Marketing Science Institute

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Founded in 1961, the Marketing Science Institute (MSI) is a corporate-membership-based organization dedicated to bridging the gap between marketing theory and business practice. Leading researchers from universities worldwide participate in MSI research programs.

As a nonprofit institution, MSI financially supports academic research for the development—and practical translation—of marketing knowledge on topics of importance to business performance. Issues of key importance are identified by the Board of Trustees, which represents MSI corporations and the academic community. MSI supports studies by academics on these issues and disseminates the results through conferences and workshops, as well as through its publications series.

Record of MSI output approaches a thousand working papers and books, many of which have garnered the marketing field’s most prestigious awards. In the past 10 years, MSI has sponsored 60+ conferences in the U.S., and has sponsored or co-sponsored conferences in 13 countries.

MSI headquarters are located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The primary governing body of MSI is the Board of Trustees. MSI Executive Directors oversee the quality and content of MSI-sponsored research.


In 1961, Scott Paper Company President Thomas B. McCabe founded the “Institute for Science in Marketing” with input from leading thinkers John Howard, Albert Wesley Frey, and Wroe Alderson. Twenty-nine companies responded to his membership appeal, establishing MSI as a nonprofit organization that would “contribute to the emergence of a definitive science of marketing” and “stimulate increased application of scientific techniques to the understanding and solving of current marketing problems.” Offices were established in Philadelphia near the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and Wendell Smith became its first president.[1]

MSI's founding coincided with a period of booming growth in the U.S. marketing systems, fueled by pent-up demand from war-years restrictions on production of consumer goods, and an explosion in population growth. Key marketing concepts, such as the “4 Ps” (product, price, place, promotion) of marketing were introduced. Management science theory, methods, and tools were infused into marketing, and consumer behavior emerged as an area of study within marketing.[2]

In its first decade, MSI supported the development of new tools for marketers, such as multidimensional scaling, stochastic modeling, causal modeling, and decision calculus marketing. It also provided the foundation for advances in new product development.[3][4] In 1968, MSI moved to Cambridge and began a 15-year association with the Harvard Business School.

In the early 1970s, MSI launched and managed the Profit Impact of Marketing Strategy project which, in conjunction with General Electric, created and analyzed a cross-sectional database that described marketing strategies and profitability across hundreds of business units. The results, widely reported, demonstrated the value of a scientific approach to marketing.[5]

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, MSI assembled teams to shape policy at the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. MSI also played an important role in introducing qualitative consumer research methods, including the Consumer Behavior Odyssey, a summer-long road trip in 1986 that laid the foundation for the field of consumer ethnography.[6]

By the 1980s, MSI research on services marketing reflected a growing awareness that consumer service businesses required a reappraisal of marketing approaches originally developed in the packaged goods context. In 1986, a consortium of MSI member companies contributed funding and data to support a stream of research that culminated in SERVQUAL, a scale for measuring customer perceptions of service quality that has been widely adopted by service businesses. During this time, the role of marketing in strategic planning received increased attention. MSI research introduced key concepts such as market orientation and marketing capabilities.[7]

The conceptualization and measurement of brand equity originated in MSI-sponsored research in the early 1990s. The impact of marketing activities on firm performance and shareholder value (termed marketing ROI, marketing accountability, and return on marketing investment) has been an area of sustained MSI research interest. Through the '90s and 2000s, product innovation has remained at or near the top of MSI research agenda; and research interest has broadened to address service innovation as well as innovation in business models and processes.

Current Research[edit]

In the past decade, web-based and mobile technologies have radically altered marketing's role. Current MSI research addresses marketing topics emerging in a culture informed by social media and user-generated content: consumer insights, rethinking the purchase journey, designing customer experiences, mobile platforms, consumer trust, big data, and marketing organizations and capabilities.[8]

Over time, changes in topics of key marketing importance have been evolutionary. Likewise, MSI's 2012-2014 research priorities, while they are framed by the challenges of this transformed landscape, continue to align with marketing concerns articulated over five decades: using market information, understanding customers, developing marketing capabilities, innovation, marketing metrics, brand and product management, allocating marketing resources, and leveraging research tools and data.[9]

Research Competitions[edit]

MSI research competitions support the development of new conceptual frameworks and avenues for marketing thought. Academic researchers submit proposals that address a novel problem with a balance of rigor and relevance. These are reviewed by a set of academic thought leaders, guided by an advisory committee of industry experts. Findings from competitions are reported in publications and at conferences. Recent competitions include:

  • Social Interactions and Social Media Marketing
  • Mobile Platforms, Location-based Services, and Their Impact on Consumers
  • Thought Leadership on the Sales Profession
  • Ideas Challenge
  • Communication and Branding in a Digital Era


The Marketing Science Institute sponsors three major marketing awards annually.

The Alden G. Clayton Dissertation Proposal Competition recognizes the best doctoral dissertation proposals on important marketing subjects. Each year, MSI grants up to five awards of $5,000 each for the best proposals.

The MSI H. Paul Root Award is given by members of the Journal of Marketing editorial review board to a paper that has made a significant contribution to the advancement of the practice of marketing. It is cosponsored by the American Marketing Association.

The Robert D. Buzzell MSI Best Paper Award honors the authors of the MSI working papers that have made the most significant contribution to marketing practice and thought. The award serves to signal the kind of writing and research that is of lasting value to corporate marketing executives. Each year it is given for the best MSI paper issued during the calendar year two years previous.

Executive Directors[edit]

Kevin Lane Keller, Dartmouth College, 2013-2015
John A. Deighton, Harvard Business School, 2011-2013
Ruth N. Bolton, Marketing Science Institute, 2009-2011
Russell S. Winer, New York University, 2007-2009
Dominique Hanssens, UCLA, 2005-2007
Leigh McAlister, University of Texas at Austin, 2003-2005
Donald R. Lehmann, Columbia University, 1993–95, 2001-2003
David J. Reibstein, University of Pennsylvania, 1999-2001
Rohit Deshpandé, Harvard Business School, 1997-1999
David B. Montgomery, Stanford University, 1995-1997
Richard Staelin, Duke University, 1991-1993
George S. Day, University of Pennsylvania, 1989-1991
Frederick E. Webster, Jr., Dartmouth College, 1987-1989
John U. Farley, Dartmouth College, 1985-1987
Louis W. Stern, Northwestern University, 1983-1985
E. Raymond Corey, Harvard Business School, 1981-1983
Stephen A. Greyser, Harvard Business School, 1972-1980
Robert D. Buzzell, Harvard Business School, 1968-1972


  1. ^ Bloom, Paul (1987). Knowledge Development in Marketing: The MSI Experience. D.C. Heath and Company. ISBN 0-669-12581-4. 
  2. ^ Wilkie, William L.; Elizabeth S. Moore (Fall 2003). ""Scholarly Research in Marketing: Exploring the "4 Eras" of Thought Development". Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 22 (2): 116–146. doi:10.1509/jppm. 
  3. ^ Bloom, Paul (1987). Knowledge Development in Marketing: The MSI Experience. D.C. Heath and Company. ISBN 0-669-12581-4. 
  4. ^ Bolton, Ruth (Summer 2011). "MSI 50: Years Ahead". Marketing Management: 44–47. 
  5. ^ Bolton, Ruth (Summer 2011). "MSI 50: Years Ahead". Marketing Management: 44–47. 
  6. ^ Bloom, Paul (1987). Knowledge Development in Marketing: The MSI Experience. D.C. Heath and Company. ISBN 0-669-12581-4. 
  7. ^ Bloom, Paul (1987). Knowledge Development in Marketing: The MSI Experience. D.C. Heath and Company. ISBN 0-669-12581-4. 
  8. ^ Marketing Science Institute (2012). 2012-14 Research Priorities. Cambridge, Mass.: Marketing Science Institute. 
  9. ^ Marketing Science Institute (2012). 2012-14 Research Priorities. Cambridge, Mass.: Marketing Science Institute. 

External links[edit]