CERS Blogs



Burglars are getting smarter, unfortunately.

It was about a year ago when we were moving to a new neighborhood. We fitted everything in a van and set off for the new home. The driver of the van, for some reason, started to talk about burglaries in Helsinki and Vantaa. Evidently, he did not believe in the true value of silence. Anyway, among other things, he advised me against buying the commercial anti-burglar light bulbs – those that randomly turn on and off while you are getting a tan.

When I asked why, he gave me a rather detailed explanation, specific to each major one, of how to detect whether the house is on an anti-burglar lamp or not. “When you see this, sir, you know it is safe to go in. The house with all lights off is a gamble, not good sir. They go to sleep really early here, you never know…” I wish him, of course, to be wrong. People still pay for these devices to pretend to be at home, by some random consumption. That is, to hide the true pattern of consumption (and non-consumption) from the passers-by.




In recent years, the popularity of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have literally exploded and today over 900 universities in the world offer more than 11.000 MOOCs on every imaginable topic. Equally impressing, over a 100 million students from all around the world are enrolled in these courses. At Hanken, we have joined the MOOC train by launching Principles of Service Management; the first ever MOOC on service management and marketing, taught by Professor Emeritus Christian Grönroos. We are currently in the middle of our second official run of the course (the first was in the autumn 2018), and it is super exciting to see over 1.000 learners with diverse backgrounds and experiences from almost 130 countries explore a service-based approach to business.


MOOCs have several advantages over traditional classroom education (disadvantages as well, but that’s a topic for another time). For example, they give excellent professors from highly ranked universities, such our own Christian Grönroos, access to thousands of students with no extra marginal cost per individual. And many of these students would never otherwise have the opportunity to study under these professors. Moreover, MOOCs allow students to learn at their own pace and go back and review lecture videos and materials whenever they want, as much as they want. Lastly, these courses can be accessed by anyone anywhere with an internet connection. You don’t even need a computer as most MOOC platforms are optimized for smartphones and tablets as well.



Here’s a question: When was the last time you watched an advertisement on Youtube? Really watched it? For me, the strongest impression of these advertisements is one of impatiently hovering over the “skip ad” button. And this is not just me, it’s a part of a larger trend: We don’t want to be advertised to anymore.


One could argue that digital advertising is about to face a crisis. Consumers are increasingly averse to traditional forms of advertising. Why? The problem can be summarized in the words of controversial Swedish media personality Alexander Bard: “On the Internet, advertising is called spam”. This somewhat brash statement has some truth to it. During the last decades, advertising avoidance has become an increasingly relevant topic for researchers. Phenomena such as banner blindnessad blocking and skip rates of around 90 percent for pre-roll video ads make it increasingly hard for advertisers to get consumers’ attention.


If this development continues, will there be a future for digital advertising? We might be able to get an answer by looking at what has changed. In an article soon to be published in the Journal of Services Marketing, we argue that the reason for the current problems can be found in the digital media itself. When consuming digital media, the consumers expect to be in control.



Financial well-being matters

Our spending, borrowing and saving habits are important for our quality of life – in all life stages. These habits are main ingredients of our financial well-being and important for us. Financial well-being has been found to be have a strong positive relation to our overall personal well-being. It for example impacts our health including stress and anxiety levels.

People with a healthy financial status are essentially happier and more confident and they have a more positive outlook on the future than people who experience some kind of financial stress. Financial well-being is not only important for us as individuals and in households but it is also important since it affects our productivity in the workplace and how we function in society.


Hence, financial well-being is relevant and important to recognise. All in all, the majority of people in western countries live rather comfortably. Reports, however, reveal that the amount of money that households set aside as a nest egg has decreased for most industrialised countries in recent years. A stable labour market and increase in consumption have led to greater private spending while the savings rates have declined to a record-low level. Young adults are particularly vulnerable and, in many countries, student loan debt is rising. And working-age people are known to be worried about not having enough money in later life but they still, paradoxically, do not increase their savings for retirement. Each of the trends is surprising especially as companies, organisations and policy makers are extensively trying to increase knowledge and offer tools to promote healthy spending.

Financial well-being is personal and subjective


Service research in Hanken commenced in 1976. Around 1990, the group of faculty members and doctoral students that were interested in the field of service had grown at the Department of Marketing, and service research dominated the research at the department. Therefore, all faculty and doctoral students in Helsinki and Vaasa, 10–12 persons, were summoned to a departmental meeting, in December 1992. This meeting took place in a small conference hotel located in Raippaluoto (Replot) outside Vasa.


This meeting determined the future direction of the Department of Marketing. What should the focus of the department’s research be, was the main topic of the meeting. Firstly, the meeting decided that service was a natural choice. Secondly, it was noted that such a small department did not have the strength to focus on several areas. Hence, the marketing department decided to focus firmly on service research.


Change. What a wonderful but intimidating word with all its underlying implications. All of us who have faced a new circumstance know that going outside our comfort zone is never easy. Certainly not in personal life, but even changing behavior collectively in an organization is a resource-consuming process. Still transformation in business settings is expected and even required, otherwise companies risk becoming obsolete. Yet, although most companies are trying to keep up with the increasingly turbulent business landscape, many are struggling to find the tools for business transformation to meet changing societal, environmental, and financial expectations.


So, it is not surprising that transformation is a key issue on the agenda of both researchers and practitioners. It certainly keeps me intrigued. Transformation is challenging because it happens on so many dimensions, not just in the context of business. Typically, transformation is seen as the consequence of technology advancements.


“But although new technologies are often major factors, they have never transformed an industry on their own. What does achieve such a transformation is a business model that can link a new technology to an emerging market need.” This notion by Kavadias, Ladas and Loch (2016:91) is consistent with my research focused on three different trajectories of transformation:


  • Digital transformation – Emergence of disruptive technologies that create new practices and allow different solutions to existing problems. Examples here are IoT (Internet of Things) technology, biometrics, and artificial intelligence that enable home and building automation, remote health monitoring, and smart traffic control.



I recently visited my home country, Bangladesh, for some research-related purposes. During my trip, I visited an organization that deals with treatment and wellness of disabled individuals. The organization - Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) - is the leading organization of the country and located on the outskirt of the capital city, Dhaka. It provides healthcare and rehabilitation services to individuals who have diverse categories of movement-related disabilities or trauma.


The services are open to any individual irrespective of his or her socio-economic background and are affordable so that people with financial difficulties can get access to high-quality healthcare services. In my view, the organization has developed a wonderful system that not only works within the boundary of the organization but also extends beyond that, to develop patients’ socio-economic core in the long run. I call this system a tripartite interactive system comprising organization, individuals and society. My thoughts are depicted in Figure 1 below.




At the heart of the system is well-being of disabled individuals who visit and get services from the organization. While it is customary to think that a service provider aiming at the improvement of optimal functioning can enhance physical and psychological well-being, it is fascinating to learn that the provider can simultaneously work towards recipients’ financial well-being and capacity building.



Oops – I did it again. I count that during my workday, I have eaten five (or perhaps six?) Jaffa biscuits, some dark chocolate, some very nice small carelian pies, mints, and all butter cheese straws – all in addition to breakfast and lunch. Neither my dentist nor my physician will be happy – nor am I. What on earth has happened?


There are several underlying reasons for why snacking becomes so frequent whilst working at home – not just by me but also several colleagues I have spoken with. First reason is simply availability: Having goodies lying around makes it far too easy to resist them. I for example have a secret dash where I keep my emergency chocolates. Trust me, there are a lot more emergencies on a typical work day at home than one would imagine. Like one’s feet getting numb at 10 a.m. At 11 a.m., shoulders need a break. At noon, there certainly should be a lunch break.  At 2 p.m., eyes are getting tired. At 3, kids are coming home hungry and need some snacks. Noticing that the clock is close to 4 p.m., I try to boost one last hour of work even if I am completely exhausted (possibly related to the previously mentioned homecoming of my dear children, who despite their many admirable qualities do not usually contribute to a peaceful work environment).


The self-help industry is usually quoted being a ten-billion-dollar industry. Arguably, most of it is nonsense – or at the very least non-scientific. Modern gurus such as the notorious  life-coach-billionaire Tony Robbins, the alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra, and the author of The Secret, Rhonda Byrne, have sold millions of products to solve all of life’s ailments. These peddlers of easy answers, who often lack any kind of formal higher education, do have their critics. You can easily read exposes from journalists delving into the shady backgrounds of these practitioners, and debunking articles written by academics exposing the pseudoscience behind the claims of these life-coaches. However, there is a blind spot that seems to be prevalent both in the private sector as well as in academia.  




Whether we like it or not, Christmas is all about giving and receiving gifts. We just can´t escape it. Some people start hunting for the best gifts as early as in July, keeping a secret stash of goodies hidden in the bottom of their closet. Other people (read: the most of us) are not so keen on planning and opt for sweating, cursing and desperately scanning the malls the weekend before the big holiday. Do the gifts tell us more about the giver or the receiver? And what could the marketers do about it?


In many instances, it´s all about the giver. The choice of a gift is a clear reflection on the giver’s desired self-identity. For example, the giver may want to show their excellent taste or the knowledge of what´s new in town. This is a good opportunity for the marketers to promote new, exclusive ideas and solutions. People find such new things when there is a buzz, often coming from the influencers on social media or celebrities. For the receiver, it may be a real treat to show off that handbag from the new hip designer. On the other hand, it could also be a plain torture for the receiver to go and eat in that new restaurant where the food is eaten among graves in a cemetery (check out this restaurant in Berlin, if you want to give or receive this type of a gift: http://www.iheartberlin.de/2016/06/17/dining-at-the-cemetery-moos-restaurant-at-silent-green/) – an innovative gift but perhaps not a very pleasant experience for the receiver!