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The Leading Brands

Senior Marketing Faculty C.W. Park and Debbie MacInnis win Paul D. Converse Prize

February 04, 2020
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If you were looking to find the leading marketing scholars in the country, you wouldn’t have to look far.

C. W. Park, Robert E. Brooker Professor of Marketing, and Deborah MacInnis, Charles L. and Ramona I. Hilliard Professor of Business Administration and professor of marketing, collectively have nearly 85 years of academic research. Their impact in their fields can be found right here at the USC Marshall School of Business.  

Both have published extensively—Park boasts more than 27,000 Google Citations while MacInnis has nearly 22,000. Over the years, they have published textbooks and served as editors on leading academic journals. They have won nearly all the top prizes given in their field, as well as earned accolades from their students and peers at USC.  

Now, they have won another—the Paul D. Converse Award, given every four years to scholars who have made significant impact in the field of marketing research. The award was established at the University of Illinois in 1946.

"We complement each other. C.W. is extremely creative, with big ideas and the ability to think outside the box, while I see exactly where he’s going and drill down on the details.” —Debbie MacInnis on her longtime colleague C. W. Park

“This award is a great honor and is powerful recognition from our peers,” said MacInnis. “But it is particularly meaningful to C.W., who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois.”

The Brand Admirers

Given the impact of their combined academic research in branding, as well as consumer emotion, it’s clear that they’ve created a brand unto themselves. Their bisecting interests and complementary research strengths embody a timeless pairing.

The two have been working together since meeting in 1982.

MacInnis was a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh when she met a talented young professor and became his graduate research assistant. This professor was Park.

Fast forward about 15 years. It was MacInnis, then a tenured Associate Professor who finally lured C.W. to the business school at the University of Southern California, just before the school was named for industrialist Gordon Marshall.

“It was a period of building up the marketing department,” she said. “We had all of these really strong marketing scholars like Valerie Folkes, Gerry Tellis, and Gary Frazier.  And I knew C.W. would be a perfect person to recruit.”

“I knew he’d enjoy the warm climate, and also the collaborative opportunities.”

Once he convinced his wife to join USC, Park made the move and has never regretted this decision.

“I have been extremely lucky to have had such a talented scholar as my student and lifelong scholarly partner,” said Park.

“We’ve been working together for so long that we can almost read each other’s minds,” said MacInnis. “But we complement each other. CW is extremely creative, with big ideas and the ability to think outside the box, while I see exactly where he’s going and drill down on the details.”

Making it to Marshall

As an undergraduate in South Korea, Park studied German language and literature.

“There were many classic books translated from German into Korean,” he recalls. “Hermann Hesse, Tomas Mann. I just followed my interests.”

But after graduating and completing his military service, he was forced to consider how to make a living. He heard about an American university –University of Illinois—offering scholarships to study business administration. He applied and was accepted.  

“Obviously it changed my life,” he said. “They took a risk and gave me a part-time scholarship. Without this opportunity, I would have had to stay in South Korea.”

Instead, he excelled in the world of business academia, earning his Ph.D. in Business Administration from the University of Illinois.

In the early-80s, he was a professor of marketing at the University of Pittsburgh when MacInnis, then earning her Ph.D., started working as his graduate research assistant.

The Young Scholar

MacInnis studied and excelled at psychology as an undergraduate at Smith College. But it was her fascination with the role of emotions in consumer behavior that led her to her graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh.

When MacInnis joined the Marshall faculty after launching her academic career at the University of Arizona, she was in the middle of writing the first edition of her now-seminal textbook, Consumer Behavior (now in its 7th edition). She also had two small children, and now wonders how she was able to successfully balance her career and her personal life.

“I did manage,” she said. “But things are much more parent-friendly these days.”

The Next Big Thing

While C.W. still teaches a class at the MBA level, MacInnis is focusing on her research. After years of publishing and teaching, the two admit that they are eyeing retirement in the not too distant future.

But they have one more major project to finish: a Brand Admiration Measurement Index, a culmination and clinical application of their deep knowledge on the topic of branding.

“The only remaining aspiration I have is to make the measurement index a universally acclaimed measurement device,” said Park. “It will offer a diagnostic and prescriptive solution to improve a brand’s admiration rankings using the following three indicators: the degree of trust in a brand, the degree of love, and the degree of respect.”

According to C.W. Park, all three have to be present in order for a brand to enjoy a high degree of brand admiration.

“The measurement index is currently being revised and fine-tuned”, he said. “It has the potential impact of changing the thoughts and behaviors of companies—for their own sake.”

“You may love your iPhone or Android,” he says. “But do you respect the tech companies that make them?  

Professors MacInnis and Park will accept their award at a two-day symposium at the University of Illinois that will begin on April 9th.