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Stacey Menzel Baker Earns Responsible Research Award

Nov 30, 2021
5 min Read
Stacey Menzel Baker smiling

The award-winning research is just one way the marketing professor seeks to carry out the Heider College of Business mission of promoting justice and improving the world through business.

To most, marketing is a sales tool, whether it’s the promotion of a business or brand or peddling the latest product. For Stacey Menzel Baker, PhD, professor of marketing at the Heider College of Business, marketing has an added meaning. 

“Marketing is really about the study of relationships: relationships between firms and their customers, between customers and brands and products, and so forth,” says Menzel Baker. “I am interested in how those relationships are formed and sustained, or not. Disasters disrupt those relationships and provide an interesting place for us to witness the recreation of relationships between people and their possessions.” 

In researching the power objects have in our lives, Menzel Baker studied how one town, Greensburg, Kansas, redefined itself through its recovery from a devastating tornado. The result was an article titled “The Bounce in Our Steps from Shared Material Resources in Cultural Trauma and Recovery,” recipient of the 2021 American Marketing Association’s Elton B. Stephens Company (EBSCO) Annual Award for Responsible Research in Marketing.

The AMA-EBSCO honors outstanding research that produces both credible and useful knowledge that, when applied, benefits society. 

The article, co-authored by Courtney Nations Baker (no relation) and published in a special issue of the Journal of Association for Consumer Research, was selected from more than 70 nominations that exemplified the Seven Principles of Responsible Research set out by the Responsible Research in Business and Management network, of which Creighton’s Heider College of Business is a member. These principles are: service to society, valuing both basic and applied contributions, valuing plurality and multidisciplinary collaboration, sound methodology, stakeholder involvement, impact on stakeholder and broad dissemination. 

When telling the story of a community affected by natural disaster, such as Greensburg and the tornado that nearly erased it from the map, how the story is told is just as important as the facts it contains, says Menzel Baker. Balance is vital. If the narrative focuses on suffering with little attention to resiliency, or vice versa, help from beyond the community diminishes. Both vulnerability and resiliency are necessary to telling a community’s story and securing outside assistance in recovery. 

“Help won’t come if there isn’t a balance between the narratives ‘we are hurting’ and ‘we are trying to help ourselves,’” says Menzel Baker. 

After the tornado that destroyed all of Greensburg’s 121 businesses and 95 percent of its infrastructure and homes, its citizens had to decide if they should rebuild or move on. As a dying agricultural community, they needed hope. It came in the form of reinvention. They would put the “Green” back in Greensburg, reimagining themselves as a sustainable community. 

They succeeded, and Greensburg became a guidepost for other communities facing extreme loss, says Menzel Baker. 

But anyone, not just those affected by natural disaster, can extrapolate lessons from Menzel Baker’s research because we all own possessions, and we all are defined in some way – large or small – by those possessions. 

Greenburg “can also help us understand our relationship to possessions and help us decide if that type of relationship is something we want to maintain. We often let possessions control our choices and actions. This research can help us see their power and help us decide if we want to continue to be controlled by our stuff,” Menzel Baker says.

“While I think possessions can bring us joy, I also think they are responsible for more suffering than we realize,” she adds. “Disasters are one context that helps illuminate this. We wouldn’t suffer so much if we didn’t rely so heavily on our stuff.”

Interested in a deeper dive into Menzel Baker’s research on the relationship between people and objects and its connection to the community of Greensburg? She and her co-author shared their research story with the American Marketing Association.