Host Christian Pearson invites co-producer and marketing professor Dr. Ben Beck onto the podcast to share his thoughts on the Better Marketing for a Better World initiative. Later, Ben reviews 3 notable academic papers on prosocial marketing and connects their respective research designs to the Cambodia Project.

Inside the Cambodia Project Episode 8 Podcast Transcript: Better Marketing for a Better World

with Ben Beck

[00:00:00.410] – Christian Pearson
Hello, I’m Christian, and you’re listening to inside the Cambodia Project, an educational podcast where we discuss cutting edge research on sustainable business in an emerging market. In our last episode, I talked with Logan Mallory about what being generous really looks like at the corporate level. Logan shared some really insightful stories about his personal journey in the business world and the innate potential for good within each person. Then, in the spirit of Christmas, we discussed how giving and making sacrifices empowers and lifts businesses, shareholders, and stakeholders alike, as it was a Christmas special episode. In our last episode, Logan and I talked about the power of Christ like service in our communities. It was wonderful hearing how Logan is trying to be a force for good in his own life. Because I plan on doing a marketing degree here at Brigham Young University, I’ll be applying to the Marriott School of Business in the coming months. One reason why I’m drawn to the Marriott school is the school’s vision, which says we aspire to transform the world through Christ like leadership. This vision really resonates with me, and I feel like that vision to transform the world is something being pursued by many marketing professors across the globe.

[00:01:21.330] – Christian Pearson
Today I have the privilege of interviewing one of those world transforming marketing professors, our very own podcast producer, Dr. Benjamin Beck. Ben, is an assistant professor of marketing here at Brigham Young University, and prior to his work at BYU, Ben was at the Pennsylvania State University, earning his phd in marketing. Much of his research focuses on sustainable change and doing good. For example, his most recent paper, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, focuses on how businesses can be guardians of trust, improving aspects of their websites to fight review fakery. Today he’ll be telling us about some research completed by some of his academic peers, research that focuses on making the world a better place. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As you know, Ben, I like to share a quote to start each podcast, and today’s quote comes from the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed Yunus, who is widely recognized as the father of micro loans for underserved entrepreneurs in developing economies. He says, human creativity is unlimited. It is the capacity of humans to make things happen which didn’t happen before. Creativity provides the key to solving our social and economic problems. So, Ben, that quote’s really interesting.

[00:02:42.320] – Christian Pearson
There’s a lot packed in there. I want to know, do you agree or disagree? And it’s okay if you disagree that creativity is the key to solving our social and economic problems.

[00:02:53.510] – Ben Beck
That’s a wonderful way to start this podcast because so much of this marketing research that we’ll be talking about today is very creative. It’s establishing new boundaries, or I should say pushing boundaries. A lot of marketing research uses data and analyzes that data and then gives you outcomes based on that data. But what we’ll be talking about today is field research, where the marketers are going out and changing the world, and that takes creativity. I don’t know that I would agree, though, and say that creativity is the key. It’s a huge aspect of that, but there’s so much that needs to go on, and the first part of it is something that you focus on a lot of these podcasts, the drive to lift where you are to do good in the world. If you don’t have that drive, you’re never going to worry about society and how you can make it better. So I think that creativity is an important aspect, but maybe not the key.

[00:03:49.450] – Christian Pearson
I think necessarily the key.

[00:03:50.890] – Ben Beck
Yeah, maybe the key would be just having that passion and drive for it. However, I do not have a Nobel Peace Prize. Eunice does. And so I would probably defer to his better judgment of whether or not.

[00:04:06.690] – Christian Pearson
Creativity is the key, for sure. Okay, that makes sense. Still, talking about this quote, how does it fit into the better marketing for a better world initiative that we’re talking about today?

[00:04:17.570] – Ben Beck
Yeah. So the better marketing for Better World Initiative, I think we’ve mentioned this on other podcasts, is an initiative trying to get marketing scholars to think about how their research can really benefit the world. It’s one that I love, and it’s rather new. I mean, marketers have been trying to do good for a long time, but they’ve also done some harm to the world potentially, too, right?

[00:04:43.770] – Christian Pearson
For sure.

[00:04:44.220] – Ben Beck
Yeah. Yeah. So I love that Eunice is focusing on creativity, starting that. Right. How can we help society? Better marketing for a better world? That initiative, we’ll talk more about it in this podcast. We’ll go into a little more depth. I think it is driven by that desire, by the creativity, by just overall thriving to do better in society.

[00:05:09.850] – Christian Pearson
For sure. And I think that we can reconcile the point, like, creativity is definitely huge in marketing, right. If you’re a creative marketer, you’re probably a very successful one. But I don’t think we have to draw a line in the sand as far as the extent to which creativity is effective. I think that as far as doing good goes, being creative is definitely something we’re looking for, and we shouldn’t undervalue it at all.

[00:05:38.220] – Ben Beck
Yeah. I love that you brought up creativity is central to marketing. So I should have thought of this when you first asked that question. I teach advertising and promotion here at BYU, so all marketing students take that. And one of the ad campaigns we study in the class is from Wrigley for extra gum. The gum brand was dying. Wrigley’s brand. It was seeing decreasing sales over time. Over time. And you may remember where Juan was, the name of the young man and the young woman was Susan or whatever, but it tells about their courting story and how Juan keeps drawing on the inside of these rappers. The story. And at the very end, she’s abroad, she’s somewhere else, right? She’s living somewhere else, but her and Juan are keeping in touch. And then she goes for a date night with him to meet him somewhere. And she goes into kind of an art studio type format, and there’s his little gum wrappers all over on the walls that he’s hung on these professional photos. And then the last one shows him proposing to her, and he’s there, and they propose. And it’s this love story that Wrigley tells that was fantastically creative, and it helped their brand dramatically.

[00:06:53.100] – Ben Beck
It created a whole bunch of user generated content, which is the pinnacle of good marketing, right, getting your users involved. But it also tells a wonderful story of love, which is great for this world, right? Instead of partying and being crazy and some things that marketers may tell, they told a story of love. And I think it was marketing that helps lift society, right?

[00:07:19.690] – Christian Pearson
And I think we actually talked about that in my marketing class this semester. And what I love about, did Dr.

[00:07:26.990] – Ben Beck
Swenson show that video then?

[00:07:28.110] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, he did. It was really cool. And I think one of the best parts of that is that the ad focuses not so much on a call to action, right? Like buy our brand now, it’s more, it just tells a story which really resonates with the humanity in all of us, and it appeals to that creative side of all of us, that part of us that craves a good love story, right?

[00:07:51.560] – Ben Beck

[00:07:51.960] – Christian Pearson
And it was just a very well done advertisement. Thanks for bringing that up. I wanted to talk more with you about you personally. Just before we get into what marketing scholars are doing, as far as doing good in the world, I wanted to ask you, for example, what inspired you, Ben, to engage in this kind of research? This doing good, this making the world a better place kind of research.

[00:08:20.270] – Ben Beck
So when I first started my phd, I was rather steeped in marketing scholarly research. A lot of that, like I mentioned earlier, uses data. Here is a data set from a company. Let’s evaluate it and see what that company could do better to do their marketing more efficiently. That’s very important. Important insights come out of that. I’m not trying to demean that in any means, but it can be rather monotonous and boring sometimes. So part of it was selfish. Doing this research that may lead to filled research where I’m out in society trying to help the world is actually fun. It’s enjoyable to do, but beyond that, it gives me awesome conversations to have at the dinner table with my family, with my two boys. We talk about doing good in the world, and I see some of my neighbors who go and serve, do humanitarian work in Uganda and different places around the world. And it’s inspiring, and it makes me think we should all be doing that. If we’ve been blessed to have the time, the wealth of time, or the wealth, the monetary wealth, where we can be helping, we absolutely should.

[00:09:24.920] – Ben Beck
That should be a focus in our lives. And it doesn’t have to be helping abroad. It can be helping in our own backyards. Right? Serving in our communities, whatever it be. That inspired me to get engaged in this marketing work. And so I’m taking a little bit different approach than most marketing scholars do with this. But there is a precedent set by other marketers that are doing the same thing.

[00:09:44.570] – Christian Pearson
I think that makes a lot of sense. I can definitely relate in that sometimes life can get monotonous. But I also admire the fact that you’re looking for, I guess, a flair or something in something that’s doing good, right? Making a difference. Although I do want to ask, does this research that we’re doing, does it actually make a difference, or are we just kind of forming conjectures and hoping that people do something about that?

[00:10:12.400] – Ben Beck
Yeah, I think it does make a difference. So my most recent paper, looking at online reviews and the fakery in online reviews, and then what businesses can do to decrease that fakery. So platforms like Tripadvisor or Yelp trust Pilot, what can they do to increase trust in their platforms? Of course, the number one thing they should do is decrease fake reviews, put monitoring in place, put exposure mechanisms in place for bad players so there’s things that they can do. And we show this in the paper. I was a little worried that we would publish this paper and it would just sit on the shelves of academic libraries and never be read by anybody. But shortly after publishing it, the federal trade communication actually reached out to us and said, we’d love to read your paper. We’re making some regulations on a similar topic right now, and your paper will help inform that that was awesome. It’s being used in a legislative circle. What we’re doing in Cambodia, the project you’re helping me with, I think it will do good. I really hope it will help establish, set the groundwork for the establishment of norms around treating women and children in the right ways.

[00:11:25.260] – Ben Beck
Right. Loving our families, establishing some good norms in society. So I think that that will be the case. And the three papers I’ll talk about today, you’ll pretty quickly see that they have a lot of potential to do good in the world.

[00:11:39.260] – Christian Pearson
Okay, awesome. I’m excited to hear those. Before we get into it, though, could you just give us a little bit more of an expose on. Not an expose, but can you tell us more about the better marketing for a better world initiative? Just kind of what is it? And also, since it’s already been published, you talked about that special issue journal. Is it over? Is it still going? Just help us understand a little bit. Yeah.

[00:12:06.960] – Ben Beck
So a little background. The Better marketing for Better World Initiative was launched. It takes forever for academic papers to be published. So the actual papers, I believe were published. Let me look at my notes. They were published in May of 2021.

[00:12:20.940] – Christian Pearson

[00:12:21.420] – Ben Beck
So that means several years prior to that, the Journal of Marketing put out a call for research and said, we want research in this area, research that shows how the world can be made better by marketing and how marketers can help. So that happened probably in 2018 or 19, right? If you go to the better marketing for better World website, it’s, you can read a little bit about it. And they have these two sentences about it, talking about the good of marketing and the potential bad. They said, and I quote, marketing has the power to improve lives, sustain livelihoods, strengthen societies, and benefit the world at large. But here’s the other side of that. At the same time, marketers can have a dark, marketing can have a dark side. It has the power to hurt consumers, employees, communities, markets, institutions and the environment that surrounds us.

[00:13:20.190] – Christian Pearson
Kind of ominous then.

[00:13:21.460] – Ben Beck
It is ominous. When I read that, I’m like, oh, do I agree with that? So I want to ask you, a Christian, a question that you’re not ready for. Right. Can you think of ways that marketing might hurt society? Do you have any examples or ways that that may happen?

[00:13:38.150] – Christian Pearson
Well, in my marketing class this semester, we talked about the integrity inherent to marketing. Right. And if you violate the trust that exists between marketers and consumers, there’s a lot of consequences. However, I think that it’s also fair to say that if marketing, you kind of control a lot of you have a lot of sway in given market segments. And if you think about all the people involved in the success or failure of a company, if marketers don’t do their job well, then you can potentially hurt all these stakeholders shareholders that I talked about with Logan just last episode. So I think that you can do your job too well and market unfairly, but you can also potentially hurt the people you’re working with. Right. A good brand needs to motivate its employees. It needs to resonate with customers. It’s something that people can rally behind. And if marketers aren’t doing that for their brand, then if they’re not marketing to the heart, which is what my professor Mike Swenson emphasized all semester, if you’re not marketing to the heart, you’re not marketing, or at least you’re not doing it well.

[00:15:05.990] – Ben Beck
Yeah, no, I love that. If you’re not marketing the heart, you’re not doing it well. I love that you brought up stakeholders versus shareholders. Right. We look at business in a different lens these days, that businesses do need to do good in their societies, for the families of their employees, for their consumers.

[00:15:20.880] – Christian Pearson
Right. They’re a lot more accountable than perhaps they used to be.

[00:15:23.900] – Ben Beck
Yeah. You make me think about, so one example I have of the dark side of marketing. I remember at one of my employers, I was pulled into my vice president’s office and he asked, he said, we want to do a mail in rebate for this product service that we have. And he wanted to talk to the details of setting that up. I kind of managed the technical side of marketing, so it was going to be me that was doing the implementation. And I’m like, yeah, I can set it up this way. We can have our marketing automation tool help. We can have automated processes. I talked about how easy we could make it for the consumer. And he says, no, we don’t want to make it easy. We want to require them to print out some papers, to get it signed by this person, to have it mailed in here. He actually wanted to make it hard and convoluted so that we would have lower percentage of our consumers actually taking advantage of that rebate and getting paid out on it.

[00:16:19.690] – Christian Pearson

[00:16:20.480] – Ben Beck
And I heard that and I thought, oh, that’s bad for our brand. Why would we want to do that? That’s not helping our consumers. So I told him, I said, I’m happy to work on this, but I’m not going to work on it in that way. And he respected that. And he went and found someone else on our team to do it. But there was something about that company. I actually ended up leaving that company shortly thereafter because I just felt bad about the direction they were taking the brand.

[00:16:44.460] – Christian Pearson

[00:16:44.770] – Ben Beck
And so there is a dark side to marketing. But sorry, I digress. I don’t want to focus on the dark side. This episode is talking about how marketers do good. So back to the better marketing for a better world initiative. The original special issue journal had 14 articles published in it. And each of these 14 pieces of scholarly work are fantastic in their own right. Probably tens of thousands of hours of scholars time go into publishing one of these papers. It’s incredible how much time and money goes into each individual paper. So of the 14 papers, there were four key topic areas that it focused on. The first was sustainability and climate concerns. Okay, an important topic, right? Another one, economic and social empowerment. Another one was health and well being. And then the last topic area was pro social giving. So there were these four topics that are represented by these 14 papers. Shameless plug. For this initiative from the Journal of Marketing, if you go to, at the top of the website, there’s a tab or a menu item for knowledge or knowledge base, something along those lines. If you click on that, and then if you look at one of the earliest entries, earliest blog posts on that website, it will be the special issue.

[00:18:11.440] – Ben Beck
And the nice thing is, all 14 of those articles are. I believe all 14 are open access. That means you don’t have to be a scholar, you don’t have to have access to an expensive library to read them like you do most papers. So anyone listening to this podcast can go and read these papers and use them as inspiration for good, even if you don’t have access to an academic library.

[00:18:33.510] – Christian Pearson
Wow, that’s way cool. I feel like I’m seeing a lot of correlation between this better marketing for a better world and the global SDG goals, the UN goals. Those four sections really remind me of some of those goals, and I love that I get to work on this better marketing for a better World initiative with you in the Cambodia project. It’s great to be a part of this, and unfortunately, we won’t be talking too much about the Cambodia project today. But instead, you said that you wanted to present a few important papers from other scholars on the topic of doing good through marketing. Could you give me maybe a brief summary of each of the papers you wanted to discuss, Ben?

[00:19:18.090] – Ben Beck
Yeah, I would love to. So I pulled out three papers. Two of the three papers are from the better marketing for better world special issue. One of them was not. It was published later, which is great to see that academic scholars are still publishing this research. There’s still a focus on it. I actually went to a conference. Yeah, it was this spring, the 2023 Winter AMA Academic conference, and they had at least one session. I think they had a few sessions about this better marketing for better world topic. One of the sessions I went to, I only went to one of them. It was full. There was even almost standing room only. Right. There were tons of people in the session. There’s a lot of enthusiasm, excitement around this topic. So the topic is definitely not dead. But the three papers I chose, of course, we can’t go through all of them. I think I will probably only go through one in depth.

[00:20:11.290] – Christian Pearson

[00:20:11.570] – Ben Beck
But I do want to talk briefly about the three, kind of introduce them. Before I do that, I want to just mention that on each of these academic papers, there’s three to five authors on them. There’s a lot of scholars that are working on this topic.

[00:20:28.010] – Christian Pearson

[00:20:28.900] – Ben Beck
I chose some that I had seen presented at conferences, and I happen to know the authors. The authors are friends from other institutions. And while I can’t go through and name everyone, I do want to name those that I’ve seen present this research. Some of my friends, Frank German, and I apologize if I slaughter some of these names. Some of these names are, no worries, not in my native tongue. So, Frank German, Shreya Kankanhali, Nida Umashankar, Pradeep Chindagunta, and Stephen Anderson are some of the people that are kind of the leaders in this space, and they’re leading out. And I’ve chosen their papers just because I’ve seen them presented and they’re friends. So that’s what I’m presenting. The first one I wanted to show was a field experiment from Uganda, where the research question was, does marketing really matter to entrepreneurs? These small entrepreneurs in a developing world and developing economy like Uganda, how much do marketers matter? So what they did with this field study is they connected these entrepreneurs with marketers. So people across the globe that had good marketing experience or other professional experience or consulting experience, there were three groups. The marketer group, a consultant group.

[00:21:56.470] – Ben Beck
These were people that were just general consultants that were actually paid for their consulting. And then the third group was professional business people, finance, accounting, other facets of business. So they had these three groups randomly assigned to entrepreneurs, and they would get on Skype calls or have a Google Drive folder or Dropbox where they put helpful documents in. They would exchange emails, they would connect on Facebook messenger, whatever it was, with these entrepreneurs in Uganda. And they tried to help them improve their business. The awesome finding was marketers had the biggest impact, a considerable impact. All three of these treatment groups helped considerably over the control group, which was just entrepreneurs that didn’t receive any outside expertise. But the marketing group helped the most. I did want to share the number. So for those that received marketing help, monthly sales grew by 51.7%. Wow. Yeah, huge, right. For.

[00:23:01.610] – Christian Pearson
That’s crazy.

[00:23:02.380] – Ben Beck
Exactly. And of course, some of those monthly sales were probably going back to being reinvested in advertising and whatnot, or signage, whatever it was. So the actual profits only improved by a smaller amount. But still 35.8% was the increase in profits from these marketing interventions. And then the number of paid employees increased by 23.8%, which I love that whenever I see people hiring more employees, that’s helping them, helping society.

[00:23:32.570] – Christian Pearson
Right. That’s getting outside the business and into the community.

[00:23:35.930] – Ben Beck
Yeah, exactly. One of the key findings was that marketers spent more time on product related topics than some of the others. And what’s most important to the consumer? The product. Right. What are they getting out of the transaction? The product or the service? And that’s where marketers spent most of the time that lifted that group the most. So this highlights the importance of marketing and how marketing can have a positive impact on business as a whole. But I would argue on society as well.

[00:24:07.420] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, that’s way cool. Thanks for sharing, Ben.

[00:24:09.400] – Ben Beck
Yeah, so that was the first paper. We won’t go into more detail on that just for a lack of time. The second one was looking at marketplace literacy in subsistence marketplaces. So have you heard of the word subsistence marketplaces?

[00:24:25.330] – Christian Pearson
I have not. I’m not familiar. Can you enlighten me?

[00:24:27.820] – Ben Beck
Yeah. So a subsistence marketplace is where consumers are coming into the marketplace and they have low resources.

[00:24:35.870] – Christian Pearson

[00:24:36.630] – Ben Beck
And the sellers normally have rather low resources too. And oftentimes the consumers are also sellers. So you may have your hut out in the woods, right. Or a lot of this was done, this research was done in India and Tanzania. So maybe you’re out in the bush and you are taking plastic goods and recycling them into little handbags and then going to the market and selling those. So you are selling and then you take the money and you go and purchase goods. In a lot of these cases, the consumers are buyer and seller, which is really interesting. So this is kind of the subsistence marketplace. Subsistence, meaning they barely have enough to get by a lot of times. And it’s the marketplace where those transactions are happening, these businesses, they are not registered with the government. There’s probably not revenue accounting or reporting happening. They’re very small businesses that are selling in these markets, and consumers are buying and selling both a lot of times.

[00:25:38.860] – Christian Pearson
Interesting. It reminds me of almost like bartering is what it’s making me think of, like goods for goods. The money is just kind of an intermediary.

[00:25:47.030] – Ben Beck
Yeah. And there probably is actual good for good bartering, pulling out money a lot of times in these marketplaces too, because someone may have a specific good that you want and then you have a good that they want and you exchange goods for sure.

[00:26:00.130] – Christian Pearson

[00:26:00.790] – Ben Beck
Yeah. So those marketplaces do exist in a lot of the world today still. So this research from Nita Umashankar is looking at marketplace literacy and how if you help these consumers and entrepreneurs become more literate about how the marketplace should work, it actually increases their psychological and social well being considerably. Wow. So they show that in this research it was really interesting. And I just loved to see these researchers going out into these areas that are rather underserved and showing how marketing or marketplace literacy, a very important aspect of marketing, can make society better.

[00:26:47.490] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, that’s really cool. I’m starting to see what you meant about how marketing research can make a difference in the community. It’s not just research.

[00:26:57.420] – Ben Beck
Yeah, exactly. And then the last piece that I think we should talk in a little more detail about, it’s one that you and I have talked about here and there in our marketing meetings. I believe in our research meetings is looking at the emerging market. This was done in Mexico City and it was done with small retailers. And they were given one of two treatments. They were given the treatment where they could receive external modernization or internal modernization. Internal modernization means we’re going to help you do better at your accounting, your bookkeeping, things of that nature. So more skills for running your business better.

[00:27:36.550] – Christian Pearson

[00:27:37.040] – Ben Beck
The external was more of signage outside the store.

[00:27:43.910] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, maybe like business to consumer interactions.

[00:27:46.510] – Ben Beck
Exactly. Business to consumer interactions. Anything, whether it’s stuff you put up and leave or whether even the sales approach or the way that you interact with the customers, that was the external modernization. So that project looked at that and evaluated whether internal or external helps the most for these small entrepreneurs.

[00:28:05.760] – Christian Pearson

[00:28:06.460] – Ben Beck
Yeah. So that’s one that I think we’ll dive into a little bit more. Do you have any questions before I dive into that?

[00:28:16.590] – Christian Pearson
No, let’s get into it.

[00:28:18.080] – Ben Beck
Okay, so this paper, because we’re diving into it a little deeper here, I’ll share the author’s names. And again, I apologize if I slaughtered these names.

[00:28:32.300] – Christian Pearson
No worries.

[00:28:32.840] – Ben Beck
Stephen Anderson. Easy name. Leonardo ia Cavone, Shreya Kankanhali and Sridar Narayanan.

[00:28:41.730] – Christian Pearson
I’m sure you did this all perfect.

[00:28:43.540] – Ben Beck
Oh, I’m sure. These authors went into Mexico City and they talked to, I think, around 10,000 retailers in Mexico City, which is fascinating. They actually went face to face.

[00:28:59.340] – Christian Pearson
Huge sample size.

[00:29:00.540] – Ben Beck
Huge sample size. They limited that down to 1400 and some odd. Sorry, 1148 retailers that actually participated in the study. And then they gave them around 55 hours. Well, they gave them less time than that, but they show that the entrepreneurs spent some time on their learning outside of their direct interaction. The direct interaction was around 30 to 35 hours of time where people were going into the businesses and training the businesses on internal or external modernization. They show that firms in both of these treatment groups raised their monthly sales by 15% to 19%.

[00:29:43.370] – Christian Pearson
There’s some significant figures.

[00:29:44.880] – Ben Beck
They are significant figures. Interestingly, they recorded, after the interventions happened, they had two other touch points where they reached out to them and said, what do your revenues look like? So that was recorded over a 24 month period. So 24 months later, those people, that, those businesses that received the treatment, so the training versus those that did not receive any training, the control group, they are the ones that increased their revenue by 15% to 19%. So I don’t know that it took 24 months, but they showed that 24 months later there was the effects. I thought that was interesting.

[00:30:24.280] – Christian Pearson
That’s fantastic. So if this change took like 24 months, that’s a 24 month research project, then will it take that long for us to see results like that in Cambodia?

[00:30:38.830] – Ben Beck
I hope not. Right, because that’s a long time. The great thing about the Cambodia project is we’re doing kind of a pilot study first where our interventions, unless we change, we might. We’re still in the planning stages. We’re currently planning on the interventions taking three months.

[00:30:57.380] – Christian Pearson

[00:30:57.860] – Ben Beck
And then measuring their revenue thereafter, maybe for six months, maybe twelve months after that.

[00:31:03.620] – Christian Pearson
We’re looking at like a nine to.

[00:31:04.850] – Ben Beck
Twelve month period, I think so.

[00:31:06.660] – Christian Pearson

[00:31:07.380] – Ben Beck
For our initial pilot study, if that goes well and we show that we can move the needle a little bit, we’re going to expand that study. And that’s when we go to organization like the World bank or the United nations and say, hey, we need a larger funding source and we’re going to run an 18 month intervention and we’re going to measure it at 24 months and 36 months too, like they’ve done in this paper because I think long term longevity is important so that you don’t get too bored about this. So I don’t get too bored. We need to see a little more immediate results.

[00:31:35.510] – Christian Pearson
For sure. Yeah.

[00:31:39.370] – Ben Beck
So some interesting, so the background going into this. So they talk about emerging markets, an emerging market, also known as the global south. These are regions of the world that at one point were called the third world economies. Right. We had first world economies and third world economies, and we know that. Who is it that wrote the book factfulness? Remind me his name.

[00:32:04.900] – Christian Pearson
Oh, man, I can’t remember.

[00:32:06.630] – Ben Beck
I am sorry. You would have remembered had I not put you on the spot.

[00:32:09.520] – Christian Pearson
He’s a swedish economist, global health scholar.

[00:32:14.400] – Ben Beck
Public health scholar. Yeah, he wrote the economist. His name’s right on the tip of my tongue. I’ll remember it later and then just yell it out during the podcast and I’ll be really weird. Okay. But he shows that there’s not really a third world anymore. Right. All of the global economies are improving so dramatically. There’s good news there that they’re improving in a lot of things, like educating women, child mortality rates, all of those things. Right. So the global south or an emerging market, when I refer to that, I’m simply talking about economies that are still in a fast growth stage and have a lot of potential ahead of them, whereas the western economies, like much of Europe, the United States, we’ve kind of already arrived. And so it’s these countries that are still emerging and growing. That’s why I call them an emerging market.

[00:33:06.540] – Christian Pearson

[00:33:08.350] – Ben Beck
So in emerging Markets, a group of retailers called traditional retailers, they still dominate that market. And from this paper, they, they identify that 57% of annual retail sales are still coming from these traditional retailers. Traditional retailers are ones small bomb. Small mom and pop shops is what you might call them. Like little hole in the wall type retailer.

[00:33:32.250] – Christian Pearson

[00:33:32.740] – Ben Beck
Versus someone who has more business training. They have a more polished storefront. They may have multiple locations. It may be a chain or franchise. Those are nontraditional.

[00:33:42.130] – Christian Pearson
Got you. It’s a retailer where their business is their livelihood.

[00:33:47.770] – Ben Beck
That was interesting that 57% of those annual retail sales are coming from traditional retailers. I thought.

[00:33:54.410] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, that’s a really big number. Do you think we’re going to see a similar percentage as far as traditional retailers goes in Cambodia?

[00:34:04.990] – Ben Beck
Yeah, I would probably say even in Cambodia, it’s going to be higher than that.

[00:34:08.240] – Christian Pearson
Oh, wow.

[00:34:09.060] – Ben Beck
So Mexico City is rather advanced compared to some of the cities in Cambodia. And so this global number of traditional retailers includes the Mexico cities of the world and the Bangkok, Thailand. Right. That’s considerably more advanced economically than panam penn or Batambong in Cambodia. So I expect we’re capturing this data right now, but I expect we’re going to see closer to 80% of retailers in Cambodia, retail sales occurring in these more traditional marketplaces.

[00:34:46.850] – Christian Pearson
I’ll be interested to see how that influences our research.

[00:34:49.840] – Ben Beck
Yeah, we were on a call earlier this week. That call I was on with you, Christian, where Oliza Loy, one, our cambodian helper, research assistant, scholar, if you will. She was sharing some slides and she had a picture of a cambodian traditional shop, which is really interesting. Things are just kind of all over in the shop. And they had a bar hanging from the ceiling with these little packets. It was a strip of packets that were still attached together. So I’m guessing if you buy a single packet, the retailer gets scissors and cuts off a packet.

[00:35:25.120] – Christian Pearson
Or maybe there’s the shampoo and conditioner.

[00:35:27.260] – Ben Beck
Yeah, shampoo and conditioner. So instead of buying a full bottle of shampoo, they buy a small little packet that maybe will allow them to shampoo their hair two or three times. And they do that because they don’t have money for a full bottle.

[00:35:38.370] – Christian Pearson
That’s just not how the income works over there.

[00:35:40.810] – Ben Beck
And that’s how the traditional market works in much of the world. Very different from us going to our local grocer, to Walmart and picking a product off, putting it in a shopping cart, and then going and scanning a barcode. So I asked Elisa, how often do you see barcode scanning in Cambodia? And she says it’s not very common.

[00:36:00.160] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, almost never. How do you track revenue in a place like that?

[00:36:05.200] – Ben Beck
And she even said that you may not find price labels. It sounded like a majority of time, you’re not even going to find prices, like a little label put on the product or even displayed around the product. And so it’s just kind of a barter system. Like you said, this is not a subsistence marketplace in most of Cambodia, but even the small traditional retailers are operating kind of like it is a subsistence marketplace.

[00:36:29.690] – Christian Pearson

[00:36:30.540] – Ben Beck
Yeah. So this research looked at that and it looked at and said, what can we do to help traditional retailers? And they introduced this idea. Well, the idea was already out there, but they develop it further about modernization. How do we help these retailers modernize? So, of course, modernization sounds good, but there’s kind of two sides, right? Should you modernize or should you not? And their research is looking at that aspect of modernization.

[00:37:02.890] – Christian Pearson
Well, it seems kind of intuitive, like modernization probably leads to sales, doing that internal and external work. I mean, that’s why big businesses do that. Isn’t that the case always?

[00:37:15.130] – Ben Beck

[00:37:17.770] – Christian Pearson
Why would you not do modernization? I guess is my question.

[00:37:20.330] – Ben Beck
Yeah, that’s a good question. So is this research really showing anything? Right. Why would you not do modernization? Maybe it’s just common sense. We have to assume that everyone’s going to do it. From our cultural perspective, maybe that’s more accurate. But if you are in a place like Mexico City or India or somewhere else, there may be benefits of running a traditional storefront. The benefits could be, you want to look more traditional, you want to look more homegrown, you don’t want to look super canned. Maybe you want to have a different visual appeal. Of course, there’s the limitations on modernization. Do you have the time and money as a small entrepreneur to do it? But in the context of this study, they did position the research question as is modernization a good thing? And they do give some ideas behind and rather cogent, strong ideas that show that modernization, you cannot assume that modernization is going to always be good. So that’s why they’re evaluating that.

[00:38:20.610] – Christian Pearson
Okay, interesting.

[00:38:21.720] – Ben Beck
Yeah. So the actual treatment they did. So they went in one interesting stat. So this is from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It’s a 2017 statistic. So it’s probably decreased. It would have decreased in percentage. But this United nations report showed that emerging markets are very important because they house 80% of the world’s population. So 80% of the world’s population lives in what is classified as an emerging market. That was from 2017. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s down to 70%. But still, a sizable portion lives in these emerging markets. Wow.

[00:39:01.220] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. I guess that puts a little bit of perspective on the influence that research has. If we’re researching in emerging markets, we’re researching topics that might affect potentially 70 or 80% of the world.

[00:39:14.790] – Ben Beck
Yeah, absolutely. Which helps me think that this research does have potential to help the world. Right. So in this actual specific research study, they went out and they talked to 10,000 businesses and evaluated these businesses on a number of criteria I’ll get into a little bit later. But they ultimately narrowed that down to 1148 businesses. And then they randomized these, we’ll call it 1150 businesses. They randomized them into three different groups. The first was a control group. The second. And these groups are about equal in size. So the first was a control group. The second received external training on external modernization. And then the third received modernization training for internal processes. What they did is they had 13 different sessions where they would go in face to face and give them training on internal or external modernization. And that was about 35 hours. They assumed that the entrepreneurs put some time into. So they’re thinking about 55 hours total was spent by these entrepreneurs, either internally or externally modernizing. And the effects were large and dramatic. So they found positive, statistically significant and persistent effects that both external and internal modernization helps. But I’ll let you guess.

[00:40:38.510] – Ben Beck
Which one do you think helps more, external or internal?

[00:40:40.500] – Christian Pearson
I’m going to go with external.

[00:40:41.830] – Ben Beck

[00:40:42.610] – Christian Pearson
Marketing is awesome.

[00:40:44.210] – Ben Beck
Marketing is awesome. Yeah. And accounting is boring. Just kidding. I’m sorry. I love accounting. My wife is an amazing accountant for our family finances.

[00:40:54.230] – Christian Pearson
There we go.

[00:40:55.650] – Ben Beck
But they did. You’re correct. So they showed that the external treatment group increased their monthly sales by $518. Wow. And the internal treatment group increased their monthly sales by $430 over the control group. They showed that the control group did not increase their revenues at all. I think they actually showed a slight decrease in sales for the control group. And that could make sense, right? If the treatment groups are maybe stealing business from control or over time, sometimes businesses just struggle.

[00:41:26.830] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, that’s fair. It’s interesting how close those figures are, though. I guess I should have more respect for the internal modernization.

[00:41:35.320] – Ben Beck
Yeah, even the internal modernization helps a lot. So they looked and they saw that the average firm was earning $2,776 in monthly sales. So a $518 increase or $430 increase is substantial.

[00:41:50.910] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. What percentage of sales is that?

[00:41:53.510] – Ben Beck
Let me look. So for the external group, that was 18.7% increase in sales. So that’s where the 19% comes from. And then the internal sales, it was 15 and a half percent. Wow. So 16% to 19% increase in sales, which is really cool.

[00:42:11.610] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. How does that. I guess when we’re talking about modernization, how does sales percentages, these positive increases, how does that really translate to real benefits for the store and the community? Because again, we’re talking about, is this going to go beyond the business and into the community?

[00:42:30.610] – Ben Beck
Yeah, that’s a great question. The numbers they have. So they actually showed that, that 19% or 15%, the additional, we’ll say, $500 in monthly sales, that equates on average to one and a half months of rent for the store owner, or one and a half new employees per business location, which is okay. It’s awesome. So, yeah, they can hire more. They can help their own family, they can help their finances.

[00:43:00.350] – Christian Pearson
That’s way cool. They have numbers on that, that’s great.

[00:43:03.480] – Ben Beck
Exactly. And a lot of the corporate social responsibility research out there looks at big firms and how they can make the world better. But this is looking at small firms, entrepreneurs. And if you give money to a small entrepreneur, how does that help make the world better? Their family is going to be better educated, their kids are going to be better educated. They’re going to go into the world and be able to do better. Good. Hopefully, they’re going to hire more employees or grow their business. And I know that there’s anti capitalists out there in some ways. I’m definitely not an anti capitalist, but some people will say capitalism is evil. I actually read a book recently about how evil capitalism was. I believe that capitalism a lot, especially in these small societies, these emerging markets for the small entrepreneurs, think it’s very beneficial because it helps them change their life in a dramatic way. And you do see a lot of good for society being built by these people.

[00:43:59.940] – Christian Pearson

[00:44:02.910] – Ben Beck
So I want to discuss briefly here the modernization, actual effort. So what does it mean? External modernization? So they had five different modules, and they asked the businesses, I believe, if I remember correctly, they asked the businesses to adopt at least three of the five modules. They could adopt more if they wanted to, but module one was external appearance. So external signage.

[00:44:25.630] – Christian Pearson

[00:44:27.110] – Ben Beck
Module two was interior appearance. So how clean and tidy is the shop? Right. That kind of thing. Module three was sales tactics. So are you training your employees on sales, how to do sales, how to do good customer service? Module four was something that Oliza, our research assistant from Cambodia, said that they’re not doing a lot in Cambodia. Price labeling. Like, do you actually have price labels on your product? Yeah. So fixing prices, labeling them, making sure your prices are competitive with rivals, those are some of the external things related to price labeling. And then the last module was customer engagement. So something that I think would be very interesting and one of the most important. How do you manage your relationship with your customers? Do you have media that you’re advertising on to communicate with them? Do you have newsletters? How do you continue to communicate with them? So that was the fifth module.

[00:45:25.910] – Christian Pearson
Okay, so out of those, which ones were adopted most by the businesses?

[00:45:29.670] – Ben Beck
Yeah, great question. Let me pull that up. So, interestingly, the one that I thought would be the most important was customer engagement. That was actually the least adopted. Customer engagement? Yeah. The most was exterior appearance. So exterior signage and then interior appearance, generally keeping the shop tidy, clean. And then price labeling was the third most adopted. And then sales tactics and customer engagement lacked considerably behind the other three. With customer engagement being the least adopted.

[00:46:10.390] – Christian Pearson
Interesting. I wonder if the findings might have changed in a positive way.

[00:46:15.500] – Ben Beck

[00:46:15.960] – Christian Pearson
If those last two were adopted in a higher percentage of businesses.

[00:46:20.560] – Ben Beck
Yeah, I think in our Cambodia research, we’re focusing a little bit more on that customer engagement.

[00:46:26.590] – Christian Pearson

[00:46:27.210] – Ben Beck
So it’ll be really interesting to see we’re going to focus on that more than signage or other external changes. If the business owners are engaging with their customers differently to promote the United nations sustainable rule number five of gender equity, gender equality. If businesses are helping their society, engaging with their customers to promote that, does it benefit the businesses? That’s one of our main research questions.

[00:46:55.290] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. And that’s what differentiates us from research like this, I guess.

[00:46:58.650] – Ben Beck
Yeah, it does. So hopefully this customer engagement being at least adopted is not ominous to our own research. Or maybe it’s just a mountain to climb. Right.

[00:47:08.520] – Christian Pearson
For sure. Yeah, it’s a challenge.

[00:47:10.270] – Ben Beck
Yeah. And then let’s see. So the internal modernization structure that they use, they had five modules there as well. The first one was demand analysis. Can you evaluate the demand and plan accordingly to make sure you have the right products in place? Right. The second one was earnings analysis. So are you tracking revenue? Can you determine your profit? Simply being able to analyze that was beneficial. And then the next two were about your inventory. So module three was stock ordering. Are you having the right things brought in? Do you have records of those stock inflows? Do you have records of the stock outflows so you can track where stuff’s going? Module four was the quality of the inventory, how you’re managing quality wise. And then module five was the cash flow management.

[00:47:58.130] – Christian Pearson

[00:47:58.480] – Ben Beck
Very important for businesses.

[00:47:59.680] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, those are all really important.

[00:48:01.160] – Ben Beck
Yeah. Of those, the most adopted was demand analysis and earning analysis, helping them keep records and be able to analyze those records. The least adopted was stock quality, which I thought was interesting because that’s kind of a marketing thing.

[00:48:16.690] – Christian Pearson

[00:48:16.910] – Ben Beck
Product quality is pretty important. Yeah. So that was actually the least adopted. And maybe it’s because they already have their vendors that they buy from and they can’t change that a lot.

[00:48:26.040] – Christian Pearson
It could be one of the more difficult ones to adopt. For sure.

[00:48:29.300] – Ben Beck
It could, yeah. So those are the different modernization effects. It was interesting. They showed that of those firms that were asked to participate or that were kind of signed up to participate, those that adopted at least one intervention. So they started the intervention process. It was 88% on average across the different treatments. So that was great to see that 88% of businesses were at least adopting one. And then those that completed the intervention, the average is 80%. So completing the intervention, I believe, to complete the intervention was completing all 13 modernization sessions. So actually sitting through the sessions and.

[00:49:18.550] – Christian Pearson
Working on that, that’s pretty good retention, I would say.

[00:49:20.930] – Ben Beck
Yeah, it is. Especially 13 sessions. That’s a lot of work. Yeah.

[00:49:23.600] – Christian Pearson
For that many businesses.

[00:49:24.910] – Ben Beck
Yeah. So the outcome at the end of the day, we showed a 15% to 19% increase in sales, which is important. And one thing that they are, I’m trying to scroll down in this document for forever. So one thing that they bring up in the research is recommendations for next steps. Right. Like, what does the Mexico Entrepreneurship board or whatever they call their ministry? Right. What do they do to help entrepreneurs? And they showed that simply giving training is not as beneficial as if you have these in depth sessions with the business owners and you’re going in and actually helping them make the changes. The 13 sessions weren’t just informational. They were actually saying, here’s a new sign, let’s put the sign up. Here’s how you do pricing. And so they were doing it with them hands on.

[00:50:21.740] – Christian Pearson
Interesting. I feel like that’s almost overstepping a little bit of the boundaries and interventions. Isn’t it better to teach Amanda fish rather than do it for them? That kind of thing? You know what I’m getting at?

[00:50:36.080] – Ben Beck
Yeah. No, it’s a good way to look at it. A good critique of this paper. Right. These 13 sessions are so hands on that maybe they’re kind of doing it for them versus teaching them. Is that what you’re questioning? Exactly, yeah, that is a good concern. How would I answer that? I think the researchers would probably say these 13 sessions, we were teaching them as well as showing them. So teach and show.

[00:51:04.340] – Christian Pearson

[00:51:04.690] – Ben Beck
And perhaps that’s the best way to teach.

[00:51:05.850] – Christian Pearson
Just like a demonstration.

[00:51:07.100] – Ben Beck
A demonstration, yes. And because there was a 24 month later effect, I think that that would insinuate that the businesses kept doing what they’d been trained. And so maybe you had sufficiently taught them how to catch the fish.

[00:51:21.200] – Christian Pearson
Got you. So maybe it’s just part of teaching them is doing it for them. Have to help them crawl before they can walk kind of thing.

[00:51:27.820] – Ben Beck
Exactly. Yeah. So I hope sharing that paper shows how impactful marketing research can be. Teaching entrepreneurs to change small things in their business can have a big effect.

[00:51:41.230] – Christian Pearson
I think it does then, and I think it has a lot of really positive implications for us and for our research in Cambodia. It’s making me more excited, know, actually getting on the ground and having these interventions hopefully go places. But thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Ben. Before we go, I do have one last question for you. Just to wrap things up with a significant number of marketing scholars who are also responsible for teaching the rising generation, like yourself, in the college classroom or elsewhere, how does this research topic of better marketing for a better world benefit your students?

[00:52:20.490] – Ben Beck
Oh, that’s a wonderful question. I use the canvas learning management system, so anyone who’s out there done college recently, you’ve probably been exposed to canvas. It’s a great tool if you have doing quizzes right, and getting documents to our students and allowing our students to upload things. So when my students first log into canvas, they are taken to a dashboard with all their classes. The thumbnail that I have, there’s a little image for my class. It actually has the words faith, intellect, and character. So you mentioned earlier on the mission of the BYU Marriott school that the mission is we develop leaders of faith, intellect, and character. So I have that in there, and I’m trying to teach that to my students throughout. And a big component of faith is being more Christ like and trying to do good in the world. Right. Even if you don’t believe in Christ, whoever your deity is or whatever your belief system is, having faith in good is important. So having that faith aspect is good. The intellect component, we teach them so many important things in class. I have no doubts that anyone coming to a good school like BYU or so many other universities out there, are getting the intellect, but character building, I think, is probably the most important aspect.

[00:53:38.150] – Ben Beck
How do the students leave the classroom? Do they leave the classroom better, poised to do good in society? That’s something at the BYU merit that we focus on. And I talk about my Cambodia project in my class. I talk about online reviews on fakery and how you fight that and how you work through that. I talk about the research in class, so it does benefit my class in considerable ways. So the mission statement is good. The vision statement, too, from BYU Marriott. The Marriott school says we aspire to transform the world through have. I’m probably going to do this. Each semester I’m teaching, I ask students that are interested in research to let me know, and they reach out and I engage them in my research. So this last, I did have 132 students. I asked them and a lot of them said they’re interested in helping research. I was able to get four of them into my research project. They’re helping with some research that’s pro social, that’s going to help the world and that will help them become Christ like leaders in addition to just all my students getting material, that’s hopefully a little bit more focused on doing good in society.

[00:54:47.250] – Christian Pearson
Wow, that’s fantastic, Ben. And a thought I had as you were talking is just that that kind of reflects not only the Marriott vision, but also the vision of Brighong University, which is enter to learn and go forth to serve. That’s what I was thinking of. When, you know, they go into the class, you’re going to learn all of this intellectual content. But then the idea is that you leave a different person, right? You leave changed, having built character and ready to go forth and serve. So I think that’s awesome and that’s a model that I hope lots of professors are following. But thanks again for coming on the podcast. Thanks for your thoughts on modernization, on how this marketing research actually can change. And I really want to bring it back to what you said at the beginning, that it doesn’t mean you have to go travel the world if you want to make meaningful change. You can make change in your own community, in your own backyard, I think is what you said. And as it’s a new year for our listeners, maybe one of your New Year’s resolutions can be what we all always say, right?

[00:55:50.760] – Christian Pearson
That you might lift where you stand.