Susan Fournier Interview re DeflateGate and brand relationships on WBUR

‘Deflate-Gate’ Report: Good For Ticket Sales, But Key Moment For Patriots Brand

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass., Thursday, May 7, 2015. An NFL investigation has found that New England Patriots employees likely deflated footballs and that quarterback Tom Brady was "at least generally aware" of the rules violations. The 243-page report released Wednesday, May 6, 2015, said league investigators found no evidence that coach Bill Belichick and team management knew of the practice. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass., Thursday, May 7, 2015. An NFL investigation has found that New England Patriots employees likely deflated footballs and that quarterback Tom Brady was “at least generally aware” of the rules violations. The 243-page report released Wednesday, May 6, 2015, said league investigators found no evidence that coach Bill Belichick and team management knew of the practice. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)

Here we are in May, in the middle of the NBA playoffs and the NHL playoffs. And what is everyone on sports radio and TV talking about? An NFL team that’s not even playing right now.

“I mean, the Patriots are the team that people love to love and the team that people love to hate,” said Susan Fournier, a branding professor at Boston University Questrom School of Business. One of those fans is her father, and she says “he’s so upset by this.”

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Dispensing Happiness: How Coke Harnesses Video to Spread Happiness (2010) Stanford Graduate School of Business (Aaker, Leslie, Rogier)

Coca-Cola (“Coke”) is one of the best-known brands in the world and the world’s sixth-largest advertiser based on dollars spent needed a cost-effective way to build deeper connections with consumers, especially teens, and its flagship Coke product. The company hypothesized that leveraging digital social media would enable it to better connect with young consumers around the globe. Teens, even if they loved a piece of social media, were hesitant to post a link to it on their Facebook or MySpace page out of fear that their friends would not approve their choices. Coke believed that if the content was compelling enough–funny or shocking–teens would share it. To this end, Coke designed and installed a unique soda vending machine on a college campus in New York as well as a hidden camera to film what happened when students bought beverages. Coke’s plan was to upload the video to YouTube and benefit from the excitement the machine generated and spread unexpected happiness around the world.


BabyCenter: Creating a Social Brand (2012) Stanford Graduate School of Business Case (Aaker and Schifrin)

In 2012 BabyCenter was the largest parenting platform and parenting media company in the world. It provided expert advice to pregnant women and new mothers while connecting these women to each other online and in person. The company had 110 employees, with operations in 23 regions around the world in 14 languages. The case provides students with a practical, real world example of how to create and grow a social brand. It details how BabyCenter evolved as a social brand through implementing several mechanisms: cultivating employee innovation, creating customer communities, empowering influencers, and enabling great storytelling. BabyCenter cultivated employee innovation through its three-day “BabyCenter Innovation Days,” held every six weeks. These days involved brainstorming sessions, breaking into cross-departmental and intra-departmental teams, and presenting innovative business ideas to the rest of the company. These ideas directly benefited the company, as 60 to 70 percent of them went to market. BabyCenter created customer community online through an interactive website, and in the real world through “BabyCenter Birth Clubs.” Using the customer data it collected, the company connected women in the same stage of pregnancy to each other to form the clubs, which served as social organizations and support networks. Through its robust web analytics and surveys, BabyCenter identified its most active and trusted online users, the “influencers,’’ and worked deliberately to cultivate its relationships with them. One way the company did this was through launching a social campaign highlighting several influencer moms who worked with charitable organizations. BabyCenter also understood and embraced the power of stories to create brand value, and it gave customers the opportunity to tell their own stories through the website and beyond.

Filene’s Basement

Filene’s Basement: Inside a Fired Customer’s Relationship (2014) Harvard Business School Case (Jill Avery and Susan Fournier)

How, in a business climate in which building relationships with customers has dominated both managerial thought and marketing budgets, could Filene’s Basement have fired a loyal customer, one who was formally and informally recognized as a best customer? This case allows students to reverse-engineer a fired customer’s relationship with discount retailer Filene’s Basement, from her perspective, to uncover the critical incidents and behaviors of each party that shaped their relationship trajectory. The company’s customer relationship management (CRM) programs are analyzed to show how they influenced and encouraged unprofitable customer behavior.

Relating to Peapod

Relating to Peapod (2014) Harvard Business School Case (Susan Fournier and Jill Avery)

Explores the relationships formed between consumers and the Peapod consumer-direct grocery delivery service, as revealed through an ethnographic study of Boston-area Peapod shoppers. Three representative case histories are brought to life using extensive quotes from these selected longitudinal interviews. Closes with short vignettes describing the experiences of additional service users so that students can offer relationship predictions using process insights derived from the detailed case studies. Together, the data-driven exercises are designed to deepen students’ understanding of the development processes characterizing consumer-firm/brand interactions over time, toward the goal of more informed relationship marketing strategies and sharper brand relationship executions.

Porsche: The Cayenne Launch

Porsche: The Cayenne Launch (2010) Harvard Business School Case (John Deighton, Jill Avery and Jeffrey Fear)

Can an online discussion forum supply insight into the evolution of brand meaning? In 2003 Porsche launched a sport utility vehicle, dividing Porsche purists from newcomers to the brand. Vocal members of online and offline Porsche communities ridiculed the Cayenne SUV and disapproved of the new breed of driver. Some opposed offering Porsche club membership to them, and some even refused to extend the fraternal Porsche ‘wave’ or headlight flicking to them on the road. Porsche’s values of speed, luxury, and a certain masculine zeal resonated strongly with its devotees, while drivers of the Cayenne (which came to be known as ‘the SUV for soccer moms’) tended to be safety-conscious, family-oriented, and conservative. Evolving debates on the forum allow a class to debate whether the brand had strayed too far from its core values and was at risk.

HubSpot: Lower Churn through Greater CHI

HubSpot: Lower Churn through Greater CHI (2010) Harvard Business School Case (F. Asis Martinez-Jerez, Thomas Steenburgh, Jill Avery and Lisa Brem)

In this case, students wrestle with the trade-offs inherent in rapidly growing a customer base and retaining customers over time. HubSpot, an entrepreneurial start-up selling Web 2.0 software-as-a-service to B2B and B2C customers, is under pressure from its venture capital backers to acquire new customers at a rapid rate and to maintain a low level of customer churn. In the case, students explore the drivers of customer churn and uncover opportunities to increase customer retention across the customer selection, selling, and training processes. Students assess a company model used to predict which customers will churn and suggest alternatives to improve the model’s prediction. Students develop programs to reduce churn post-hoc and then reengineer the company’s marketing and customer relationship management processes to manage churn proactively through market segmentation and targeting, product design, and customer interactions.

Engineering the Experience for Best Buy’s Magnolia Brand

Engineering the Experience for Best Buy’s Magnolia Brand (2008) Boston University School of Management (Fournier and Kampel)

In December 2000, Best Buy acquired a 13–store west coast retailer of high end audio and video products, Magnolia Hi-Fi Inc., for $87M. This purchase set Best Buy on a growth through acquisition path (see Exhibit 1) and began to build the portfolio of brands that the $27.3 billion Minnesota-based company would use to reach and service various segments of the market. Per Best Buy’s highly publicized Customer Centricity Program, the brand allowed the company access to the “Barry’s” and “Jill’s” of the world, two highly promising target segments. Best Buy’s Magnolia acquisition was part of a broader strategy for success in an increasingly polarized and competitive retailing market. A trend in home improvement and office supplies retailing involved the elimination of specialized Mom and Pop stores by large big box retailers that could offer better prices and a wider selection. This same trend had hit the consumer electronics (CE) category where products were becoming commoditized and margins were shrinking. The trend posed both an opportunity and a threat to Best Buy.

The Síminn Brand Inside

The Síminn Brand Inside (2007) London Business School Case (Fournier and Tavassoli )

The challenge for telecommunications company Siminn’s management team was to evolve the brand from its monopolistic center of gravity to something more consumer-centric: from a company known only as the biggest telecom company in Iceland to the customer’s first choice; from products to solutions, value, and results; from transactions to relationships; from technology-orientation to market-orientation; from a state-owned and run business concern to an attractive investment option; and from a defensive strategic responder to a dynamic and innovative player in the market.

Starbucks: Delivering Customer Service

Starbucks: Delivering Customer Service (2006) Harvard Business School Case (Moon and Quelch)

Starbucks, the dominant specialty-coffee brand in North America, must respond to recent market research indicating that the company i s not meeting customer expectations in terms of service. To increase customer satisfaction, the company is debating a plan that would increase the amount of labor in the stores and theoretically increase speed-of-service. However, the impact of the plan (which would cost $40 million annually) on the company’s bottom line is unclear.

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