As part of our dedication to keeping attuned to changes in the marketing industry, we like to interview experts and educators for features on our blog to gain insights on their experiences with marketing.
Our recent interviewee is Dr. Vivek Astvansh, a professor at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. He has a Ph.D. in business and a background in research and technology. Dr. Astvansh’s areas of expertise include product recall, customer complaints, social media marketing, digital marketing, data breaches, and firm bankruptcy.
Regarding research, his interests lie in discovering how firms react to adversity and how they recover from them. Dr. Astvansh also holds interests in econometric modeling, text and image mining, and computational linguistics.
1. How long have you been teaching marketing? What made you want to pursue it?
Since 2010, first in India, then in the U.S. (University of Wisconsin-Madison), then Canada (University of Western Ontario), and currently in the U.S. (Indiana University).
The principles of marketing apply not only to organizations but also to individuals. For example, each person, country, university, political party, etc. can be viewed as a product and also a consumer.
Consider, for example, yourself in the job market looking for your next employer. You will first segment prospective employers to identify those that match with the type of work you want to do, followed by targeting those employers by positioning yourself in line with the job description. Other examples include persuading ourselves to eat healthy food and using branded products to impress others.
2. What is your favorite course to teach and why?
Marketing analytics. I worked in the technology industry for twelve years, first coding software programs, and later marketing them. I hence feel a natural connect with analytics.
3. Tell me a little bit about yourself (education background, any other relevant work experience). What types of organizations are you involved in?
I studied computer engineering in my undergraduate program, followed by an MBA – both programs from India. I then studied a research master’s in business from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, followed by a Ph.D. from Ivey Business School, Canada.
In between, I worked in the technology industry for twelve years. I started with a telecom, then moved to semiconductor design, then investment banking, and finally settled down with digital marketing and analytics.
4. What do you consider to be the most important and/or interesting aspect about the current state of marketing?
Analytics because consumers’ use of products is the main source of big data – that is, marketing is at the center of the current emphasis on analytics.
5. What types of research do you do as part of your role? How do you incorporate it into your coursework?
I study how marketing can help firms recover from adversity. Specifically, I examine how firms communicate with their stakeholders (consumers, suppliers, distributors, and regulators) in the aftermath of adversity, such as product recalls, data breaches, consumer complaints, and bankruptcy.
Firm communication is unstructured text, and hence, I apply text analytics to discover insights from such communications. I teach analytics, and hence, there is a strong fit among my prior academic training (computer engineering), my corporate experience (technology), teaching (analytics), and research.
6. Where do you feel the future of marketing, particularly digital, is heading?
The last few years have marked organizations’ and consumers’ transition to digital products such that technology is now a service just like broadband. I hope the next phase helps us understand in simple words what insights the use of digital products can bring, and what their limitations are.
For example, the current application of machine learning helps us predict that X will cause Y, but we are less confident on WHY X causes Y. And this is where social scientists (e.g., business academics) and computer scientists can come together.
7. With digital marketing changing at such a rapid pace, how do you see marketing being taught differently in the future?
Use of devices and data has proliferated all aspects of our lives, including teaching. However, foundational knowledge of marketing is still (and will always be) applicable. The one change I see is the introduction of specialized courses at the intersection of marketing and technology/data science such as marketing of technology products.
8. What advice would you give to young marketing professionals?
Enjoy marketing! Remember, marketing is not merely an organizational function such as finance and accounting but a field that applies to our daily lives.
Let me offer a rather odd example. When you next go to date a partner, consider yourself as a product and your partner as a customer. Think of what value your partner seeks from you and how best you can provide that value. Think of your potential rivals – that is, who else can your partner date. Think how well you are communicating to your partner that you AND your partner are effective as a couple and not individually. That is, the power lies in the relationship and not in the individuals.