How do academic marketers choose their objectives?

Academic marketing researchers must decide what outcome to measure. This is the dependent variable (DV) — the thing that depends on something else. So profit might be your DV and the marketing tactic used the independent variable.

The outcome assessed is surprisingly variable in marketing. Sometimes this is a data issue; you only have awareness data so you use awareness as your DV. This is often a reasonable response to an imperfect word but it is easy to forget that that increases in awareness are rarely what the marketer is ultimately trying to achieve. Marketing academics should bear in mind that just because they can measure it doesn’t make it the perfect choice of DV. More sinister is a problem that arises when some DVs work but others don’t. It is simply wrong when a researcher has access to multiple outcome metrics but only reports those metrics that support their conclusion.

Katsikeas and his colleagues looked at outcome measures in academic marketing research. The metrics are all over the place. Not only were a multitude used but little justification was typically given for the choice. The authors noted “…significant problems in how performance outcomes in marketing are commonly conceptualized and operationalized.”  ….”researchers have used a range of often ill-defined measures of performance.” (Katsikeas et al. 2016, page 1).

A major problem is assuming that there is an underlying concept of performance — when scholars assume that measuring awareness, retention, accounting profit, or market share are pretty much interchangeable. The problem is that the correlations between the various DVs are typically low. For these measures to be interchangeable they must measure similar things  — low associations mean the metrics must be measuring different things.

The upshot is that marketing academics should be careful about what outcome measures they use. I wholeheartedly agree.

Read: Constantine S. Katsikeas, Neil A. Morgan, Leonidas C. Leonidou, and G. Thomas Hult (2016) Assessing Performance Outcomes in Marketing, Journal of Marketing, 80 (1) 1-20.