Love-it or hate-it brands: Study looks at stock market performance

April 15, 2014

Are you a big fan of Apple or Nike, or a hater of McDonald’s? A new study from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University shows love-it or hate-it brands probably won’t perform exceptionally well in the stock market, but they also offer investors less risk because you know just what to expect – the good and the bad. It’s something to consider in our volatile stock climate.

“Investors and company officials need to better understand the impact of brand dispersion – when consumers are polarized both for and against a certain brand,” explains Michael Wiles, assistant professor in the W. P. Carey School and one of the study’s authors. “Increasing brand dispersion may mean less amazing company returns overall, but it also means less volatile returns because some customers are super loyal and some haters will never buy the brand’s products, no matter what.” portrait of Michael Wiles, assistant professor of business, ASU Download Full Image

Wiles and his co-authors, professor Xueming Luo of Temple University and assistant professor Sascha Raithel of Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, looked at data from more than 3 million users of more than 2,600 brands in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. They considered people’s perceptions of brand quality, value and satisfaction, as well as whether they would recommend the brand, feel good about using its products or feel good about working for the company. The results of their study were published in the academic Journal of Marketing Research and the Harvard Business Review.

“Dispersion can affect investors’ confidence in a brand, such as when there’s a lot of negative chatter on social media,” says Wiles. “Downside dispersion has a stronger pull on returns in the short term.”

Walmart, Fox News Channel and AT&T are some brands that have high dispersion. Intel and Amazon are low-dispersion brands. Wiles says brand managers should pay close attention to brand dispersion and engage, even with the haters, when appropriate. They should either placate the haters or amplify the polarizing issue to rally and interest loyal fans.

Wiles weighs in on recent examples in the news that illustrate the importance of considering brand dispersion:

• General Motors is under scrutiny right now for its handling of faulty ignition switches. The negative information may lead GM’s more marginal customers to become brand haters and less likely to purchase the company’s stock. Wiles says the issue will probably lead to lower stock returns going forward, but the stock will also become less risky.

• Sochi was a problem for the normally low-dispersion brand of the Olympics. Wiles says holding the Winter Games at a “subtropical beach resort with palm trees” was inconsistent with the brand, and there were security questions and other logistical issues, as well. Consequences? Attendance was relatively low and television viewership right away was down 8 percent in comparison to the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics.

• Coca-Cola, a high-dispersion brand, decided to embrace a recent controversy over its multilingual “America the Beautiful” ad that ran during the Super Bowl. The lovers and haters brought in 8.4 million YouTube views for the ad, delivering both positive and negative reviews on social media. The company decided to air an even longer version of the ad during the opening ceremony of the Olympics with an added “E Pluribus Unum” disclaimer.

• Taco Bell, another brand with lots of lovers and haters, recently launched a new breakfast menu with a brazen ad campaign that pokes at McDonald’s. Several real people named Ronald McDonald sing the praises of the new breakfast items. Those who already liked underdog Taco Bell appreciated this needling, and it drew a response and social-media postings from McDonald’s lovers and Taco Bell haters, increasing buzz and ad awareness.

The full study on brand dispersion can be found online at

ASU students receive prestigious 'Faculty for the Future' fellowship

April 16, 2014

Two graduate students in Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration were recently honored with renewals of the prestigious “Faculty for the Future” grant from the Schlumberger Foundation. The award provides up to three years (based on annual evaluation) of financial support for selected students pursuing doctoral degrees.

The Schlumberger Foundation has granted $6.3 million to 168 women scientists through its “Faculty for the Future” program for the 2014-2015 academic year. Now in its tenth year, this program supports women scientists from developing countries through grants to enable them to pursue doctorate and post-doctorate studies in scientific and engineering disciplines at leading universities worldwide. Ruirui Han (left) and Gayatri Marliyani (right) Download Full Image

Gayatri Marliyani, originally from Indonesia, and Ruirui Han, from Hubei Province (China), were among the 84 applicants to have their grants renewed.

Marliyani is pursuing a doctoral degree in geological sciences. This is her third year of funding. She focuses her research on the active faults and earthquake hazards of Java Indonesia.

Indonesia experiences a variety of geologically-related hazards, including earthquakes and tsunamis. In Java, the hazards are mostly associated with the activity of the upper plate structures as response to the tectonic subduction south of the island. For her doctorate, Marliyani evaluates observable deformation in the upper plate of Java to identify zones of rapid deformation in the area. The results should contribute to the development of seismic hazard analysis in Java, and may be useful in understanding similar subduction systems in other parts of the world.

Marliyani attained an undergraduate degree in geological engineering at Gadjah Mada University in 2005. She then earned a master’s degree in geological sciences at San Diego State University in 2011. In the fall of 2011, she arrived at ASU.

“Gayatri is a very hard worker, extremely intelligent and an excellent scientist. Her research has fundamental value in helping us understand active faulting, and it is applicable to earthquake hazard reduction,” says her adviser, professor Ramon Arrowsmith. “She is an excellent role model and a wonderful ambassador for the Faculty for the Future program.”

After completing her graduate studies at ASU, Marliyani says she plans to return to Indonesia to teach at the Geological Engineering Department, Gadjah Mada University, as well as continue her research.

Han is pursuing a doctoral degree in exploration systems design. She attained an undergraduate degree in communication engineering at Wuhan Institute of Technology in 2009, and then earned a master’s degree in electronics engineering at Tsinghua University in 2012. She arrived at ASU in fall 2012.

This is Han’s second year of funding through the Schlumberger Foundation. Her research focuses on micro-electro-mechanical systems used for earth and space exploration. She specifically looks at pH value sensors of high spacial resolution used to study geobiochemistry in harsh environments, which is very important to understanding life’s origin and evolution.

After completing her graduate studies at ASU, Han says she plans to return to her hometown of Xiangyang to teach, mentor and continue her research.

“Ruirui has demonstrated great work ethic and excellent intelligence in pursuing scientific discovery with her engineering mind. As an example of the school's goal of integrating science and engineering, she is a unique member of the Faculty for the Future program,” says her adviser, Hongyu Yu, an assistant professor in the school.

The School of Earth and Space Exploration in an academic unit in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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Nikki Cassis

marketing and communications director, School of Earth and Space Exploration