April 19, 2010

Google taps marketing professors to study influence of online media

Manish Tripathi (left) and Doug Bowman

Two Goizueta marketing professors, Doug Bowman and Manish Tripathi, have won a $55,000 grant from the Google and WPP Marketing Research Awards Program for their proposal, "A Comprehensive Model of the Effects of Brand-Generated and Consumer-Generated Communications on Brand Perceptions, Sales and Share." The paper was selected as one of the winners from a field of more than 120 entries received.

The joint awards program, launched in 2009, seeks to improve understanding of how online media influences consumer behavior, attitudes and decision-making. Over the course of three years, Google and WPP, a world leader in marketing communications, expect to contribute as much as $4.6 million to the program.

With the award, Bowman and Tripathi have set out to research and develop accurate means of measuring the influence of social media on consumer behavior. The two hope their research will lead to an increased understanding of the relationship between social media and traditional media, and, says Tripathi, "how to go about quantifying that."

Bowman and Tripathi are still finalizing their findings, but they do cite two broad ways of measuring social media. The first is to capture, in real time, what customers are talking about on the various online outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg.

"Tap into what they're thinking about versus conducting surveys or focus groups," recommends Bowman.

The second approach measures the effects of communication between customers, employees, firms and other constituencies, such as ratings agencies and third parties, to record how these communications impact consumer behavior.

"We're systematically measuring [these things] and then relating them to things companies care about," says Bowman.

The professors are also quantifying how these effects relate to and interact with traditional advertising.

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