In early May, the Marketing & Society SIG announced Brennan Davis of California Polytechnic State University as the 2016 MASSIG Emerging Scholar award. Davis' scholarship has been published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Journal of Business Research, American Journal of Public Health, and Journal of the Association of Consumer Research among others. The MASSIG noted that "Dr. Davis also has a strong history of impactful service to the field." That service includes serving as a current chair of the Marketing & Public Policy Conference with past Emerging Scholar award recipient Beth Vallen. AMA caught up with Brennan about a month out from the conference to learn about his career and contributions.
Would you briefly introduce yourself?
My father was an experimental aircraft pilot in the Air Force and my mom was a homemaker. We moved around a lot (England, Oklahoma, Colorado), but I spent most of my adolescence near Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert region of California. As an undergraduate at UCLA, I had a hard time choosing between English and Math as a major, with the goal to become a high school teacher. I chose math, and ended up working with big data (on giant tape reels then) and geographic information systems analyses to help make marketing decisions for the automotive industry (Honda and Nissan were headquartered in Southern California at the time). Eventually, I did my MBA at UPenn’s Wharton and my PhD at UC Irvine.
What attracted you to marketing as a discipline of study? And how about the intersection of marketing and public policy?
Experience with big data and marketing in my early career fascinated me. But I always felt empty thinking about devoting my life to climbing the corporate ladder. I wanted to work on topics that might have a strong impact on the most vulnerable segments in the world. With a passion for quantitative analyses (which had earlier drawn me to pure math), my love for creativity and writing (which had earlier drawn me to pure English), and a desire to work on some big social problems, a career in academic at the crossroads of marketing and public policy was ideal.
Was there a pivotal moment or key person in your career?
During my MBA program, Len Lodish (Wharton) encouraged me to consider an academic career, and my PhD advisors, Imran Currim and Connie Pechmann (UC Irvine), inspired me to be an excellent academic using top methodological approaches to do meaningful policy research. Julie Ozanne has been an amazing mentor, encouraging me to keep working on things that matter and take leadership in the areas of Marketing & Public Policy and Transformative Consumer Research.
Are you especially proud of any particular paper or project?
For many reasons, I am especially proud of “Assessing the Societal Impact of Research: The Relational Engagement Approach”, forthcoming in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing (JPPM). Foremost, I believe it has the potential to change the way marketing departments and business schools approach “impact,” increasing focus on societal benefits and engaging nonacademics who can make our work count as academics. It is also a favorite of mine because of the many people I worked with on this paper. Julie Ozanne led and is a smart, hardworking and warm person. I enjoyed working with her and the rest of the team as the primary product of our dialogical meeting at the 2013 Transformative Consumer Research (TCR) conference in Lille, France. So, this paper crosses my worlds: it is a policy paper in JPPM and is a great example of the kind of work that TCR conferences are producing.
Often consumers are skeptical of marketers, what advice do you have for marketers for positively promoting their work?
Marketing is neutral, just as parenting is neutral. There are plenty of bad parents, but that does not mean parenting is bad. There are plenty of bad marketers, but that doesn’t means that marketing cannot be a force of good in the world, especially if you have a deeper understanding of marketing and the right heart and focus.
What has been your most memorable Marketing & Public Policy Conference and why?
The 2006 Marketing & Pubic Policy Workshop and Doctoral Seminar at the University of Southern California was the most memorable conference event for me. Many of the field’s top researcher spent a week with 25 of us who were just starting our careers. I have received many wonderful benefits from that time and am grateful for the opportunity to make lifelong friends there.
Coffee or Tea? And how do you take it?
Decaf Starbucks Americano with 2 inches of room (to make it even richer) and add some cream.