The practical relevance of academic research

Academic research. Some hate it and some love it. Even though you might hate it, you can’t deny that there’s no way around it; especially during your college years. What some of us might fail to see though, is, the practical relevance of some of these researches. Moreover, how do some of these somewhat boring articles change the way the consumers perceive things and influence long existing business models?

The above question is exactly what Roberts, J. et. al. (2013) researched. They took a sample of well-acknowledged academics, intermediaries and practicing managers to establish whether science research affected practice in the marketing branch. To accurately establish whether this is true or not, one of the key elements is defining what ‘marketing science’ actually is. Roberts, J. et. al. (2013) came up with the following definition:

‘Marketing science is the development and use of quantifiable concepts and quantitative tools to understand marketplace and behavior and the effect of marketing activity upon it.’

The authors developed the concept of a ‘marketing value chain’. In a nutshell, this captures the diffusion of insights from academic articles in a direct or indirect manner.

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What might be the most important part of actually succeeding in impacting on a practical level is going against the grain at the right time. When combining this with symbiosis with consulting and working with experience, the chances of achieving practical relevance are highest.

According to managers, marketing science has had the biggest impact on brand management decisions, pricing decisions, new product/service management and customer/market selection. Academics however, feel that marketing science impacted brand management, new product/service management and promotion management.

Roberts J. et. al. (2013) also established a few environmental trends that changed the way managers relate to their workplace. The most important being a greater availability of addressable data (big data) and the rise of digital and mobile communications; this means access to the network, but also communication between consumers.

As expected, there is a significant difference in how academics (theoretical) and managers (practical) perceive things. Not surprisingly, academics believe that marketing science had the biggest impact on promotion management among all decision areas, while managers consider that it had the smallest influence among all areas.
Before most of us, as business students, agree with the managerial opinion, it’s important to note that managers were highly biased towards high levels of sophistication, which in my opinion (though unproven) demonstrates a certain psychological need to impress others.

Unfortunately, Roberts J. et. al. (2013) don’t give any examples of any real-life situations in which academic research have had practical relevance. Their research however suggests that it does. The practical relevance therefore, of this academic research, is that academic research has practical relevance.



Roberts, J., Kayande, U., Stremersch, S. ‘From academic research to marketing practice: Exploring the marketing science value chain’  Intern. J. of Research in Marketing 31 (2014) p.p. 127140

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