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Message from the Directors


In spite of the pandemic, the 2020-2021 academic year turned out to be a period of significant growth for the Kilts Center for Marketing. The Center─in accordance with university guidelines─operated remotely for the full year. In spite of this setback, the Kilts Center successfully welcomed two new team members and collectively developed a plethora of programming to support the Chicago Booth marketing community in a mostly virtual environment. Looking back, our accomplishments this past year would have been impressive even without the disruptive pandemic circumstances. This banner year was a testament to the collaboration and hard work of the Kilts Center team!

Facilitating Faculty Research 

In the past year, we expanded our existing research datasets, secured new data relationships, and broadly provided academics more information to mine for their research.

Our ongoing relationships with Nielsen and NielsenIQ have allowed the Center to continue distributing a wide variety of datasets, including consumer panel, retail scanner, and Ad Intel. More than 1,400 researchers from 199 academic institutions worldwide now use these data. The Nielsen and Nielsen IQ data have supported a highly multidisciplinary array of research topics such as generational preferences and the impact of craft brands on market structure, the economic efficiency of the repeal of the “tampon tax,” and the impact of the sales of legal recreational marijuana on cigarette consumption.

The Center added four more years of TransUnion data, extending the sample to include 2016 through the end of the 2020 calendar year. This longitudinal consumer credit dataset now spans more than 20 years, starting in 2000. These data also support a highly multi-disciplinary array of research topics such as the growth of medical debt in the US over the last decade, and the role of credit file disaster flags as social insurance tags.

Our new datasets from Numerator’s omni-channel consumer panel cover ecommerce shopping trips as well as in-store purchases. In addition to fast-moving consumer goods, including electronics and cannabis, the consumer panel also includes spending on restaurants and durable goods. These data continue to garner interest from researchers, with 19 projects at Booth and the University of Chicago currently underway.

The Kilts team successfully secured a new relationship with Syndigo. These data, which are available to all University of Chicago researchers, include details and attributes available from the labels of consumer packaged goods, by UPC, and include fields such as brand, size, health and allergy claims, nutrients, and more. These data can be matched with our NielsenIQ datasets and will allow researchers to expand their work in the areas of health and wellness. We now have an extensive historical library of Syndigo information available, with data from 2005 to the present.

Fostering Community and Supporting Students

This past year, the Center hosted 50 virtual events, many in conjunction with student groups and other Booth partners. For these events, we engaged more than 50 alumni to participate and support the marketing community. We shifted our annual events, such as the Case Competition sponsored by Tyson Foods, to the virtual stage. We also continued to introduce new programming. Leveraging the global reach of the virtual platform, the Center adopted a new focus on events featuring alumni who work internationally or whose work has an impact outside the US. The team also worked across Booth departments to engage senior marketing alumni that brought in a broader University of Chicago audience as well as international attendees.

Another significant update to our offerings was the Marketing for Good program. Ethical concerns ranging from diversity, to sustainability, to consumer privacy have taken an increasingly prominent role in marketing management. Ethical sensitivities reached an unprecedented high during the pandemic as the community took a closer look at companies’ measures to protect their stakeholders during the lockdown. Social justice also took center stage midway through 2020 with the killing of George Floyd and the differing statements released by companies articulating stances on diversity in the workplace and the inclusivity of their corporate strategy in the community.

In an effort to foster dialogue around these issues, we created a new event series: Marketing for Good. In this series, we highlight pressing issues facing marketers and general managers today and how they can use their skills and talents to catalyze positive change. We tackled such issues as how companies respond to Black Lives Matter, how to leverage AI and targeted marketing for positive outcomes, and how global brands approach sustainability. The anecdotal feedback we have received thus far has been overwhelmingly positive and we anticipate that Marketing for Good events will continue to be part of the Center’s annual programming.

The topics and types of speakers we engaged were a result of our expanded breadth of student group relationships. This expansion helped us better understand the types of programming and speakers that would best inform and equip students for future success. Examples include a special small-group event with Scott Uzzell, ‘98, President and CEO of Converse after the broader “Marketing for Good: How Companies respond to Black Lives Matter” program and an event focused on how to improve digital presentations filled with practical advice that students could take directly into their internships and full-time roles.

Our annual Marketing Summit returned virtually in 2021 after having been put on hold in 2020, with the theme of “Long-term effects of Covid-19 for marketers.” This day-long event saw a record number of nearly 100 senior-level alumni take part in wide-ranging discussions around the short-term changes they have already experienced and their expectations about long-term impact of the pandemic. We were impressed by the turnout and high level of engagement during our first fully-virtual Summit, especially after a year of Zoom meetings.

In sum, 2020-2021 was a remarkable year, in spite of the adverse circumstances of the pandemic. We took advantage of the virtual platform to expand our programming to include a broader geographic audience as well as a more diverse set of speakers and topics. The success of these virtual events gives the center the flexibility to pursue an omni-channel approach moving forward, combining in-person and digital events to expand our portfolio of offerings. This innovation under such tough circumstances is a testament to the exceptional Kilts Center team. 


Jean-Pierre Dubé

Faculty Director, Kilts Center for Marketing

James M. Kilts Distinguished Service Professor of Marketing

Art Middlebrooks

Executive Director, Kilts Center for Marketing

Clinical Professor of Marketing

 Katie Claussen Bell

Director & COO, Kilts Center for Marketing

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