Dr. Praggyan “Pam” Mohanty is a marketing expert who worked on the corporate side before she sold herself on the idea of offering her skills and talents to the world of academia at Governors State University (GSU).
The India native researched and promoted products and services in two global firms as a big brand advertiser and then as a consumer researcher, combining her passions for marketing and consumer behavior, but found little meaningful engagement.
“I was struggling and finally there was an epiphany. I realized I wanted to be in academic research,” said Mohanty, who earned her Ph.D. in Business Administration at University of Missouri and quickly joined the highly esteemed College of Business as an Assistant Professor.
She had found her niche. “After I made the decision, everything felt very natural. I felt at peace.”
Mohanty’s newfound peace inspired her to publish three first-authored research papers--with inclusions in the prestigious Journal of Advertising and Psychology and Aging--and she won the 2016-17 College of Business Research Award. Psychology and Aging carried one of her prized studies, “Beneficial Effects of Schematic Support on Older Adults' Memory: Differential Patterns of Support of Item and Associative Information.”
Mohanty began that study with traditional consumers and later continued at GSU with her own students. One of only three full-time GSU marketing professors, Mohanty cites the use of GSU facilities and undergraduate and MBA students as an example of using all available resources to bring real-world lessons to her classes..
GSU Newsroom: Before coming to GSU, you worked for Lowe Lintas and AC Nielsen in India. What lessons could academia learn from the corporate world and vice versa?
Mohanty: Academia could learn from corporate best practices in business administration, and corporate could learn from academia how to delve deeper in its business approaches and how to be more altruistic.
Corporations have to fine-tune a lot of their practices and strategies to stay profitable. They are constantly asking, ‘How do I do this better? What is the best practice for this goal?’ For academia to be able to emulate these best practices, they need to do it creatively because of budget constraints.
What corporations could learn from academia is how to add more depth for long-term impact. When you think about our academic research, we don't just propose--we test the theory out. We persevere towards obtaining reliable results to prove our hypotheses. This is something corporations can do, as well, to learn the long-term impact of their strategies.
More importantly, I think corporations should learn about altruism from academia where it’s all about, ‘How do I enrich the society and expand the skill set of students?’ Faculty have more a sense of giving. When corporations think of altruism, they think of donations and money.
GSU Newsroom: You specialize in consumer research, did you have any a-ha! moments while conducting your research?
Mohanty: I am fascinated by how consumers process and respond to marketing information. One of the biggest surprises early in my research career was observing that, at times, the results and initial hypotheses were inconsistent. During my dissertation, I was studying ways to improve the episodic memory for brand information among older consumers. As people age, their ability to bind information deteriorates, and consequentially they exhibit poorer associative memory--memory for the co-occurrence of a brand name and its logo graphic together-- compared to item memory. This memory is for only the individual items, such as brand name or the logo graphic.
I studied two types of memory support that could potentially bolster associative memory in older consumers: meaningful brand elements and related brand elements. An example of meaningful brand elements could be the logo graphic of the Ferrari depicted as a stallion, while an example of related brand elements could be the Jaguar car’s logo graphic and the brand name.
Initially, I thought both meaningful brand elements and related brand elements would help the older adults associate information better. However, it turns out the improvement is in the type of memory that receives greater support. So, meaningful brand elements enhance memory for the items, and related brand elements improve memory for the association. The knowledge of such differential effects of the two types memory support on associative versus item memory is not only intriguing, but it also helps marketers craft more effective strategies. I continued this line of research at GSU in the context of younger consumers, in a project that was partly funded by GSU’s University Research Grant.