Pricing Strategies

The value of subscription services

Women's hands holding a credit card and choosing a subscription service on a tablet.

The market for online subscription services accounted for roughly $70 billion in 2021—a figure that could reach $900 billion by 2026. New research co-authored by Prof. J. Miguel Villas-Boas explains the benefits of the model. Subscription services, he finds, often permit companies to reap the most profit from a product or experience.

Consider a luxury handbag company that could either sell or rent its bags. “Renting would be more profitable,” says Villas-Boas. If a customer buys a bag then realizes that she would gladly have paid a higher price for it, then the company has lost money. A subscription or rental program, however, allows for a larger profit over time.

The research, which is rooted in a mathematical model of consumer decision-making, also found that when consumers can learn deeply about a product or service prior to purchase, they’re both slower to buy and more loyal; repeat purchases account for a larger share of their value. When most of the information about a product or service is instead gathered post-purchase, then the opposite is true: Value is generated by the first purchase, which is less likely to be repeated.

Counterintuitively, companies that can’t offer a subscription can use high prices to defer consumer purchases. This forces people to research before buying, which makes it more likely they’ll be satisfied and become repeat customers.

Pep Talk

Diane Dwyer’s pro tips for managing media interviews

Silhouette of a person made from reporters microphones.

So you’ve been working on an exciting project or product, or maybe you’ve developed deep expertise in a specialized area. A reporter is interested in what you have to say. Now what?

A media interview can be a great opportunity to showcase your company or personal brand, but if you’re new to interviewing it can provoke anxiety. Even more so if you’ll be appearing on camera. Knowing what to expect is key, says Diane Dwyer, BS 87 (shown far right), a Haas professional faculty member and former broadcast journalist.

“There are two main tips I always start with when preparing someone for a media interview,” she says. “First, know your audience: Who is the interviewer? What do they want? And second, practice—a lot.”

Dwyer, who created a course called Innovations in Communications and Public Relations at Haas and runs her own media consulting firm, advises her clients that “no matter how great a public speaker they are, they have to spend serious time preparing if they want to accomplish their goals.” 

 But you don’t have to hire a trainer to get results. Here are Dwyer’s top tips.

Play “baseball.” Determine your goal for the interview—that’s your “home plate.” Then decide on two or three stories or facts that support the goal—those are your “bases.” Use the “bases” no matter what you get asked.

Record yourself answering potential questions at least three times. You must watch yourself to make it worthwhile. Even if you’re not on camera for the actual interview, you’ll catch things you wouldn’t notice otherwise. 

If you don’t know an answer, say “I’m not sure, I’ll get back to you on that.” And always get back to the reporter. 

Always answer the interviewer’s question first, then bridge to one of your “bases.”

Drink warm or room-temperature water before and during the interview. Cold water constricts vocal cords. 

Use body language: Lean in, smile.

Wear solid colors and nothing distracting. 

Use a prop, if you have one, like a graph or object. Visuals are always more memorable than words.

Keep your answers between 15 and 45 seconds.

Use the reporter’s name whenever you’re saying something you want them to use. It makes reporters feel important! 

Meaningful Business

The future of purpose-driven branding

Two women walking by a Dove ad with a curvy woman on a Boston street.

This is a remarkable time for business organizations. The purpose-driven revolution is leading firms beyond a focus on growing sales, profits, and shareholder returns to having a business purpose that is meaningful, admired, and worthy of respect. It is a time of opportunity, even a time for dramatic change. It is not a time to stand still and drive toward irrelevance. My new book, The Future of Purpose-Driven Branding, discusses the role of branded signature programs that impact real societal challenges and advance a business strategy.

Why are signature programs critical?

Consider Dove, the “beauty bar” brand, which in 2003 launched the Real Beauty program after learning that less than 3% of women regarded themselves as beautiful. One of the program’s vehicles, having an artist sketch women based on their self-descriptions, showed that “You’re More Beautiful Than You Think” and led to the most viral ad ever run up to 2013. This program, together with the Dove Self-Esteem program directed at teen girls, has elevated the self-confidence of hundreds of millions as well as formed the heart of the Dove brand for nearly two decades.

Another example is Barclays, a major UK brand. After losing public trust in 2009, Barclays created an employee signature social program called the   Digital Eagles, now with 17,000 employees, that helps people thrive in the digital world. Emotional stories from the program moved the trust needle, which had not happened with conventional efforts.

Firms large and small are putting substantial resources into efforts to address societal challenges that are increasingly visible and threatening. They recognize that their resources, insights, and agility are needed. Further, businesses, particularly those with “taken-for-granted” offerings, need the energy burst, the image lift, and the engagement opportunities that social programs can create.  

Branding, however, is crucial. The social efforts of a business can be a financial dead weight unless they are designed and employed to advance a business strategy. Then the business becomes motivated to provide its endorsement to a social program, fostering much-needed credibility and access to substantial resources. They become partners, which helps a social program thrive.  

The challenge is to communicate that partnership. When the social effort is based, for example, on a sprawling set of grants and volunteer efforts plus some energy conservation and carbon dioxide emissions goals, the result is an incoherent message of sameness and sometimes tokenism. What is needed are branded impactful signature social programs that can touch people emotionally, provide visibility, and inspire both the employees and customers of that business. 

Side-by-side pencil drawings of the same woman.
Drawing of a woman describing herself to a sketch artist (left) versus a stranger describing her for a Dove campaign.

Signature social programs can be internal branded programs such as Dove’s Real Beauty program. Or they can be with external partners having a proven record and established brand. Costco, for example, has a “visionary partner” status with Feeding America, one of its signature programs. 

The signature program brand will signal that the program is important, merits commitment, and has a long-term time horizon. A brand guides the program as it evolves. It will inspire because of the visible need and stories that surround its impact. It also aids communication by providing a memory structure and story source for employees and customers. 

Five potentially game-changing and often underused “branding must-dos” that I discuss in the book can make a brand-building difference. They include creating a social purpose, using stories to bring the program to life, finding “silver-bullet” brands that can provide differentiation or credibility to the signature social program, creating and leveraging brand communities, and scaling the signature program so that it reaches more people with a deeper offering.

But there is a catch. The signature social program must avoid being perceived as a self-serving, token effort or greenwashing. The solution is to be authentic by demonstrating passion, professionalism, depth of understanding of the social challenge, thought leadership, and a long-term commitment.

Haas names alumni business leaders as 2023 commencement speakers

Visa’s Chief Marketing Officer Frank Cooper III, BS 86, and Toast’s Chief Financial Officer Elena Gomez, BS 91, will serve as Berkeley Haas commencement speakers this May.

Commencement ceremonies will be held at the Greek Theatre, with the undergrads tossing caps on Tuesday, May 16, and the FTMBA and Evening & Weekend MBA students graduating together on Friday, May 19. 

Cooper will speak at the combined Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement, and Gomez will speak at undergraduate commencement. 

Frank Cooper III

A branding and advertising leader, Cooper leads Visa’s marketing across all regions and functions, including brand, data and insights, social and digital platforms, content, and sponsorships. Cooper, recognized by Fast Company as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” describes himself as “a marketer in the broadest sense: I seek to change things—change ways of thinking but more important to change behaviors.”

Prior to working at Visa, Cooper served as chief marketing officer at BlackRock, shaping the firm’s global brand and marketing strategy. 

Cooper has also previously held C-suite positions as chief marketing and creative officer at Buzzfeed, and as PepsiCo’s chief marketing officer of global consumer engagement for more than 12 years. Cooper also served as former chairman of the American Advertising Federation and on the for-profit boards of Burlington Stores and Ogmento/Flyby Media. 

He began his career as an entertainment lawyer and was a senior executive at Motown and Def Jam. He is a four-time recipient of Billboard’s “Power 100” and AdColor’s “Legend” award. 

He began his career as an entertainment lawyer and was a senior executive at Motown and Def Jam. He is a four-time recipient of Billboard’s “Power 100” and AdColor’s “Legend” award. 

He earned an undergraduate degree in business administration at UC Berkeley, and a JD from Harvard Law School, where he served as the Supreme Court Editor of The Harvard Law Review.

Elena Gomez 

As chief financial officer at Boston-based Toast, Gomez oversees global finance, investor relations, and corporate development. Under her financial leadership, the cloud-based restaurant management software company launched its initial public offering in 2021

Prior to her position at Toast, Gomez served as the chief financial officer at Zendesk, where she grew the company’s market capitalization to more than $15 billion.

Throughout her 30-year career, Gomez has helped organizations scale through cycles of massive growth while leading in industries that have been transformed by digital transactions. 

She has held financial leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies including Salesforce, Visa, and Charles Schwab. 

Additionally, Gomez serves on the board of directors for Smartsheet and PagerDuty as audit committee chair.  She was also named to the San Francisco Business TImes’ 2017 list of “Most Influential Women in Business.”

An advocate for corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion, she serves on the Founding Advisory Council of the Center for Gender, Equity & Leadership (EGAL) at Haas, as well as the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco.

New approach puts brain scans on the witness stand in trademark disputes

Research shows how neuroscience could reduce bias, revolutionize intellectual property law

Illustration showing scales of justice and a human brain with an orange and yellow background.
Credit: iStock

Imagine you’re browsing the toothpaste aisle and see next to Colgate a new brand called Colddate, packaged in a box with similar colors and designs. “You might think this is clearly a copycat brand,” said Ming Hsu, William Halford Jr. Family Chair in Marketing at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley.

Yet in a real-life trademark infringement case involving these two brands, Colgate-Palmolive lost the suit, with the judge saying they were “similar” but not “substantially indistinguishable.”

There are often different opinions between judges and juries in trademark cases about how similar the brands in question actually are, leading to large inconsistencies in the application of the law. In a paper published February 8 in the journal Science Advances, Hsu and colleagues propose a more scientific measure through the use of brain scans—employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) along with a specialized technique called repetition suppression (RS).

“Asking the brain, not a person, could reduce—if not eliminate—these inconsistencies,” said lead author Zhihao Zhang, a former Berkeley Haas postdoctoral researcher now on the faculty of the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia. The study’s other authors include Dr. Andrew Kayser of UC San Francisco, Femke van Horen of Vrije University Amsterdam, and Mark Bartholomew of University at Buffalo Law School.

What is “similarity”?

The standard according to the law is whether a “reasonable person” would find two trademarks similar, but it doesn’t define what similar means.

“Similarity is an incredibly hard thing to measure in an objective way,” said Zhang. “Making things worse, in the adversarial legal system, two opposing parties each hire their own attorneys and expert witnesses who present their own evidence.”

Often that evidence takes the form of consumer surveys, which have been shown to be susceptible to manipulation—for example, through the use of leading questions. Not surprisingly, plaintiffs are known to present surveys finding that the two trademarks are similar, while defendants present competing surveys showing they are different.

“There is no gold standard in the law about what background information survey respondents receive, how the questions are phrased, and what criteria of ‘similarity’ should be followed— all factors that can change the results substantially,” Zhang said. “Judges have a lot of experience with these situations, and have developed some degree of cynicism.”

Oftentimes, Hsu added, judges just say, ‘I don’t believe any of you, I’m going to go with my own gut.’ It’s easy to sympathize with these judges, who just throw up their hands.”

Putting brains on the witness stand

In their paper, the researchers demonstrated how looking directly into the brain may help solve this conundrum. They put participants in fMRI scanners, and rapidly showed them pairs of images consisting of the main brand and a supposed copycat. Previous research has consistently shown that when presented with two similar images, the brain suppresses activity for the second image, perhaps out of efficiency, thinking it’s already seen the image. By measuring the amount of repetition suppression (RS) in brain activity for the second image, the researchers determined how similar a person found the two images.

The resulting approach provides an important benefit: Participants are blind to the goal of the study, which further reduces bias. “This is because we don’t have to ask them any questions at all or tell them what it means to be similar or not,” said Hsu.

“In fact, even the experimenter administering the study doesn’t need to know its purpose, which makes it a ‘double-blind’ study like the rigorous clinical studies in drug development,” added Kayser.

Indeed, when the research team checked the results of the neuroimaging against survey results that are intended to be pro-plaintiff, pro-defendant, or neutral, they found the brain-based measure can reliably pick out the more neutral survey results, supporting the idea that the brain scans can improve the quality of legal evidence in these cases.

This kind of evidence could be provided as a supplemental “spot check” to survey evidence, giving a judge or jury confidence the surveys are accurate, Hsu said. The cost of using neuroimaging is comparable to presenting survey data, the researchers said.

Scientists provide the ruler, courts draw the line

Importantly, the brain-based measures don’t take away the need for judgment by the court. “Our method still doesn’t say how similar is too similar,” said Kayser. “Our job as scientists is to provide a better ruler. It’s still up to the judge to decide where to draw the line.”

More broadly, introducing new techniques like this will require more discussion between disciplines and a better understanding by legal practitioners of what value these techniques deliver, said Bartholomew, who served as the legal expert on the research team. “Courts have an important role in deciding when new kinds of scientific insights should be allowed in to potentially influence the outcome of a case,” he said. “This gatekeeping role means that both judges and the lawyers appearing before them increasingly need to have a working knowledge of neuroscientific techniques.”

While this study only looked at visual trademark cases, the researchers say this kind of neural measure holds promise for a wide range of legal applications revolving around people’s mental reactions—for example, determining copyright infringement in music cases, or determining how a “reasonable person” would judge obscenity, negligence, or other legal issues.

“It’s striking how often people’s opinions matter in the courts, and how often this standard of a ‘reasonable person’ is applied in the law,” Hsu said. “While we are not there yet, one can imagine a future where we ask the brain to help us answer these difficult questions.”

Read the paper

From Scanner to Court: A Neuroscientifically Informed “Reasonable Person” Test of Trademark Infringement
By Zhihao Zhang, Maxwell Good, Vera Kulikov, Femke van Horen, Mark Bartholomew, Andrew Kayser, and Ming Hsu
Science AdvancesFebruary 2023

Media contact

Laura Counts, Media Relations, Haas School of Business
[email protected], (510) 643.9977

Researcher contacts

Ming Hsu, Associate Professor & William Halford Jr. Family Chair in Marketing, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley
[email protected]

Zhihao Zhang, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia Darden School of Business
[email protected], (434) 243-1368

Michael Smith, MBA 86
Chief Marketing Officer, NPR

Headshot of Michael Smith.When Michael Smith earned his MBA in 1986, there were no podcasts or internet. The cable boom was still a few years away. Yet, throughout his career, he’s helped major media companies stay current, from selling the Disney Channel to cable distributors in the ’90s to bringing Food Network into the digital era. Now he’s jumped to public media.

As NPR’s chief marketing officer, he’s working to attract a younger and more diverse audience. “The average age of the NPR broadcast radio listener is 58 to 59 years old,” says Smith. “So that’s obviously not reflective of America, especially when you look at Gen Z and Millennials, who are 40% to 45% people of color.” 

The solution, says Smith, entails NPR building a diverse workforce in editorial and executive leadership, as well as adding more diverse content and voices. 

Another challenge is brand recognition. Only 30% of Americans—and 26% of people of color—know about NPR, says Smith, and the company hadn’t previously made significant investments in advertising or marketing. “I’ve been lucky that they’ve been willing to provide a budget to increase awareness,” he says. So far, Smith’s marketing campaigns are working. Awareness is up 9 percentage points since 2020 among the targeted Black and Hispanic audiences.

Smith himself deals with the evolving media landscape through constant education. And he gets others to embrace change by opting for a quietly inspiring leadership approach. “People talk about leading from the front. I’ve always been more about leading from behind,” says Smith. “Great servant leaders get satisfaction from amplifying and lifting up others.” 

linkedin.com/in/michael-smith-5708402

Prof. Emeritus John G. Myers

Marketing expert

Headshot of John G. Myers.

Professor Emeritus John G. Myers, 89, an expert in the science of consumer behavior, died on Oct. 14 in Oakland, Calif.

Myers, who joined Berkeley’s business school in 1964, was one of the early trained behavioral scientists in marketing studies. Among his areas of research were promotional incentives, e-commerce consumer behavior, and consumer indecision, as well as the management of brands and trademarks in Russia.

His fascination with the factors that affect people’s choices—and how to use evolving technologies to define, measure, and analyze those factors—drove his many scholarly pursuits and, ultimately, his leadership at Haas. In the 1980s, he served as associate dean of academic affairs, of curriculum, and of the graduate school. He chaired the Marketing and International Business Group from 1974 to 1977 and was director of the PhD program from 1982 to 1985.

Donations in his memory may be made to the John and Arlyn Myers Marketing Award. Visit haas.berkeley.edu/giving and note “in honor of John Myers.” Read his full obituary.

Wendy Nguyen, BS 02
Co-Organizer, Stand with Asian Americans; CMO, Section4

Wendy Nguyen.Wendy Nguyen, a first-generation Vietnamese American, was raised to give back to society. So when presented an opportunity to speak up against assaults on Asian Americans, she didn’t hesitate.

It was March 2021 and eight people, including six Asian women, had been murdered by a gunman in Atlanta. “The killings were a breaking point for the community,” Nguyen says. 

Soon after, entrepreneurs Dave Lu and Justin Zhu sought her advice on how to promote a pledge they were writing to stop Asian American Pacific Islander hate crimes. Nguyen had been in marketing for some 14 years in the areas of social advocacy and health. How, they asked her, could they bring attention to protecting and supporting members of the AAPI community? 

“We have to publish it in the Wall Street Journal,” Nguyen told them. 

The pledge was published on March 31. “We thought if we could get 300 people to sign this letter, we would have done well,” Nguyen says.

More than 8,000 people signed, from Door Dash drivers to former President George W. Bush. It was the start of Stand with Asian Americans.

Since then, SwAA has raised over $1 million and made grants to more than eight nonprofits. One recipient held a contest to design the best AAPI hate-crime tracker. Another developed a youth program to register and drive voter turnout among the AAPI population.

“We are recruiting and inspiring the next generation of Asian American activists,” says Nguyen. “Activism can happen anywhere: home, workplace, streets. We want to be an outlet for anyone looking to contribute.”

linkedin.com/in/wdotnguyen  

Why subscription services can yield the most profits for companies

Hands of senior woman choosing subscription or payment plan on tablet computer and paying with credit card

The market for online subscription services accounted for roughly $70 billion in 2021. A recent report suggests this figure will be $900 billion—more than ten times larger—by 2026. Though stories abound describing the consumer value of subscriptions, new Berkeley Haas research provides a novel insight into why businesses may also benefit from the model.

A recent article by J. Miguel Villas-Boas from Haas and Z. Eddie Ning from the University of British Columbia, published in the journal Marketing Science, reveals that subscription services often permit companies to reap the most profit from a given product or experience—a result that extends far beyond streaming platforms.

Villas-Boas offered the case of a luxury handbag company. “One option is to sell the bag and another option is to rent it,” he says. “We find that renting would be more profitable.” If a customer buys a bag and then realizes how much she likes it—realizes that she would, in fact, gladly have paid a higher price for it — then the company has left that money on the table. A subscription or rental program instead allows for a larger profit over time.

The article, which is rooted in a mathematical model of consumer decision-making, offers another key finding. When consumers are able to learn deeply about a product or service prior to purchase, then they are both slower to buy and more loyal; repeat purchases account for a larger share of their value. When most of the information about a product or service is instead gathered post-purchase, then the opposite is true: value is generated by the first purchase, which is less likely to be repeated.

For Villas-Boas, two important implications flow from this result. First, managers ought to consider where they focus their energies based on how customers learn about their products. If information is gained from owning a product or taking part in an experience, then managers should put their energy into generating that first purchase. If lots of information is available before purchase, then managers should invest instead in customer retention and repeat purchases. They should also do what they can to increase the availability of information through channels like online reviews. The research shows that online reviews are thus quite valuable to companies, in addition to their value to consumers.

Second, and more counterintuitively, companies that cannot offer a subscription can use high prices to defer consumer purchases. A high price, in essence, can be strategically used to force people to do more research before buying. This, in turn, makes it more likely that they will be satisfied with the purchase and become repeat customers.

“When the price is relatively high the consumer delays the purchase quite a bit until she finds really good information,” Villas-Boas says. “For products that last longer, you end up getting greater revenue by pricing higher.”

Marketing Professor John G. Myers, a longtime Haas leader, dies at 89

John G. Myers, right, teaching an executive education class (Haas file photo)

Professor Emeritus John G. Myers, a faculty leader whose warm personality, scholarship and mentoring, and expertise in the science of consumer behavior made him invaluable at the Haas School of Business for decades, passed away on October 14, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. He was 89.

John G. Myers (Haas file photo)

Myers, who first arrived in Berkeley and joined the business school in 1964, was one of the early trained behavioral scientists in marketing studies. His fascination with the factors that affect people’s choices—and how to use evolving technologies to define, measure, and analyze those factors—drove his many scholarly pursuits and advisory activities, and ultimately his leadership at Haas.

Myers personified the concept of belonging in the Haas School community and UC Berkeley, said former Haas Dean Rich Lyons, professor and chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer for UC Berkeley.

“John understood belonging so deeply and what it meant to belong to this place, to have an identity that was fundamentally connected to this place,” Lyons said.

Canadian heritage

John G. Myers on a visit back to his hometown of Penny, British Columbia (Photo courtesy of the Myers family)

Myers was born on July 22, 1933, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and began his education in a one-room schoolhouse in the town of Penny, where his father owned a lumber mill. At a young age, he went to boarding school in Victoria. Despite being two years younger than his classmates and the smallest boy on the teams, he was a versatile athlete who played rugby, cricket, and soccer. He graduated with a bachelor’s in forestry and commerce from the University of British Columbia, where he was involved in campus journalism and athletics. He went on to earn an MBA in 1958 from the University of Western Ontario, where he discovered his love of teaching. In 1966, he received his PhD in business administration and marketing as well as a master’s in sociology from Northwestern University.

Myers was unreserved in his dedication both to Haas students and administration. In the 1980s, he served as associate dean of academic affairs, associate dean of curriculum, and associate dean of the graduate school. He chaired the Marketing and International Business Group from 1974 to 1977 and was director of the PhD Program from 1982 to 1985. He also served as a member of the ASUC Store Operations Board.

His Haas colleagues remember him as a calming force. Despite his imposing frame and intellect, Myers put people at ease with his easygoing personality and sense of humor. “He was just like a big teddy bear. He was warm and safe and friendly. He got along with everybody,” said David Aaker, the E.T. Grether Professor Emeritus of Marketing and Public Policy.

Through his love of evolving technologies, Myers worked to establish the first Haas computer lab in the basement of Barrows Hall and designed and developed the school’s mainframe and PC-based computer information system.

Research on consumer behavior

Among Myers’ areas of research were promotional incentives, e-commerce consumer behavior, and consumer indecision, as well as the management of brands and trademarks in Russia. In an article published in the Journal of Consumer Research in March 1998, Myers and Michal Strahilevitz, PhD 93, examined how a company’s promise to donate to charity could drive consumers to purchase certain products.

A 1974 Haas newsletter featuring a profile of John G. Myers

Myers co-authored with Aaker, and later Rajeev Batra, “Advertising Management,” an influential textbook widely-used in graduate business schools internationally and now in its fifth edition. He also taught advertising management in Russia and France and served as vice president of the Education Division of the American Marketing Association and president of the Association of Directors of Doctoral Programs in Business.

Myers served as a consultant to a wide variety of public and private organizations on marketing and advertising issues, and as expert witness on numerous public policy cases. He was proud of his work on the board for the National Junior Tennis League of San Francisco and Oakland for under-resourced youth.

Dedicated mentor and community builder

Myers was passionate about creating a sense of community at Haas, hosting parties for PhD students and serving on numerous student thesis committees. His devotion to Haas marketing students continued after his retirement in 1994 with the report “Four Decades of Berkeley Marketing PhDs.”

Kay Lemon, PhD 94, recalled how welcoming Myers and his wife were in the early 1990s when Lemon and her husband first arrived at UC Berkeley. Her first teaching experience was as Myers’ graduate student instructor.

“John was a great mentor to me. He provided strong support, insights and encouragement throughout my career,” said Lemon, who now holds the Accenture Professorship at the Boston College School of Management “He was one of the kindest and most generous individuals I’ve known.”

In 2010, Myers spoke about his teaching career in an interview with St. Michaels University School in Canada, which he graduated from in 1947. “One of my teaching styles was to constantly challenge students to think. This was not very popular with some students. It was easier to spend time in lecture dreaming about other things or just automatically taking notes without much thinking,” he said.

While his classroom could prove rigorous, Myers had kind words for struggling students. “If any doctoral student was discouraged about their coursework, or dissertation, they knew John would be encouraging,” said Strahilevitz, now a professor of marketing at Saint Mary’s College of California.

While hitchhiking in Sweden, John Myers advertised his Canadian heritage on the chance it would improve his chance of a ride. He carried the same briefcase throughout his career. (Photo courtesy of the Myers family)

Always the consummate host, Myers and Arlyn, his wife of close to 60 years and a UC Berkeley College of Chemistry emeritus lecturer who also earned her PhD from Northwestern, hosted generations of Haas students, faculty, and their families. They started traditions of hosting PhD students in the early 1980s and Haas emeriti faculty in the late 1990s. Their house, with its view of the Bay, was “the go-to place,” said Prof. J. Miguel Villas-Boas, the J. Gary Shansby Professor of Marketing Strategy.

The late Haas Dean Raymond Miles, in comments prepared for Myers’ retirement, highlighted Myers’ love of bringing happiness to others by playing Santa at Haas holiday parties.

Myers’ son Shawn D. Myers earned his MBA at Haas in 1999. “My father was an immeasurable influence on all those who were lucky enough to spend time with him. As a father and grandfather, he was quick with a joke, able to captivate with a story, and always there to support us through difficult times. He helped to shape so many people in his personal and professional lives, and we will endeavor to carry his spirit of generosity and joy with us forever.”

Myers is survived by his wife, Arlyn; their children Karlyne M. Reilly (husband Jay G. Reilly) of Potomac, MD, Shawn D. Myers (wife Jennifer B. Myers) of Redwood City, Calif., and Amanda J. Myers of Coconut Grove, FL; and grandchildren Jordan A. Reilly, Megan B. Reilly, John (Jack) R. Myers, and Katherine C. Myers.

John and Arlyn Myers Marketing Award

The family suggests that those wishing to honor Myers may do so by donating to the John and Arlyn Myers Marketing Award at the Haas School of Business established by the family in his honor: https://haas.berkeley.edu/giving/. To make a gift online, please note “In Memory of Professor John Myers” on the donation form (choose any fund). Donations may be made by check to “UC Berkeley,” with a note “Myers Fund/Haas,” and mailed to UC Berkeley Gift Services, 1995 University Ave, Suite 400, Berkeley, CA 94704-1070.

Ten-year impact award for seminal paper that questioned psychology research practices

A 2011 paper co-authored by Professor Leif Nelson, which helped trigger a movement that toppled famous psychology studies and fueled reforms to increase research transparency in the social sciences, has been recognized with a 10-Year Impact Award from academic publisher Sage Publishing.

The paper, False-Positive Psychology: Undisclosed Flexibility in Data Collection and Analysis Allows Presenting Anything as Significant,” was published in Psychological Science and co-authored by Joseph P. Simmons and Uri Simonson. 

The paper questioned several common research practices that the authors dubbed “P-hacking”—a reference to P-value, a calculation which researchers use to determine the statistical significance of a study’s findings. These practices were leading researchers to selective reporting of the results, in the pressure to publish, the authors contended. 

The paper led researchers to revisit the findings of many prior studies, many of which could not be replicated. 

The award from SAGE Publishing recognizes authors of the most cited papers in Sage Journals from 2011. “False Positive Psychology” has been cited more than 7,500 times by other academic researchers. Read more on the award

All Ears

The persuasive power of headphones

A guitarist being driven on a pedal cart followed by people on bikes wearing headphones.
A concert on wheels, where live music is transmitted from the musician to the headphones of cycling guests.

Americans spend an average of four hours per day listening to audio on either headphones or speakers—but there are major differences in the psychological effects between the two media. Headphones have a more powerful impact on listeners’ perceptions, judgments, and behaviors, a new study reveals.

“Managers might encourage employees to listen to safety trainings or webinars using headphones, which may more effectively change their attitudes and behaviors, compared to listening via speakers,” says Associate Professor Juliana Schroeder, a co-author.

The findings in the research from Berkeley Haas, UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management, and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, which are published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, are replicated in five different studies that included both fieldwork and surveys with more than 4,000 participants.

“We find that headphones produce a phenomenon called in-head localization, which makes the speaker sound as if they’re inside your head,” says co-author On Amir, professor at the Rady School of Management. “Listeners perceive the communicator as closer—both physically and socially.” They also perceive the communicator as warmer. “They feel and behave more empathically toward them, and they are more easily persuaded by them,” he says.

Alicea Lieberman, an assistant professor at the Anderson School of Management, recommends choosing a content platform based on intended closeness. Public service announcements, for example, would be best on a program often consumed via headphones, like podcasts. “On the other hand, if a message does not require listeners to experience any feelings of closeness to the communicator, then where the message is placed (e.g., podcast vs. talk radio) would be less essential.”

Auditory media is an integral part of the workday—even more so with remote work. In 2018, $87.6 billion was spent on industry trainings, with 69% involving either virtual classroom/webcasting or video broadcasting.

Amir suggests that companies could send employees headphones to encourage their use in phone conversations, to potentially increase collaboration. “Our research proposes that it is not only what or whom people hear that influences their judgments, decisions, and behaviors but also how they hear the message,” he says.