Jun 3, 12:00 AM UTC 


Annual Symposium: Consumers, Brands, and the Mandate for Accountability


Today more than ever, brands must stand for something beyond the products or services they sell. What does brand accountability look like today with heightened consumer awareness of the societal impact of individual actions in an altered global economy? Transparency, sustainability, and authenticity are critical, and while there is no one blueprint for success, all brands must get it right.

In our two-part virtual symposium, academic experts and business leaders will offer varied perspectives on the role of companies and brands as “citizens” of the post-covid world.

Through interactive panels, academics experts will discuss how the brand “mandate for accountability” can be addressed by basic principles of marketing as well as new research. Business leaders will offer case studies and views grounded in experience. Topics will include:

  • Customer Insights to Building an Authentic Brand
  • The Rhetoric of Marketplace Morality: A Consumer Perspective
  • How Marketers Can Encourage Consumers to Embrace Brands that Do Well by Doing Good
  • Why Brands Should Not Take Stands
  • Building a Social Enterprise

The presentations will be short, interactive, and structured for this new virtual format. Member attendees – insights and marketing research leaders – will be invited to actively engage live with speakers. Space is limited and attendance is free for MSI members.

This event is open to MSI corporate members and qualified academics.

June 3, 2020

2:00 – 2:10 p.m. Welcome
Barbara Kahn, University of Pennsylvania & Marketing Science Institute
2:10 – 2:30 Re-envisioning Marketing in an Age of Risky Business
Susan Fournier, Boston University
Four forces that are diminishing the strategic function of marketing and company investments in brand assets: financialization, “juniorization” of staff, data-driven digital marketing, and the customer equity paradigm. These challenges come at a time when new risks from socio-demographic, economic, and political (SEP) factors are disrupting brand management, and social media amplifies these risk exposures. Using a first-of-its-kind database accumulating 1534 risk events from 2018-2019, Susan Fournier reports how brand-related risks comprise the majority of all risk events, with SEP risks comprising well over one-half of all events. These brand risks now incurred, exacerbated by chronic under-investments in brand assets, have evolved into enterprise-level issues demanding attention of the Board. Susan presents a solution involving a re-envisioned CMO role centered not only on growth but also enterprise risk management and supported by new governance and reporting mechanisms.
2:30 – 2:50 Why Brands Should Not Take Stands
Grant McCracken, Cultural Anthropologist, Co-founder, Artisanal Economies Project
In this presentation, cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken takes the contrarian position that when brands “take a stand” they betray their responsibility to the consumer and the first tenet of capitalism. Taking a stand speaks to some consumers and should probably be honored in most brand strategies. But when they make this a key branding objective, brands make marketing all about them and their view of the world. The first idea of marketing says the consumer is king. It’s not about us. It’s about them. Grant will investigate one way to put the consumer back at the center of marketing.
2:50 – 3:10 The Rhetoric of Marketplace Morality: A Consumer Perspective
Sankar Sen, Baruch College
When marketers communicate, they speak increasingly in not just commercial voices but moral ones as well. Company engagement in and communications about CSR/sustainability are at an unprecedented high. What formats work best for such communications? In this talk, Sankar Sen will discuss consumer reactions to CSR communication that call into question the efficacy of certain conventional approaches and pervasive communication formats, such as humor, storytelling, and multiple appeals, in producing positive, pro-company responses from consumers. The findings point to the uniqueness of marketer communication in the moral domain and underscore the challenges companies face in communicating successfully about their CSR/sustainability initiatives.
3:10 – 3:30 Building a Social Enterprise – A Purpose With a Brand Vs. a Brand With a Purpose
Laura Fruitman, Co-Founder & GM, The Right To Shower and Entrepreneur in Residence, Unilever
As consumers look to drive social sustainability, what is the role of brand? How can you drive value for consumers who want to make a difference but don’t know how, while also delivering profitability? A social enterprise model can help drive impact for consumers and for society in an authentic virtuous circle. Hear from the Founder & GM of The Right To Shower, a social enterprise built as a start-up within Unilever, that has launched a range of soaps and cleansers, and donates profits to bring showers to people living on the streets.
3:30 – 3:50 Discussion and Wrap Up
Barbara Kahn, University of Pennsylvania & Marketing Science Institute

June 10, 2020

2:00 – 2:10 p.m. Welcome
Barbara Kahn, University of Pennsylvania & Marketing Science Institute
2:10 – 2:30 Bet Against Your Beliefs? The (Private) Value of a Social Identity
Carey Morewedge, Boston University
Consumers engage in a variety of costly public behaviors, forgoing personal rewards that would conflict with their loyalties and commitments to others, beliefs, and ideals. They support politicians who would raise their taxes, pay too much for hybrid cars, and burn new sneakers in protest. These painful signals convince others of the identities they profess, but are consumers also trying to convince themselves? When we offer consumers real and hypothetical bets against the success of their preferred U.S. presidential candidates and MLB, NFL, and NCAA basketball and hockey teams, they exhibit a substantial reluctance to engage in emotional hedging—betting against the occurrence of desired outcomes. More than 45% of NCAA basketball and hockey fans, for instance, turned down a “free” real $5 bet against their team. In this presentation, Carey Morewedge will show how to quantify the private value of a social identity, and we explain how and when the identity signal a behavior reveals to oneself outweighs its pecuniary benefits.
2:30 – 2:50 Be Real: Customer Insights to Building an Authentic Brand
George Newman, Yale University
How do consumers naturally think about authenticity when evaluating CSR activities and routine business practices? In this talk, George Newman will draw insights from relevant business cases as well as a number of experiments designed to get at consumers’ underlying psychology. Participants will learn some of the central ways that brands can communicate authenticity to consumers, some of the ways in which such claims can backfire, and the psychological frameworks which help to ground those insights within a broader theoretical perspective.
2:50 – 3:10 How Can Marketers Encourage Consumers to Embrace Brands that Do Well by Doing Good?
Katherine White, University of British Columbia
Consumers consistently report that they want to purchase brands and products that make the world a better place. But when brands offer “social good” options, consumers do not always follow through on those good intentions. Kate White will present ways to encourage consumers to embrace social good products and behaviors. In particular, she will outline 5 psychological factors that can encourage consumers to choose social good options. These 5 psychological drivers are encapsulated by the acronym SHIFT—Social Influence, Habit Formation, Individual self, Feelings and Cognition, and Tangibility.
3:10 – 3:25 Discussion and Wrap Up
Barbara Kahn, University of Pennsylvania & Marketing Science Institute

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