access to outside business mentors versus entrepreneurs paired with either marketing mentors, consultant mentors, or mentors from other fields of business. The authors found that access to marketing mentors significantly and positively impacted the entrepreneurs’ firm growth by 32.5% on average, as measured in monthly sales and profits, total assets, and paid employees. Why did marketer volunteer mentors create more growth than mentors from other areas of business? The authors show that marketers focus entrepreneurs on product differentiation, allowing them to charge a price premium that could not be supported without that differentiation.
The selection committee, composed of John Lynch (MSI Executive Director and chair), Jeff Inman, Detelina Marinova, and Ralf van der Lans noted, “We are delighted to recognize Steve, Pradeep, Frank, and Naufel as winners of this prestigious award. This paper ticks all the boxes: it addresses a fundamental marketing question in an entrepreneurial context that matters for millions of people living in poverty. We admired the powerful causal evidence of entrepreneurship as a tool to fight poverty in Uganda, and for bringing marketing to the table. We were also impressed with linguistic analysis to uncover the theoretical underlying mechanism—helping entrepreneurs differentiate their offerings in an undifferentiated marketplace.
The work has had significant real-world impact. Supporting materials for the nomination came from the Lead Economist at the World Bank, who said, “I am very familiar with this research study and its findings. As the authors point out, in the past, organizations such as mine (but also others) did not give marketing and marketers much thought as they designed business support interventions to fight poverty in developing countries. However, the “Do Marketers Matter for Entrepreneurs?” article has significantly changed our thinking regarding the importance of the marketing function in driving firm growth and, in turn, the role that marketers can play in helping emerging market entrepreneurs to succeed.”
The selection committee also praised the other papers that were finalists for the award, three of which also came from the “Better Marketing for a Better World” special issue.
The other finalists included:
- Joann Peck, Colleen P. Kirk, Andrea W. Luangrath, and Suzanne B. Shu (2021), “Caring for the Commons: Using Psychological Ownership to Enhance Stewardship Behavior for Public Goods”
- Nicole Robitaille, Nina Mazar, Claire Tsai, Avery Haviv, and Elizabeth Hardy (2021), “Increasing Organ Donor Registrations with Behavioral Interventions: A Field Experiment”
- Roland Rust, William Rand, Ming-Hui Huang, Andrew Stephen, Gillian Brooks, and Timur Chabuk (2021), “Real-Time Brand Reputation Tracking Using Social Media”
- Madhubalan Viswanathan, Nita Umashankar, Arun Sreekumar, and Ashley Goreczny (2021), “Marketplace Literacy as a Pathway to a Better World: Evidence from Field Experiments in Low-Access Subsistence Marketplaces”
- Wanqing Zhang, Pradeep Chintagunta, and Manohar Kalwani (2021), “Social Media, Influencers, and Adoption of an Eco-Friendly Product: Field Experiment Evidence from Rural China”
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