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JM-MSI Special Issue: “From Marketing Priorities to Research Agendas”

JM-MSI Special Issue: “From Marketing Priorities to Research Agendas”

What are the highest-impact topics for research in the marketing field? What do practitioners say they want to learn more about? What do scholars believe are the questions on which progress is most likely to be made?  

Every two years the Marketing Science Institute (MSI) asks these questions of its corporate members and reports the answers as its priorities. This year, there is something new. A group of mid-career marketing academics—the MSI Scholars—wrote articles for peer review for the Journal of Marketing that expand on the MSI Priorities. Marketing leaders from companies and academics were invited to read and comment on the scholars’ work. The result, we hope, will offer important insights to the field and provoke a stream of rigorous and useful research.

All the articles and commentaries are below.

The editors of the Special Issue, John Deighton, Carl Mela, and Christine Moorman, will host sessions at the 2021 AMA Winter Academic Conference February 17–19 in which the authors will present and the commentators will share their views. Sign up for the conference here.

Editorial: Marketing Thinking and Doing

John A. Deighton, Carl F. Mela, and Christine Moorman

The history of marketing reveals an uneasy relationship between marketers and their academic counterparts. At best, they support one another’s endeavors and may even partner to develop ideas and technologies. At worst, they ignore one another and may even view their counterpart with some disdain. While the latter is not useful, this 100-year old ambivalence in marketing is in some ways quite natural and its foundational quality quite old. Aristotle, for example, distinguished thinking (theoria) from doing (praxis). We think there is a strong case to be made for stronger interactions between the two for the betterment of marketing.

Inefficiencies in Digital Advertising Markets

Brett R. Gordon, Kinshuk Jerath, Zsolt Katona, Sridhar Narayanan, Jiwoong Shin, and Kenneth C. Wilbur

Digital advertising markets are growing and attracting increased scrutiny. This article explores four market inefficiencies that remain poorly understood: ad effect measurement, frictions between and within advertising channel members, ad blocking, and ad fraud. Although these topics are not unique to digital advertising, each manifests in unique ways in markets for digital ads. The authors identify relevant findings in the academic literature, recent developments in practice, and promising topics for future research.


  • Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of Procter & Gamble, offers a perspective on these concerns from one of the world’s largest advertisers in “Half My Digital Advertising Is Wasted….” Leading with the rallying cry in his memorable title, he describes the dark side of the digital advertising revolution and offers solutions offered.

  • Jonathan Porter, Assistant Director of Economics at the Competition and Markets Authority in the United Kingdom, adds to these concerns by discussing why measurement matters for effective competition in digital advertising markets in “Inefficiencies in Digital Advertising Markets: Evidence from the Field.”

Marketing Agility: The Concept, Antecedents, and a Research Agenda

Kartik Kalaignanam, Kapil R. Tuli, Tarun Kushwaha, Leonard Lee, and David Gal

Changes in how customers shop, accompanied by an explosion of customer touchpoints and fast-changing competitive and technological dynamics, have led to an increased emphasis on agile marketing. This article conceptualizes and investigates the emerging concept of marketing agility, defined as the extent to which an entity rapidly iterates between making sense of the market and executing marketing decisions to adapt to the market. The authors integrate ideas from marketing and allied disciplines and insights from in-depth interviews with 22 senior managers to form a framework. Firm challenges in executing marketing agility are highlighted, including ensuring brand consistency, scaling agility across the marketing ecosystem, managing data privacy concerns, pursuing marketing agility as a fad, and hiring marketing leaders. The antecedents of marketing agility at the organizational, team, marketing leadership, and employee levels are examined. The authors caution that marketing agility may not be well suited for all firms and all marketing activities.


  • Nick Hughes, founder of 4RDigital, and Rajesh Chandy, London Business School, reflect on marketing agility in the context of digital products in emerging markets in “Trajectories and Twists: Perspectives on Marketing Agility from Emerging Markets,” drawing on Nick’s experience with digital ventures in emerging markets in Africa and Asia.

  • Ann Lewnes, Chief Marketing Officer at Adobe, argues in “The Future of Marketing Is Agile” that agility has become a central marketing principle requiring leaders to orientate their people, processes, and technology around the customer.

Traveling with Companions: The Social Customer Journey

Ryan Hamilton, Rosellina Ferraro, Kelly L. Haws, and Anirban Mukhopadhyay

When customers journey from a need to a purchase decision and beyond, they rarely do so alone. This article introduces the social customer journey, which extends prior perspectives on the path to purchase by explicitly integrating the important role that social others play throughout the journey. The importance of “traveling companions” is highlighted, with a focus on those who interact with the decision maker through one or more phases of the journey. The social customer journey concept integrates prior findings on social influences and customer journeys and highlights opportunities for new research within and across the various stages. Finally, the authors discuss several actionable marketing implications relevant to organizations’ engagement in the social customer journey, including managing influencers, shaping social interactions, and deploying technologies.


Informational Challenges in Omnichannel Marketing: Remedies and Future Research

Tony Haitao Cui, Anindya Ghose, Hanna Halaburda, Raghuram Iyengar, Koen Pauwels, S. Sriram, Catherine Tucker, and Sriraman Venkataraman

With continuing growth in digitization, consumers today interact with firms across online, mobile, and offline media channels. This, in turn, has led to a shift toward “omnichannel” marketing, which emphasizes a unified consumer experience rather than just facilitating transactions. This article investigates three challenges in realizing the full potential of omnichannel marketing: (1) data access and integration, (2) marketing attribution, and (3) consumer privacy protection. This article argues that advances in machine learning and blockchain offer promising solutions to these challenges. The authors also identify recent developments in practice and avenues for future research.


  • Kusum Ailawadi, Dartmouth College, takes the perspective of manufacturers who market products to end consumers through independent channel partners, some or all of whom may want to be omnichannel and possibly also through their own direct-to-consumer channel in “Omnichannel from a Manufacturer’s Perspective.

  • In “Governing Technology-Enabled Omnichannel Transactions,” George John, University of Minnesota, and Lisa Scheer, University of Missouri, point out that behind each omnichannel touchpoint is an array of upstream firms and associated transactions that create and support the services a customer receives. These interorganizational networks are undergoing massive changes and facing new challenges spurred by omnichannel marketing and enabled by information communication technologies.

Consumers and Artificial Intelligence: An Experiential Perspective

Stefano Puntoni, Rebecca Walker Reczek, Markus Giesler, and Simona Botti

Artificial intelligence (AI) helps companies deliver important benefits to consumers. However, although it can be seen as a neutral tool to be evaluated on efficiency and accuracy, this approach does not consider the social and individual challenges that can occur when AI is deployed. This research aims to bridge these two perspectives. On one side, the authors acknowledge the value that embedding AI technology into products and services can provide to consumers.

On the other side, the authors build on and integrate sociological and psychological scholarship to examine some of the costs consumers experience in their interactions with AI. In doing so, the authors identify four types of consumer experiences with AI: (1) data capture, (2) classification, (3) delegation, and (4) social. This approach offers marketing advice for managers and policy makers to address the ways consumers may fail to experience value in organizations’ investments into AI and lays out an agenda for future research.


Capturing Marketing Information to Fuel Growth

Rex Yuxing Du, Oded Netzer, David A. Schweidel, and Debanjan Mitra

Marketing is the functional area primarily responsible for driving a firm’s organic growth. In the age of digital marketing and big data, marketers are inundated with increasingly rich data from an ever-expanding array of sources. This article examines how marketers can wrestle massive flows of existing and nascent data resources into coherent, effective growth strategies. The authors begin by discussing the streetlight effect—an overreliance on readily available data due to ease of measurement and application—as contributing to the disconnect between marketing data growth and firm growth. They then use the customer equity framework to structure the discussion of six areas where they see substantial undertapped opportunities: incorporating social network and biometric data in customer acquisition, trend and competitive interaction data in customer development, and unstructured and causal data in customer retention.


Evolution of Consumption: A Psychological Ownership Framework

Carey K. Morewedge, Ashwani Monga, Robert W. Palmatier, Suzanne B. Shu, and Deborah A. Small

Technological innovations create value for consumers in many ways, but they also disrupt psychological ownership––the feeling that a thing is “MINE.” This article explores two key dimensions of this technology-driven evolution of consumption pertaining to psychological ownership: (1) replacing legal ownership of private goods with legal access rights to goods and services owned and used by others and (2) replacing “solid” material goods with “liquid” experiential goods.

The authors propose that these consumption changes can have three effects on psychological ownership: they can threaten it, cause it to transfer to other targets, and create new opportunities to preserve it. These changes and their effects are organized in a framework and examined across three macro trends in marketing: (1) growth of the sharing economy, (2) digitization of goods and services, and (3) expansion of personal data. This psychological ownership framework generates future research opportunities and actionable marketing strategies for companies aiming to preserve the positive consequences of psychological ownership and navigate cases for which it is a liability.


  • Scott Lieberman, a Principal at KPMG, points to the shared problem of designing human experiences that merge digital with physical elements. In “Managing Human Experience as a Core Marketing Capability,” he outlines a set of four design principles that should drive the development of marketing capabilities.

  • In his commentary, “Music’s Digital Dance: Singing and Swinging from Product to Service,” Jim Griffin, Managing Director at OneHouse, where he works as a digital marketing consultant, examines what happens when fans with a sense of psychological ownership behave in a way that is at odds with the law (e.g., share digital offerings that they do not own).

The entire Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

John Deighton, Guest Editor
John Deighton
Harvard University
Carl Mela, Guest Editor
Carl Mela
Duke University

Christine Moorman
Duke University

John Deighton is The Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard Business School and past Executive Director of the Marketing Science Institute. He is an authority on consumer behavior and marketing, with a focus on digital and direct marketing. He teaches in the area of Big Data in Marketing, and previously initiated and led the HBS Executive Education program in Digital Marketing and taught the elective MBA course, Digital Marketing Strategy. His research on marketing management and consumer behavior has been published in a variety of journals including the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Marketing Research, the Journal of Marketing, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and the Harvard Business Review. His research has also received a number of commendations, including the AMA’s Best Article Award from the Journal of Marketing and an honorable mention from the Journal of Interactive Marketing. He is a past editor of the Journal of Consumer Research, a leading outlet for scholarly research on consumer behavior, and was the founding co-editor of the Journal of Interactive Marketing, which reports academic research on marketing and the Internet. He is a member of the Chairman’s Advisory Council of Marketing Edge, and a Director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Carl F. Mela is the T. Austin Finch Foundation Professor of Marketing at Duke University and past Executive Director of the Marketing Science Institute. He holds an engineering degree from Brown University, and a Ph.D. in Marketing from Columbia University. Prior to his Ph.D., he held management positions at Hewlett Packard, Hughes Space and Communications, and Proxima Corporation. Prof. Mela applies economic and statistical models to generate insights regarding the long-term effects of marketing activity on brand equity as well as the role the Internet and new media on consumer and firm behavior. Articles along these lines appear in the Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing, Harvard Business Review, the Journal of Consumer Research and have received or been a finalist for thirty-five best paper awards including the INFORMS John D.C. Little Award and the AMA’s William O’Dell and Paul Green Awards. Prof. Mela serves or has served as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Marketing Research, and Quantitative Marketing and Economics and is or has been on the editorial boards of the Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing and Marketing Letters. Professional boards include the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, Unilever and Information Resources, Incorporated.

Christine Moorman is the T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. Christine’s research examines the nature and effects of learning and knowledge utilization by consumers, managers, organizations, and financial markets. She has studied these effects in the context of innovation, marketing alliances and networks, and public policy. Her research has appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, and Harvard Business Review where it has been honored with several best paper awards. She has served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Marketing Research and the Journal of Marketing and as an ERB member for the Journal of Consumer Research and Marketing Science. Christine is the founder and managing director of The CMO Survey and author of Strategy from the Outside In: Profiting from Customer Value​, which was awarded the 2011 Berry Book prize for the best book in the field of marketing. Christine was named the AMA-Irwin-McGraw-Hill Distinguished Marketing Educator in 2018, a Fellow of the American Marketing Association in 2017, and she won the 2012 Paul D. Converse Award, the 2008 Mahajan Award for Career Contributions to Marketing Strategy, and the 2008 Distinguished Marketing Educator for the Academy of Marketing Science. She has served as an Academic Trustee for the Marketing Science Institute, as a member of the Board of Directors of the AMA, Chair of the Marketing Strategy Special Interest Group for the AMA, and as Director of Public Policy for ACR.​

The Journal of Marketing (JM) and the Marketing Science Institute (MSI) share a long history of close collaboration and aligned missions. MSI brings the best of science to the complex world of marketing by serving as a bridge between marketing academics and practitioners. MSI uses practitioner inputs to establish Research Priorities and funds academic research aligned with these priorities with the aim of advancing marketing knowledge.  JM and MSI published a 2016 Special Issue entitled “Mapping the Boundaries of Marketing” focused on the 2014-2016 MSI Priorities and co-sponsor the AMA/MSI/H. Paul Root Award given to the Journal of Marketing article that made the most significant contribution to the advancement of the practice of marketing in a calendar year.