Spreading the word

International marketing mobility

The name Philip Kotler more than rings a bell, even if you’ve only had a brief introduction to marketing. One of the first to treat marketing as a science, Kotler is widely acclaimed as a leading authority on the subject. Since 1962, he’s been a professor at the Kellogg School of Management in Chicago[1], one of the top business schools worldwide and THE place to be for marketing research. Little wonder then that our own Professor Frank Goedertier and Research Associate Kristof Geskens have also spent some time there.


Kristof explains how he ended up in Chicago: “My doctoral research is closely linked to research by Professor Alexander Chernev, who teaches at Kellogg and is a leading authority in the field of consumer choice. I met him a couple of years ago at a conference in Barcelona. We discovered that we shared the same interests and he promised to invite me if I should ever decide to do a PhD. And because I was awarded an ICM Doctoral Fellowship[2], I was able to stay for a whole year.”

How the mind works

Together with Chernev, Kristof investigated whether the way in which people choose between different options has an impact on their final choice. “Does it make a difference if you choose directly from the entire assortment or if you first narrow down your options to just a few before deciding on one? We found that the first method  results in you making a choice that better meets your initial requirements. Say you’re looking for an environmentally friendly car with minimal CO2 emissions. If you put together a shortlist, chances are that you’ll end up not selecting the one with the lowest CO2 emissions, whereas you might have if you’d chosen your car directly.” Why? “Creating a subset gives you the feeling that all products in the selection meet your requirements and you’ll then let other criteria influence your final choice. So car manufacturers shouldn’t focus on CO2 emissions alone.”

Kristof points out that this mechanism also explains why people who are trying to lose weight don’t necessarily pick the lowest calorie dessert, especially when there is a diet section in the supermarket. “Funny how the mind works, isn’t it? By the way, Chernev has written this book, The Dieter’s Paradox. I read it while I was at Kellogg and, as a result, I really paid attention to what I ate. Instead of gaining weight, as everyone had predicted, I came back from the US ten kilos lighter!”


For professors, international exchange is a great way to develop their network and to discover new ideas and new ways of working. Last spring, Frank spent two months at Kellogg. “I mainly worked with Professor Greg Carpenter on a research idea developed in the Vlerick Brand Management Centre.”

This is new – really

What kind of research? “Most research to date has focused on the mechanisms used to get innovations quickly adopted. But to be successful, a product must also be perceived as sufficiently different from existing alternatives in the market. So we set out to investigate how a company can influence ‘newness’ perceptions. We observed that brand names are a way to influence newness. For example, counter-intuitively, we found that the same SUV model is perceived as more novel when it’s introduced by an older, prototypical SUV brand like Jeep than when it’s launched by a more innovative, less typical SUV brand like Toyota. To explain this phenomenon, we demonstrated that prototypical brands (those seen as most representative of a category like Jeep) evoke concrete images, and that people tend to see the ‘newness’ of an innovation much more easily and quickly if they can compare it with something concrete. We’ve tested our theory in five different studies, three of which were conducted at Kellogg. The results are discussed in an article that will be submitted for publication in a top-tier research journal.”

All in all, it was a busy two months. But Frank still found time for an interview with business magazine Forbes on brand name tactics, and also discovered in Chicago just how small the world is: “I’m currently doing research with Tim Smits, a KU Leuven professor in marketing communication. We discovered that our home offices are less than 100 metres apart, but it wasn’t until we both went all the way to the States that we actually met!”

[1] Founded in 1908 as Northwestern University’s School of Commerce, the school was renamed the Kellogg Graduate School of Management in 1979 following a 10 million dollar donation from the John L. and Helen Kellogg Foundation. In 2001 the name was shortened to Kellogg School of Management.

[2] The Intercollegiate Center for Management Science (ICM) awards doctoral fellowships in Management Science each year. These fellowships are granted annually for a period of three years and involve a one-year stay at a foreign university.

Explore the globe!

We encourage our faculty members and researchers to gain international experience and, in doing so, promote us abroad.

Marion Debruyne


  • Wharton – University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US)
  • Kellogg School of Management – Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois, US)
  • Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia, US)

Frank Goedertier


  • Maastricht University (Maastricht, the Netherlands)
  • Richard Ivey School of Business – University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario, Canada)
  • Kellogg School of Management – Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois, US)

Steve Muylle


  • Owen Graduate School of Management – Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee, US)
  • Cox School of Business – Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas, US)

Deva Rangarajan


  • C.T. Bauer College of Business – University of Houston (Houston, Texas, US)

Bert Weijters


  • Smeal College of Business, Penn State University (Pennsylvania, US)

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