Chicago Business Review: Jean-Pierre Dubé thinks you could shop smarter

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One in five part-time students chooses to pursue a concentration in marketing management while earning their MBA at Chicago Booth, and there are many resources available for students interested in making marketing a focus of their degree.

The James M. Kilts Center for Marketing advances marketing at Chicago Booth by facilitating faculty research, supporting innovations in the marketing curriculum, and creating engaging programs aimed at enhancing the careers of students and alumni. Each year, hundreds of students take part in events, marketing labs, and the Part-Time Booth Marketing Club. The Kilts Center has gathered some recent features on program faculty and alumni whose work is helping to revolutionize the industry.

Jean-Pierre Dubé is the director of the James M. Kilts Center for Marketing and the Sigmund E. Edelstone Professor of Marketing at Chicago Booth. He recently sat down with the Chicago Booth Review to discuss the findings from a recent study on consumer behaviors and brand interactions. 

Logo for Chicago Business Review What interests you about private-label products?
We know that doctors and pharmacists are much more likely to buy unbranded over-the-counter medicines, and chefs are much more likely to buy unbranded pantry staples. People “shop smart” in areas where they have expertise. This raises the question: If you give people objective product information, will they switch?

Stanford’s Bart Bronnenberg, Booth PhD candidate Robert Sanders, and I ran blind taste tests at several stores in the Mariano’s grocery chain, comparing branded and private-label ice cream, yogurt, and cookies. Before the tasting, only 44 percent of participants predicted they would choose the store brand. In the blind test, 72 percent picked the store brand, and 84 percent predicted they would purchase it next time they shopped. 

We used loyalty cards to match each participant’s shopping behavior with her responses in the blind taste test. Shoppers’ actual purchases of the private labels increased by 16 percentage points during the week after the test, but the effect decayed quickly over time, falling to only 2 percentage points six months later. 

Brands cost more. Why do people stick with them?
From other work, we know that branding works and can establish early-mover advantages for a company. The decay in the effect surprised us. Perhaps consumers are forgetting what they learned in the blind taste test. Or perhaps the ongoing marketing and advertising by national brands slowly overwhelms the information from the test. 

Do you buy private-label products?
I assume you are referring to prepackaged foods. We do buy many branded food products, such as cereals and sodas. However, we buy Mariano’s fresh-squeezed orange juice and organic milk religiously. We also buy private-label over-the-counter pain medicines, along with basic baking essentials such as sugar and flour.

If you would like to learn more about Chicago Booth’s marketing concentration, please contact the Evening MBA and Weekend MBA Admissions staff. For more information about the Kilts Center and resources for students, please visit their website

Click here to read about Chicago Booth alumna Julie Roehm and more Kilts Center marketing resources »