By Elise Anderson
Dominique Hanssens might well consider UCLA Anderson home, as this is where he has spent his entire academic career, serving in a variety of roles and capacities that include faculty chair, associate dean and marketing area chair. Along the way he has collected numerous honors and awards, authored and co-authored a host of published papers, books and book chapters, consulted with large corporations, served on numerous committees and editorial boards, been interviewed by top broadcast and print media, and expanded his academic horizons as the 2005–07 executive director of the Marketing Science Institute (MSI) in Cambridge. He is a pioneer in the use of what is now known as “big data” in marketing, focusing his research on strategic marketing problems, in particular marketing productivity, in which he applies his expertise in data-analytic methods. Several industries, including hospitality, airline and banking, adopted his research to develop and advance their ongoing marketing strategies.
In November 2015, Hanssens officially retired from his teaching responsibilities, but he is far from relinquishing his ties to the school. Indeed, he remains director of the Morrison Family Center for Marketing Studies and Data Analytics and continues working with and mentoring Ph.D. students. He also continues his research endeavors as Distinguished Research Professor of Marketing at UCLA.
Hanssens took time from his still busy schedule to ponder the years he has spent here on the myriad activities with which he has been involved and the roles he has played as teacher, researcher, corporate partner and groundbreaking analyst in the area of marketing.
Q: What prompted your interest in marketing analytics?
I first became interested in an academic career during my undergraduate program in Antwerp, Belgium. My interest in marketing analytics was prompted by a former MIT professor who got me thinking of pursuing a Ph.D. in the U.S. But it was while I was at Purdue that a guest lecturer piqued my interest in time-series models in marketing, an area I found fascinating. You need a lot of passion for a topic to make it through a Ph.D., tenure, etc., and I found that I had a passion for this type of work.
Q: You are often asked about your work in the area of big data, but your research and efforts predate that more modernly recognized industry. Where did your work begin?
My research has been focused on answering the question, “How well does marketing work?” It really began with an early project I did with just one sheet of data and a little model to find out how marketing, in this case price changes versus advertising spending could affect brand sales. Consider the fact that just two elements of marketing — sales calls and advertising — represent about 10 percent of the economy. Ours is an $18 trillion economy, so about $1.8 trillion is spent on sales calls and advertising. It’s a huge portion of economic activity.