Over the past several decades, Kevin Lane Keller, the E.B. Osborn Professor of Marketing at Tuck and Senior Associate Dean of Innovation and Growth, has emerged as an international leader in the study of brands, branding, and strategic brand management.
Included in his work is a research partnership with Dr. Roger Sinclair that made the case for the importance of brands as assets and their inclusion in a company’s balance sheet or financial statements. Sadly, Sinclair passed away in 2016, but he and Keller are now being recognized for their pioneering work. In early August at the Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) Summer Summit and Board meeting, Keller and Sinclair received the inaugural Blair Award for Marketing Accountability. Sinclair’s son Patrick accepted the award on his father’s behalf.
The award, issued by the MASB, is a memorial for marketing science pioneer Margaret (Meg) Henderson Blair, who published numerous papers, was awarded two patents, and was also the founding president and CEO of the MASB. The Blair Award will be given annually to “a marketing executive or academic that has implemented the principles of marketing accountability to: 1) drive business growth through continuous improvement in marketing ROI; and 2) prove the contribution of marketing to enterprise value,” according to the board’s website.
Keller is the author of many papers and the textbook Strategic Brand Management, which is now in its fourth edition and is commonly referred to as the “Bible of branding.” He and Sinclair co-wrote two articles published in the Journal of Brand Management: “A Case for Brands as Assets” (2014), and “Brand Value, Accounting Standards, and Mergers and Acquisitions: The Moribund Effect” (2017). The latter paper examines how acquired brands can maintain or decrease their value, but never increase in value—regardless of how well they perform. They call this phenomenon the “Moribund Effect.” As the MASB wrote to Keller in an email notifying him of his selection as the co-winner of the award, his published work with Sinclair “launched a new field of inquiry into the current improper accounting of brand value within financial statements and needed changes in managerial processes.”
To deal with the Moribund Effect, Keller and Sinclair suggest firms include a note on acquired brands in the Management Discussion and Analysis section of their annual report. The note should provide commentary and give perspective on the performance of these brands, information that wouldn’t show up in the balance sheet.
“This award is a huge honor,” Keller said, “and it means a lot, especially with Meg Blair’s name attached.”