Sashittal Plots Generational Evolution of Advertising

January 23, 2020

Have you ever wondered why we feel so compelled to tweet our cup of Starbucks coffee? This is the question that intrigued Dr. Hemant "Sashi" Sashittal, professor of marketing at Fisher, and his wife, Dr. Avan Jassawalla, professor of management at the State University of New York at Geneseo, and led them to discover how the nature of advertising has changed from past generations to the Millennials and Generation Z.

Dr. Hemant Sashittal

It’s no secret that the Millennials have already gained a reputation of “killing industries,” and Generation Z seems to follow suit in their disinterest in many once-successful companies. Large companies such as Coca-Cola have seemed to lose the public’s attention, while Starbucks is thriving. Why does this happen? And what does this have to do with tweeting your cup of coffee?

In the past, many companies have used an anthropomorphic approach to marketing, meaning they use human likeness in their branding in order to attract buyers. For example, the headlights and grill on a car were purposely placed to resemble a human face, and old glass Coca-Cola bottles were designed to be curved like a human body would. This, it was believed, would better allow the consumer to connect with the product and make it more likely for them to purchase it.

However, this theory of marketing no longer seems to hold up as the Millennials and Generation Z become more active consumers. Many mature companies now have a hard time connecting to these younger generations. In the meantime, companies such as Starbucks seem to be flourishing.

Starbucks seems to take on a different kind of persona on Twitter, acting as a type of online “celebrity.” They tweet, retweet, and comment on others’ posts. They are interactive with their customers, making them feel as though they aren’t just communicating with a massive company, but a charismatic individual. This is why many people may choose to tweet a picture of their cup of coffee—they don’t feel as though they’re promoting a company, they’re taking sharing a picture of a sort of celebrity in which they feel an emotional connection to.

Sashittal’s work is interesting in another way as well: almost everything he writes is co-written by his wife. Sashittal describes writing and publishing alongside his wife as “the best thing that’s happened to me.” They met when they were pursuing their doctorate degrees at Syracuse University and they have been working together since. Their differing perspectives and shared labor make writing high-quality publications even more rewarding.

Most recently, the power-couple landed two publications in Marketing Intelligence and Planning in 2019 alone! “Preliminary evidence of brand acquaintancing on Snapchat” was published in April, and “Brand entification as post-anthropomorphic attribution among Twitter-using Millennials” was published in October.