Sachin Gupta, PhD ’93

The best of both worlds: Influential thought leader and masterful teacher

What if sales promotions aren’t having the effect companies think they have? Are consumers really switching brands or are they just buying what they would have purchased a few weeks later? Sachin Gupta, PhD ’93, who has been teaching at Johnson for thirteen years, is answering these kinds of questions and reshaping marketing theory with his research. What started with exploring the first available electronic data on pricing, promotions, and distribution channels has turned into a fascination with how retailers and consumers make choices related to and as a result of marketing.

Gupta’s research has made a deep impact in the marketing world. His 2003 collaborative article asked and answered, “Is 3/4 of the Sales Promotion Bump Due to Brand Switching? No, it is 1/3.” He and his colleagues explored whether it is wise for consumer products companies to spend as much as they do on sales promotions. Gupta specifically disproved the claim that three-quarters of the increase in sales from a promotion is due to brand-switching: Rather than convincing consumers to switch to brands that they would not have otherwise purchased, companies instead just brought future sales ahead by a few weeks. For this paper, he received the 2008 O’Dell Award from the American Marketing Association, which is granted to the authors of the best article five years after publication in the Journal of Marketing Research and recognizes long-term contributions to marketing theory as well as lasting relevance.

Gupta recently stepped down from a three-year term as associate dean for academic affairs — an experience he described as “humbling but also very satisfying” — and he is now back to full-time teaching. In thanking him for his “admirable service as associate dean,” Dean Soumitra Dutta acknowledged him as a “much-admired faculty member.”

With his insightful teaching and welcoming personality, Gupta is a masterful instructor as well as a researcher, and his students recognize this. At Johnson, he co-teaches the core marketing course and teaches an elective on Data Driven Marketing, which is his favorite to teach because of its close ties to his research. In the classroom, he brings abstract concepts to life by giving students hands-on experience with quantitative methods, showing how they apply in the real world. At their fifth reunion in 2009, the MBA Class of 2004 selected Gupta for the Stephen Russell Distinguished Teaching Award, recognizing the continuing influence of Gupta’s lessons in their careers.

This appreciation is reciprocal – Gupta also enjoys working with Johnson students. “They are so engaged with their education that they always want to get the most out of the classroom,” he says. “That keeps me on my toes.” For example, sometimes students ask about the previous day’s news in relation to a concept covered in class, and he wants to be able to answer those types of questions.

Gupta came to Johnson from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where he served as a professor from 1993-2000, and he has taught as a visiting professor at both the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India, and the Nanjing University School of Management in Nanjing, China. More recently, Gupta has begun looking at sustainable innovation and how companies can reduce their impacts on the environment. He is currently working with a company to obtain data for research in this area.

Gupta is well positioned to make further contributions in the field of marketing in the years to come, both in and outside of the classroom. “I like the idea that I can do both [research and teaching] and do them well,” he says. “It’s satisfying.”

Patrick Braga ’16 is an intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson.