Ana Babic Rosario

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Ana Babić Rosario is Piccinati Associate Professor of Marketing. Her research has two streams: (1) technology-enabled communication and consumption, including electronic word of mouth (eWOM), online reviews, social media, and influencer marketing, as well as (2) consumer nostalgia, retro-marketing and transformative heritage consumption. Her work has been published in top-tier academic journals, including the Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science and Journal of Interactive Marketing. She serves on the editorial review boards of the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Business Research, and Responsible Research in Business and Management Honor Roll, as well as ad hoc reviewer for other leading marketing and consumer research journals, such as the Journal of Marketing.

She has received many prestigious honors and external research funding and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses, including Foundations of Digital Marketing, Marketing Research, Introduction to Marketing, and Qualitative Research Methods.

What do you study?

I research a variety of digital phenomena: how consumers create and share internet memes, how they leave digital signals that allow companies to target them, how they become increasingly digitally vulnerable, why they decide to follow social media accounts and how they participate in online communities.

Many of my research projects were inspired by observations of consumers’ online interactions. I was fascinated, for example, by food consumption ideologies (e.g., the Whole30), which later informed my research about the paradoxes in virtual support communities. I was drawn to this line of study in the mid-2000s, before I even started my PhD program, during a time when I was fascinated by gluten-free eating communities online, and why people would radically change their diets if they did not have a health condition. Where were those people getting their information? Where and how were they finding support? On the one hand, I saw that online communities can bring people together. But then through research we’ve found that these communities can also be very unkind. Very disengaging. Very demotivating. I’m always interested in those paradoxes and dual lenses, and it was fascinating to see some of the same questions asked by the U.S. Senate in October 2021, when Frances Haugen tried to illuminate the gray areas of social media and warn us that online social interactions can jeopardize the mental health of individuals, groups and communities.

In addition to consumers’ use of technology for purchase, information exchange and consumption, I study nostalgia marketing.

Can you talk a little bit about your sabbatical at Oxford?

In Fall 2023, I spent my sabbatical at the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, where I collaborated on several research projects—including internet memes and Advertising Net Zero—with Felipe Thomaz, associate professor of marketing and co-director of the Future of Marketing Initiative (FOMI). During this time, I participated in four marketing conferences and gave a talk at the University of Oxford, as well as Royal Holloway University. In addition to Oxford, I visited 17 different cities in Europe with my husband and toddler. Many of my colleagues have shared that they believe I “did sabbatical right” and I remain incredibly grateful to Daniels and Saïd for this incredible opportunity. I am excited to collaborate with my colleagues there and participate more actively in FOMI in the future.

What have you been working on lately?

By far, my most popular and productive research stream remains the effect of eWOM on sales—on Yelp alone 186 million people post 150 million business reviews each month, and 90% of consumers rely on these reviews for buying decisions. I am currently studying how companies harness customer voices and appropriate online reviews in their marketing communications. I built a unique dataset of approximately 400 brands who have showcased online reviews in their ads, catalogs, emails and other promotional materials since 2011. In addition to advancing theory, this research will help brands understand how showcased reviews benefit their image and how to optimize their use to encourage transactions.

Important work with my colleague at Oxford looks at memetic potential. Memes are among the most likely-to-be-shared type of content on social media by Gen Z and Millennial internet users; over a million memes are shared daily on Instagram alone. We are investigating what memes are, when and how they appear, when they have more “memetic potential,” and how they impact consumers and brands.

In addition to the digital work, I research nostalgia marketing. We’re in an election year, so we can expect invocations of past times that were “better”—humans have a natural tendency to believe this. My co-authors and I recently published a paper in the Journal of Consumer Research called “Consumer Timework,” where we explore how time influences consumer behavior. In a follow-up project, we are exploring the promises and perils of nostalgia marketing to signal when this is a wise marketing tactic, and when it may be dangerous to individuals, groups and societies.

How do you incorporate your research into the classroom?

I’ve been fortunate to interact with student audiences at every level at Daniels—undergraduates, graduate marketing students, MBA students, as well as our Executive PhD students, and I love bringing my research to all of those different audiences. With my undergrads, I like to talk about social media marketing, online reputation and electronic word-of-mouth phenomena. I talk about brand rumors from the ‘90s and today’s megaphone effects of social media: What used to be analog opinion sharing from friend to friend has transformed into megaphone attacks. The old adage was if you loved a product, you would tell three people about it. If you didn’t love it, you’d tell nine. But we are on a totally different scale today. My students are very social media savvy and device savvy. I’ll have them pull out their smartphones and read their usage metrics, then discuss what all of that engagement means for their mental health and how companies use it to personalize their offerings. I also bring in research instruments into my classroom, and I show students interview protocols, past surveys and data visualizations.

How would you like to see your work impact the world?

I want to boost the success of businesses in a way that is also mindful of consumer well-being. Our job in marketing is to increase profits and I hope that my work, if implemented by brands, helps to do that, but also makes them think about implications for consumers. If there is an opportunity to pause and make a choice about doing the thing that is better for consumers, I hope companies will do that.