By Leonard Berry

Published in The Conversation

“Cancer survivor” has become a catch-all phrase to refer to living individuals diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Cancer clinics and clinicians, patient advocacy organizations and media reports commonly use the term.

Using cancer survivor as a descriptor is certainly an act with good intentions. After all, people diagnosed with cancer have a diverse array of physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs – and the language of survival can be empowering to many of them. For this reason, institutions that focus on cancer have framed the term broadly. For example, the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship has defined cancer survivor as “any person diagnosed with cancer from the time of initial diagnosis until his or her death.”

Nevertheless, as marketing professors who study how to better serve patients, we were struck by the notion of applying the term “cancer survivor” so broadly that it would even include people who ultimately die of cancer.

Should the same term be used for the entire spectrum of living people who have experienced cancer, which represents more than 100 distinct diseases affecting approximately 14 million people in the United States?

A complex issue

Indeed, the published research on this question reflects its complexity. An analysis of 23 studies of how people diagnosed with cancer view the term “cancer survivor” shows that although many embrace it, others see it as inappropriate. Some of them fear not surviving if cancer recurs; others think the term itself is disrespectful to people who die of cancer or believe the term better fits people with cancers more serious than their own.

Still others simply don’t want to live with the “survivor label” or don’t think the term reflects who they are. In studies that ask patients to make a discrete yes–no choice about whether they identify as a cancer survivor, the percentage who say “yes” ranges from about 31 percent to 78 percent, depending on the type of cancer and other individual factors, with breast cancer patients generally showing greater affinity for the term than patients with other types of cancer.

Recognizing that forcing a yes–no choice on this delicate question is not ideal, we partnered with Dr. Katie Deming, a radiation oncologist at Kaiser Permanente, and Dr. Jeffrey Landercasper, clinical adjunct professor of surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, to conduct our own study of how current and former patients perceive the term “cancer survivor.” We measured reactions to the term in three ways: a seven-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree, a 100-point allocation exercise from 0 (negative) to 100 (positive) on a continuous scale, and an open-ended question, “What is your personal opinion about the phrase ‘cancer survivor’ and why do you feel as you do?” We analyzed more than 1,400 surveys completed by patients, primarily with breast cancer, who belong to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation’s Army of Women, an organization that connects researchers with people who want to participate in breast cancer research. About three-quarters of our respondents were currently undergoing cancer treatment.

Our findings reinforce the concern that motivated our study. Respondents’ average scores for the two quantitative questions were slightly above the scale midpoints, indicating many people are negatively disposed to the term. The open-ended question was especially revealing in documenting not only how respondents regarded the term but also why. Overall, about 60 percent of comments were negative, 29 percent positive, and 11 percent neutral.

Among the negative responses to the term “cancer survivor,” the most common theme had to do with its disregarding the patient’s fear of recurrence. One woman’s response captures the essence of this concern: “I feel like I’m tempting fate when I say I’ve survived it.”

Other women who felt negatively about the phrase made statements such as “I don’t deserve to carry the title proudly because I didn’t ‘suffer’ enough to earn [it]”; “I prefer not to define myself by my cancer diagnosis or status”; and “it erases the experience of those who [still] have or will die of the disease.”

Patients who felt positively about being called a cancer survivor often said they took pride in the accomplishment of surviving cancer – as one woman put it, “of winning the battle against this life-threatening disease.” Another said the term made her feel “empowered, instead of victimized.” Others cited the sense of community conferred by the phrase, specifically a “personal connection to other cancer patients.”

Our statistical analysis comparing respondents with negative perceptions versus positive perceptions of the term indicates that undergoing active cancer treatment, advanced cancer stage, and older age at diagnosis or study participation are associated with less positive perceptions.

Health care language should do no harm

The key takeaway from our study, and from other published research on the topic, is that using a single label to describe a diverse population of cancer patients in blanket fashion inevitably leaves a substantial percentage of them feeling unrepresented, perhaps even alienated, by the term – even though many others derive positive benefits from using and hearing it. In short, because the group of people typically described by the term is far from a monolith, a single phrase that is subjective rather than factual is unlikely to be up to the task. The label “cancer survivor” is not based on any specific fact related to a person’s particular treatment or diagnosis; it is plainly subjective.

Language used with and about patients is important and can cause needless distress when used without care. Why not let patients choose the language of their cancer-related identity so that it best reflects their own individual experiences and preferences? Existing research, including our own, suggests that the question is worth considering.

Categories: Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Spotlights, Texas A&M

By Kiera Merritt ’19

The United States Department of Labor predicts, “Today’s learners will have eight to10 jobs by the age of 38.” A majority of these future jobs do not even exist yet. For instance, people interested in both robotics and law could become robotics ethicists to mitigate issues such as ownership of and culpability for decisions made by machines. Because of modern technological innovation, once unimaginable opportunities are becoming new careers.

On Jan. 25, Christopher Bishop – a nonlinear, multimodal careerist – provided students at Texas A&M University with insight into succeeding in these fields of the future. Throughout his life, Bishop continuously redeveloped his skills and created new jobs for himself.

He toured internationally as a musician with artists such as Robert Palmer and Chuck Berry; wrote advertising jingles, including the original “Gimme a Break” Kit Kat jingle; turned a conversation on a commuter train into a 12-year career at IBM; and now delivers presentations on the future of work around the world.

Each time Bishop switched careers, he focused on three fundamental tools for success:

  • Voice. Identify your own brand. Invest in what makes you stand out. Frame your persona on your own uniqueness.
  • Antenna. Connect your interests to events in the world. Seek sources based on your values and interests that help you stay informed. These sources include magazines, newspapers, blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts, or other forms of media.
  • Mesh. Share yourself with those who value your skills. LinkedIn is a valuable tool. Expand your network by adding at least five people each week. Reach out to others who share your interests and goals, and join groups to expand your connections. This puts you on the radar of people you would otherwise miss.

While creating new jobs can be a daunting process, the trepidation behind progress is nothing new. In fact, in 1589, Queen Elizabeth I refused to issue a patent for a mechanized knitting machine, “for fear it [would] put [her] poor subjects out of work.” However, the new workforce should look to the future without hesitation because, as Bishop stated, “As long as there are problems, there will be jobs.”

The Mays Innovation Research Center hosted this event.

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Jobs, Mays Business, Mays Innovation Research Center, News, Research, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

Returns are typically viewed as costly and problematic for retailers, particularly with shoppers who abuse return policies. But can legitimate returns be used as a way to build stronger relationships with customers and increase profits?

Professor James Abbey, in conjunction with Michael Ketzenberg and Rich Metters in the Department of Information and Operations Management at Mays Business School, highlight this concept in their recent MIT Sloan Management Review Article, “A More Profitable Approach to Product Returns.”

According to Abbey and colleagues, retailers are missing out on a large group of consumers who never make a return when they find a product unsatisfactory. These, often, one-time purchasers simply never return in every sense: no future purchases and no returned products. Using recent advancements in data analytics, the research team discovered that retailers can use legitimate returns as a profitable marketing tool to better meet the needs of these unsatisfied shoppers.

“Roughly 50 percent of customers never make a return. We refer to them as ‘non-returners.’ They make a couple of transactions, then poof – they’re gone. It’s as if they never existed, but you don’t want to lose these customers,” explained Abbey. “What we’re learning is they’re finding a flaw with the product or they don’t like something about it. Yet, these customers never give the retailer a chance to provide a better option.”

The researchers pose the question: What if companies took these dissatisfied non-returners who walk out the door, and convinced them to become occasional returners who continually come back as regular customers?

“A customer is someone who makes repeated purchases. They are the lifeblood of any business. Retailers incur substantial acquisition costs to attract new purchasers. One-time buyers may often cost the retailer more than they make from the sale,” added Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University.

Abbey’s team suggests that retailers look at non-returners as an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell a product to better meet the customer’s needs, which can lead to an increase in customer satisfaction and retailer profitability. In effect, focus on building a long-term relationship using returns as a selling tool.

“The people who never make the returns provide only a small fraction of the profit compared to customers making frequent returns. If you could find a way to create more loyalty and build a stronger relationship to get them to try more products, you can train these customers to be occasional returners,” Abbey noted.

“The question we’re really posing is not that continual abusive returners aren’t a problem. On the contrary, such abuse can cost millions of dollars per year. Rather, we’re thinking of how to re-engage with customers who don’t make returns. Retailers need to entice them to come back,” Abbey explained.

In order to convince these shoppers to come back, retailers need to understand their consumers. Abbey’s team advocates that data collection and analysis of transaction patterns of shoppers can be valuable tools in figuring out a path to draw these customers back. These factors could include more competitive pricing, targeted incentives, easier return options, or availability of complementary products.

“It’s really gotten easier to understand a customer, to understand their patterns, and understand what it means to get them back in the store,” said Abbey. “If a person truly does not return products and you see this in their pattern, and you can say hey, look if you waive your right to return, we’ll go ahead and give you an extra 10 percent off. This technique is already in action at WalMart’s online portal Jet.com.”

For some non-returners, such a discount could build loyalty because it rewards their preference to avoid returning items.

“In the end, the vast majority of customers who make returns are significantly profitable. In fact, the data shows that customers making sizable returns generate the greatest profit,” Abbey concluded. “Instead of considering all returns as a failure or undesirable outcome, there’s an opportunity to tailor your return options for customer’s needs as a means to form a long-term, profitable relationship.”

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

At Mays Business School, we step up to advance the world’s prosperity. Our mission is to be a vibrant learning organization that creates impactful knowledge and develops transformational leaders. Mays Business School educates more than 6,400 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its programs and for faculty research.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

When Sydney Carsten ’19 began her undergraduate career at Mays Business School, she did not know that she would create a class in which students learn about transforming the business of healthcare. The supply chain management and business honors major did not know she would become the first business undergraduate to take graduate classes in the School of Public Health. What Carsten did know, though, was that she had a passion for healthcare and helping others.

That has made all the difference.

“It’s been this journey of discovery and finding my own way,” Carsten said as she recalled how she found her passion for the business of healthcare. “I can make a difference in the university and find purpose in life.” …Read more

Categories: Featured Stories, Health Care, Mays Business, News, Research, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

Retailers are stocking fewer goods on their shelves, but have companies taken inventory reduction too far? A number of academic studies of U.S. retailers have revealed an overall decrease in product inventories.

Rogelio Oliva and Gregory Heim, professors in the Department of Information & Operations Management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, are two of the researchers behind a study that examines this issue using data from 114 U.S. retailers during 2000 to 2013. …Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

Fifty years into his career of studying marketing, Leonard Berry continues to garner accolades. The Mays Business School leader is only the second person in history to receive the “Big 4” national marketing awards – a grand slam of sorts.

Berry is a University Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Regents Professor, Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, and holder of the M.B. Zale Chair in Retailing and Marketing Leadership at Mays Business School.

He received the fourth prestigious award, The Sheth Foundation Medal for Exceptional Contribution to Marketing and Practice, during the American Marketing Association (AMA) Summer Academic Conference on Aug. 10. …Read more

Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Spotlights, Texas A&M

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will require more consumer control and creative digital marketing. To clear up some of the confusion, Venky Shankar, Professor & Coleman Chair in Marketing and Director of Research at the Center for Retailing Studies, answers some questions about it.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is a sweeping set of new rules developed by the EU to protect consumers in Europe.

Why is it important?

GDPR comes at the right time as we all are still recovering from the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica breach of consumer trust. The new set of rules will go into effect starting May 25. Non-compliant companies can face fines up to 4 percent of company revenues or Euro 20 million, whichever is greater. Although the jurisdiction is limited to EU, it will represent a test case for other countries to develop their own data protection regulations.

Unfortunately, only about one-third of marketers have heard about it and about one-fifth of the companies haven’t made any meaningful changes to their data collection and use to the point of non-compliance.

How will it affect consumers? …Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

Alliance combines research expertise and entrepreneurship for new transportation advances

Taking innovative transportation ideas and working with the private sector to develop them into viable products and services that improve transportation safety and mobility is the goal of a new partnership between the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

The partnership was announced Wednesday, May 9, at the Texas A&M Transportation Technology Conference by TTI Agency Director Greg Winfree and Mays Business School Dean Eli Jones. It is the first partnership of its kind for both TTI and Mays, as it marries the entrepreneurial-focused educational and experiential opportunities offered by the McFerrin Center with the deep transportation research expertise at TTI, a state agency and member of The Texas A&M University System.

Designated the “Innovation Hub @ TTI,” the purpose of this venture is for TTI and the McFerrin Center to work together with a range of partners to develop transformative transportation solutions that address long-standing mobility and safety challenges.  The goal is for these solutions to be marketable to the public and provide product commercialization opportunities.

“This is a paradigm shift in how we at TTI might think about approaching a transportation problem and formulating a solution,” said Ginger Goodin, TTI senior research engineer, who is leading the initiative. “As a public transportation research agency, it is becoming increasingly important for us to engage more deliberately with the private sector in addressing today’s transportation issues because our transportation system is clearly becoming more reliant on private-sector innovation. The McFerrin Center offers TTI expertise in facilitating industrial partnerships and identifying marketplace needs to help us grow our private-sector relationships.”

“The Texas A&M University System has profound innovation capabilities, and our researchers are thought leaders within practically every industry,” said Blake Petty, director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. “TTI’s researchers are a shining example of transportation thought leaders, and we are pleased to partner with TTI on this new venture. We envision the Innovation Hub @ TTI will make a significant impact on how we innovate and translate next-generation transportation technologies to the marketplace. We also see the partnership as a prototype for problem-solving innovation and entrepreneurship training across the Texas A&M System.”

The Innovation Hub @ TTI will function as a catalyst for interdisciplinary research and innovation in emerging transportation solutions and will include the involvement of TTI researchers, Texas A&M students, private-sector partners and the broader transportation community.

About the Texas A&M Transportation Institute

Recognized as one of the premier higher education-affiliated transportation research agencies in the world, TTI’s research and development program has made significant breakthroughs across all facets of the transportation system. TTI research is widely known as an excellent value with a proven impact of saving lives, time and resources. In the laboratory and the classroom, TTI researchers help prepare students for transportation careers.

About the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

Since its inception in 1999, the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship has served as the hub of entrepreneurship for Texas A&M University. Offering more than 30 enterprising programs each year, the center engages student and non-student entrepreneurs in a variety of opportunities to enhance their entrepreneurial skills. From business plan competitions to entrepreneurship certificates to the Startup Aggieland accelerator to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, the center’s programs are touted as transformative and inspiring.

Categories: Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Research, Texas A&M

Marketing Professor Venkatesh Shankar was an invited guest of the U.S. State Department in  Cairo, Egypt last week, where he delivered multiple presentations on marketing. He said online promotion can make a quantum leap in the trade between Egypt and the United States.

At the International Conference on Business Sciences on April 15-16, Shankar delivered presentations on “Innovations in Emerging Economies” and “Digital Marketing: Trends and the Future.” He spoke at the American Chamber of Commerce, Cairo University, Nile University, Ain Shams University, American University in Cairo, and American Embassy.

During a meeting with a number of journalists at the American Embassy in Cairo, he said electronic marketing helps to provide information about the products available in Egypt, and is a competitive advantage in the U.S. market. “Electronic marketing can make a difference in the movement of trade in the sectors of cars and technology among countries in the next five years,” he said.

Shankar said the advantages of electronic marketing will not stop at exports and imports between Egypt and the U.S., but could also introduce American consumers to some Egyptian products and services, enabling Egyptian entrepreneurs to market their products electronically and exchange experiences with their counterparts in the U.S.

“The challenge here is that some communication technologies are not as powerful in rural areas,” Shankar said. “They will have to focus on covering those regions.”

Shankar called on all companies to increase their investments in the development of the technology sectors infrastructure, which helps to expand the establishment of electronic stores and facilitates the transport of electronic goods. “Large companies rely on electronic marketing because they consider it a powerful tool to promote their products,” he said.

About Shankar:

Venkatesh (Venky) Shankar is the Coleman Chair Professor of Marketing and Director of Research at the Center for Retailing Studies, Mays Business School. His areas of specialization include digital business, marketing strategy, innovation, retailing, international marketing, and pricing. He has been recognized as one among the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds by Thomson Reuters and as a Top 10 scholar worldwide on innovation.

 

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

The public is invited to watch the finals on April 20 for Aggie Pitch, the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship’s inaugural pitch competition in which students from Texas A&M System schools and branch campuses pitch their business concepts.

 

Registration will start at 9 a.m., and the program will begin at 9:30 a.m. The awards luncheon will begin at noon. RSVP here: www.AggiePITCH.com

In recent weeks, the participants have gotten a chance to showcase their ideas. In addition to a cash prize pool of $50,000, the winners potentially will be considered for nomination to additional business plan/pitch competitions across the nation.

Finalists invited to the April 20 event will be evaluated and scored by a panel of prestigious entrepreneur/investor judges who volunteer with the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. The judging panel includes Blake Teipel, Ph.D., a local entrepreneur and former student collaborated with the McFerrin Center in 2015 to win a number of business plan competitions around his company concept, including the Rice Business Plan Competition. The Aggie Pitch award winners will be announced at the luncheon shortly after noon.

The goal of Aggie Pitch is to encourage all Texas A&M students to explore entrepreneurship and learn how to deliver their business concepts in the most compelling fashion.

…Read more

Categories: Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Research, Students, Texas A&M