Jean-Pierre Dubé

Sigmund E. Edelstone Professor of Marketing

Jean-Pierre Dubé joined the Chicago Booth faculty in 2000. His research interests include marketing decisions such as pricing, advertising and branding, and the role of competitive dynamics. His specific domains of interest include the retail industry and internet marketing.

Researching How Industries and Markets Evolve

My recent research focuses on dynamics. Recently, I looked at brand patterns for consumer packaged goods like ground coffee. Two brands, Folgers and Maxwell House, dominate the U.S. market with roughly equal shares of volume sold. However, in some regions, Folgers garners considerably more share than Maxwell House; in other regions, the situation is reversed. With two co-authors, I went through company archives and traced when these brands rolled out in different cities. We did this for several product categories and found that being the first to roll out in these markets, sometimes over a century ago, is a very good predictor of whether a brand has the highest market share in that market today. This incredible degree of persistence is surprising both for academics and for brand managers in these categories.

In a follow-up study, I’m working with Matt Gentzkow [associate professor of economics and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow] and Bart Bronnenberg [professor of marketing at Tilburg University] on why history would persist in the current performance of a brand. We’ve obtained shopping data on 75,000 households across the country from A.C. Nielsen, then surveyed these households about the city where the primary shopper was born, educated, and currently resides. We’re studying whether people buy the brands that are popular where they currently live versus where they grew up; we’re testing whether shoppers take their brand preferences with them when they move to a region that has different brand-buying habits.

Bringing Research Into the Classroom

Chicago may have a reputation of being the sort of place where faculty do research and grudgingly teach because they have to, but that’s not true. The classroom here is taken unbelievably seriously. Faculty work hard to develop and maintain high-quality classes. The advantage to students of having access to very rigorous and top-quality research faculty is the depth of understanding. If you understand and study concepts deeply, it’s a lot easier for you to explain the concept in the classroom.

From students, I learn what’s actually happening in the field and how decisions get made, particularly in teaching executives. For instance, we work with an underlying model of how we think people behave. We’ve nailed consumer behavior, but firms don’t always behave the way we would predict with our theories. Our students tell us that in selling a product, for example, employees are rewarded for how much money they make in the next six months. Employees cannot then be expected to make decisions that pay off for the firm several years from today. The very long-term perspective that best serves the firm as a whole and seems natural to the researcher can’t happen in practice. You start realizing, “We missed this in our models.”

A Focus on Fundamentals and a Rigorous Approach

It’s very simple. We have people who are trained in the fundamentals, especially economics and psychology, and we build from those disciplines. A lot of marketing groups are data rich and work on empirical questions, but what makes Chicago Booth stand out is our rigorous approach. This connection to core discipline training holds you to a certain standard.

Also, we have a lot of exposure to disciplines outside of marketing. Everyone is working on marketing problems—advertising, pricing, customer segmentation, customer preferences. These are fundamentals, but we happen to use economics (or psychology) as the basis from which we start forming theories and constructing models. As a result, we publish research not just in marketing journals, but also in the very top economics, statistics, and psychology journals. Consequently, our research has a much broader audience and, hence, a much broader impact.

Developing Market Leaders

When it comes to the teaching environment, the dean’s office is really one of the school’s strengths. No one has ever questioned the content of my class or tried to push me to teach specific topics. In fact, faculty hear it’s OK to dial it up. I teach pricing, and every year I try to add something new related to my work experience. While the class content is getting richer each year, it is also getting slightly harder. The students always rise to the challenge.

At Chicago Booth, students get access to the very top faculty in the field and learn the fundamentals of how to run a business, which don’t change because of trends like the internet or because we’re in a recession. There’s no new set of principles.