2014 marked four decades since the release of MSI’s first Research Priorities booklet. Since then, MSI’s research agenda has influenced the work of scholars all over the world, focusing academic attention on the real-world problems of marketers.
Established by 1972-80 Executive Director Stephen Greyser of Harvard Business School (pictured here), with support from Stacy Haines of Sears, chair of MSI’s Executive and Research Policy Committee, and President Tom McCabe Jr., the priority-setting process formalized member company trustees’ role in in helping to shape a practice-oriented research agenda for MSI.
Since 1974, MSI’s research priorities have articulated the marketing concerns of some of the world’s top companies.
That role is core to MSI’s mission. “Direct involvement in MSI research programs and research priorities are key in a responsive research system strengthening academic and company research collaboration,” Greyser wrote in 1974. The inaugural list issued that year represented “a distillation of research priorities as viewed by those who are engaged in the practice of marketing.”
The process has stood the test of time: since 1974, 23 research priorities agendas (issued annually or biennially) have articulated the pressing marketing concerns of some of the world’s top companies, helping to set the research agenda for the practice-oriented marketing academic community as well as guiding MSI’s own activities and programs.
There have been some topics of enduring interest. For example, new product development emerged at the top of the first list of research priorities, and has been reflected in some form in every subsequent cycle. “We were also early in recognizing that it was important for marketing to have a presence at the CEO level,” Greyser noted.
Other longstanding topics include understanding customers, marketing metrics, and improving marketing information/ knowledge development. Brand equity was voted by members as a top priority in 1988, launching one of MSI’s most important and influential research streams.
Brand equity, voted a top priority in 1988, launched one of MSI’s most important and influential research streams.
Forty years also spanned a changing marketing environment. In the 1970s and 1980s, Greyser noted, there was an emphasis on public policy and consumer-oriented research, as well as pioneering research on consumer services marketing. And digital technology, a dominating challenge today, didn’t emerge as a research topic until 1994 as “information technology and the information highway.”
At the 2014 milestone, an important question is: What have we learned from academic research? In what ways can we make the critical link from empirical results from academia to managerial implications and guidelines for marketing practice?
That question will be addressed at a July 2015 conference, “The State of Marketing: What Managers Can Learn from Academic Research,” where leading academics will discuss key findings of greatest interest and value to a managerial audience on each of MSI’s 2014-16 top-tier research priorities.
“We have learned so much through years of concerted academic research,” said Executive Director Kevin Lane Keller. “I am impressed by how much of that research has been either funded by MSI or has involved academic researchers who have participated with MSI in the past in some form. It is gratifying to see us in the thick of things.”
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