Aysegül Özsomer is Professor of Marketing at the College of Administrative Sciences & Economics, at Koç University (Istanbul, Turkey). She holds a PhD in Marketing from Michigan State University (1993), and an MBA (1988) from Bogazici University in Istanbul-Turkey. Her main research interests include (i) Marketing in tough economic times, (ii) Global branding and marketing strategy, (iii) Emerging market firm internationalization, (iv) Market orientation, and (v) Market learning and market knowledge transfer in multinational corporations.
She has been researching, teaching, and consulting in the US and Turkey for over 20 years, and has published a great number of articles in journals including the Journal of Marketing, International Journal of Research in Marketing, and Journal of International Marketing. Many of her publications have received awards, including the S. Tamer Cavusgil Award for the paper entitled: “The Interplay Between Global and Local Brands: A Closer Look at Perceived Brand Globalness and Local Iconness”, and the Gerald E. Hills Best Paper Award, for 10 year impact with “The Effects of Entrepreneurial Proclivity and Market Orientation on Business Performance”
In this interview, Professor Ozsomer told us about her academic life, future aspirations and her first-time impressions of Bogotá and the School of Management.
- During your visit, what has surprised you about Colombia?
- What would you highlight from your visit to Universidad de los Andes School of Management?
First of all, I think you have a great campus. I love the location on the outskirts and near the mountains. It’s very dramatic. Also something that I really enjoyed is that you kept the old buildings and made them into new buildings keeping the outside, like the chapel that you turned into a library. And I think these buildings are really valuable heritage that we have to cherish. Also we came down the mountain and here, there are a lot of more modern buildings so it is a very nice mix of old valuable heritage versus the newer. It is a great mix of old the new. I come from Istanbul where east meets west so I like it when two things mix, like east-west or Pacific-Atlantic, and I see that here so it is very exciting.
- When and why did you decide to pursue an academic career?
- What are the most satisfying aspects of being a scholar?
The things we just talked about and also Integrity; doing things in a way that will make you feel proud. For example, in my research I try to keep a certain level of quality so as to be proud of every paper. I don’t want to publish papers just for the sake of it. I like to publish things that really excite me and that will hopefully excite readers. So I think academic integrity is very important.
- What other research areas would you like to develop in the future?
I am very interested in the impact of technology and especially digital network technology. I was asked to write a commentary piece for a journal –International Marketing Review – a couple of months ago and it forced me to think about areas that will impact us in the future, and I think the most important one is technology. Everyone in the world is connected now, both good news and bad news spread so quickly, news about the brand, about the country, about a politician, about a person, about a blogger. So we have to be more careful about not having extreme negatives and sometime also avoid the extreme positives. I think this is critical. A second area I am interested in is the bottom of the pyramid. We always talk about brands and marketing and selling more, luxury brands. But we have 6 billion people in the world, or 4 billion lets say, that live on less that 2 dollars a day and I think as marketers it is our responsibility to offer them good things and make them accessible. So I think it is an under-researched area that we should study more. And the third area, which we already see, is emerging markets and brands from emerging countries such as the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and also Malaysia, Mexico, and what about Colombia?, for example. With such a special location so close to the Amazon, I think there are great opportunities for very unique products. We all read about Natura from Brazil and its success in using natural ingredients. I was just reading that Natura bought Avon, which is an amazing success story, so why not a company from Colombia which uses natural ingredients from the Amazon in terms of make up and facial creams. I haven’t seen anything like that but I think there’s a great opportunity. The world, I think, would be very interested in products like that from Colombia.
- How does your work contribute to society as a whole?
- How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
That’s a tough question. I think I try to inspire students first. Inspiration is very important. I try to take them to places they haven’t been to before, like the bottom of the pyramid. Everybody thinks about the next luxury bag, and I say what about billons of people that we don’t think about on a daily basis? So I try to teach them the importance of frugal innovation and the importance of innovation. I try to inspire them. Once they are inspired, they are ready to learn so first I like to shake them a bit, to make them uncomfortable and once they are shaken, they are more interested in learning. Of course I am actually a theory-oriented teacher and I believe that there is a great distinction between university and community universities. As universities, our goal is to create knowledge and teach ways of analyzing problems and approaching problems. So I am very much into analytical teaching and analytical thinking. I teach them this and they can apply it to many contexts. So I try to focus on methods, frameworks, data driven decision-making. That would be my philosophy but first I want to inspire them. I also like to teach them that marketing, with its advertising etc. has a bit of a negative reputation in society because we always try to sell more, consume more. But it is nice to look at the other end of marketing, which is informing consumers about product choices and making good decisions for themselves and their families. So I see the role of marketing from a societal perspective, and I think that we have a big responsibility in society.
- What is the most important thing you learn from your interaction with your students?
I always learn. In every class I learn. And I am always very curious. I teach a lot of executives and because they are from companies, I learn a lot. For example I teach something and they say Oh in our company we do this. How does this fit? So I always learn from them. I also learn creative solutions to problems that I haven’t thought about or that the literature doesn’t mention but that companies have thought about, as they can be very creative. I teach a class which is like a seminar and people come from all over the world. And it is fascinating to see how people from diff cultures interact, their cultural diversity. Every class is different and the dynamics are different and that keeps me going.
Professor Burcu Sezen, tells us about why she invited Professor Özsomer to the School of Management:
- How did you get to know the professor? What are the main research links?
I got to know Professor Özsomer when I took her PhD Course in Marketing Strategy at Koç University. She was also a member of my doctoral committee.
I am currently co-authoring a paper with her and we have plans for many other collaboration projects, including a paper where we seek to compare marketing in Colombia with Turkey in the context of emerging markets.
She is a respected leader in her area and a globally recognized expert in branding and international marketing, having won many awards for her work.
- What is the main purpose of the professor’s visit?
The main purpose of the professor´s visit is for us as a group to look into research opportunities with her and for her to transfer knowledge concerning international marketing.
- Why is it important to have this professor visit the School?
It is important to have Prof. Dr. Ay?egül Özsomer at the School because of her expertise and experience in international marketing, which is key given the strategic direction of the Marketing Area and of the School.
- What are the expectations in terms of her research contribution to the academic area?
Prof. Dr. Ay?egül Özsomer is my co-author from outside Universidad de los Andes with whom I expect to have the most collaboration in research. She uses many theoretical lenses within her work, including theories of consumer behavior, consumer culture theory, signaling some theories that could be complementary to professors’ research within the area.