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Interpreting Purchasing Power

A visit with Suraj Commuri, Assistant Professor, Marketing Department

By LuAnne Roth
Published: - Topics: marketing consumerism Marketing Mavericks marriage personal finance

There are some people in the online world who prove to be more influential than others in terms of the information they provide to the public. For example, exclusive and time-sensitive price data or reviews of new products are the types of information that these third-party individuals seem motivated, even compelled, to offer to as many people as possible. Much to the initial annoyance of companies, such information bears importantly on influencing actual purchasing behavior. The activities of these curious individuals have attracted the attention of Suraj Commuri, Assistant Professor of Marketing, along with his student Scott Radford, a Ph.D. candidate in the same department, who seek to understand the world of these so-called "Marketing Mavericks." Using open source tools that are free to the public, the research team has been actively gathering data, watching how key individuals behave online, and then later following up with a questionnaire and e-mail interviews. Having gathered data since 2002, the team has developed some preliminary findings.

Another long-term area of Commuri's research examines husband and wife decision-making behavior in nonconventional United States households, those in which the wife earns significantly more than the husband (one-third of husband-wife households in the U.S.). Whereas existing theories posit husbands exercising more decision-making power when they are the primary earners, this power distribution is not reversed in those situations where the wife earns more. In fact, on the basis of his eight years of field research observing households--during which he has spent time with couples, watching them shop, go to parties, eat meals, and so forth--Commuri has found that wives invest a great deal of time and energy to avoid "stepping on the husband's toes," ever vigilant to avoid highlighting the fact that she earns more than he does. These findings are clearly valuable for the marketing world; moreover, Commuri's work in this area suggests that feminism still has a way to go before its goal of equality is realized.