Cross-pollination and building bridges

After Paris and Tilburg, Barbara Briers set her sights on the home front: Leuven. She recently started as Associate Professor of Marketing at Vlerick Business School. “I am primarily concerned with social themes. I think it is important that my research results make a valuable contribution to everyday life”.

Before Barbara Briers started at Vlerick, she had already followed an interesting career path. She was Assistant Professor at the HEC in Paris for three years, a Member of the Marketing department at Tilburg University, followed by Associate Professor at the same institute. “In the past, I performed experimental research in the field of consumer behaviour. This included topics in the categories of social influence, food consumption, social marketing and the effect of the inequality of wealth on consumer behaviour”. As time went by, Barbara felt she wanted to shift her focus. “I found pure academia had become too theoretical for me. I wanted to experience the synergy of research in the fields of education and business. I can achieve that objective at Vlerick. Here, I use relevant issues straight from practice. That link between theory and practice brings added value to the students”.

Scarcity, excess and inequality

One of Barbara’s most important fields of research is food. “It is striking that excessive eating is one of the biggest causes of death in the West. A staggering sixty percent of people are overweight. Why do people eat too much? How can we solve that? It seems to be difficult to solve the problem of overeating. It is strange that we succumb to the abundance of food”.

Another field of interest is money, more specifically financial inequality between people and the perception of the causes of that inequality. “I investigate the feelings evoked by inequality. Are the feelings justified? Is the degree of inequality warranted? Furthermore, how does it influence consumer behaviour? Do consumers handle luxury consumption as a status symbol differently when the money appears to have been acquired illegitimately? In American society, there is a correlation between hard work and earning lots of money. If you are poor then it is your own fault. In Europe, the prevailing vision of poverty and riches is different. Europeans consider the link between cause and effect as less direct. I am looking into how the different perceptions influence consumer behaviour”. Both fields of research are becoming increasingly relevant considering the growing social problems related to obesity, health care and the increasing inequality of wealth. 

Similarities

Besides the aforementioned topics, Barbara is looking into the effect of similarities between people in negotiations and consumer interactions. “It is exciting to see how people are quicker to agree to a request from someone who displays similarities. If people have the same interests or hobbies, for example, they are more inclined to be convinced by that person to buy something from him or her”.

Synergy between education and business

For her studies, Barbara worked with leading internal researchers in their fields, market research agencies (Aimark, Haystack and Philips High Tech Campus Eindhoven) and NGOs (Amnesty International and Vredeseilanden). Furthermore, she has experience in teaching and guiding bachelor’s, master’s and PhD students in France, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium. In 2015, she reached the final of the L’Oréal Brandstorm Case as supervisor of the winning Dutch team. However, in the academic world, you often work individually and you reach a specific result on your own. What appeals to her about Vlerick is the open culture, the bridges built between people with a range of backgrounds and above all, the mutual benefits between education and business. “As a researcher, I am not only interested in people, I also like working with people”. Barbara’s research results have already been published, including in the International Journal of Research in Marketing, the Journal of Marketing Research, the Journal of Consumer Research and Psychological Science. Every one of her publications has been well received internationally.

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