Warc Blog

Obit - Andrew Ehrenberg, marketing pioneer

1 September 2010
LONDON: Andrew Ehrenberg, the pioneering market researcher and influential academic, died late last week.

Ehrenberg's interests centred upon establishing empirical generalisations applicable in areas like brand buying, TV viewing, consumer attitudes and reactions to price changes. (A wide-ranging summary of his contribution to the industry is available here.)

Among his landmark findings were the Negative Binomial Distribution (NBD) model of buying, ultimately extended to cover brand choice via the NBD-Dirichlet model.

The idea of "Double Jeopardy" proved particularly important, in arguing that a big brand will possess a greater number of loyal customers than a similar, smaller rival almost entirely because of its scale.

More specifically, it suggested that repeat buying and other loyalty measures do not vary greatly between individual brands, meaning that increases in penetration are typically behind any growth in sales.

One consequence of this finding for marketers was that the most cost-effective use of resources may be to "nudge" occasional customers to buy, rather than trying to "squeeze more out of" dedicated clientele.

"With hindsight, I was probably always aiming at findings that were both simple and generalisable," Ehrenberg wrote in an article looking back over his 50 year career, published in 2006.

"But this neat aim became explicit only slowly. At first I just unthinkingly did what I did. It seemed natural – like the bits of science I had picked up at school. I didn't set out to be different."

Born in Germany in 1926, his family sought asylum in the UK in 1939, and Ehrenberg went on to study at Queen's College, Taunton, followed by spells at Newcastle University and the University of Cambridge.

In 1951, he began a three-year stint as a lecturer in Statistics at the Institute of Psychiatry, located at Maudsley Hospital in London.

During the late 1950s, Ehrenberg moved to the Attwood Consumer Panel, a precursor of TNS, and then founded Aske Research, working alongside Gerald Goodhardt and Martin Collins.

In 1970, he was named as Chair of Marketing and Communication at the London Business School, where he remained for 23 years, in time assuming a Research Chair.

In 1993, he took the role of Professor of Marketing at London South Bank University, launching the Centre for Research in Marketing, closely associated with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Research in Marketing at the University of South Australia.

As well as winning the Gold Medal of the UK's Market Research Society twice, in 1969 and 1996, Ehrenberg held an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Statistical Society, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of South Australia in December 2005.

In March 2010, he received the Advertising Research Foundation Great Mind Lifetime Achievement Award.

"We are very sad to lose a legendary figure in marketing, market research and the statistics field," said a statement on the website for the Ehrenberg-Bass institute.

"Over his life Professor Andrew Ehrenberg's contribution to the development of marketing science has been enormous."

All of Andrew Ehrenberg's articles available on Warc can be accessed here.

Data sourced from LSBU/Ehrenberg-Bass Institute; additional content by Warc staff

 
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