CERS Blogs


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!


You have probably heard people say that social media is free. Why do traditional marketing, when you can take advantage of social media and promote your brand? Literally without spending any money.


Well, social media is free. To establish business accounts on, for example Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, is free. It is also free to occasionally publish photos, tweets and status updates. However, presence does not maintain itself. Posts have their own lifetime on each platform. Accounts that lay idle, do not receive visibility. So, the freeness of social media is a tricky question. Having a social media account is not enough to doing social media marketing well. Instead, it takes time, planning and organizing. A company should integrate it into its marketing strategy.

Most forms of marketing come with a cost. So does social media marketing. The issue is to create content, and to post frequently enough so that people will notice it. Then the content will not drown in the constant flow of other companies’ social media marketing efforts. Time is money, but it is money well spent.



Dear readers and colleagues,


To continue my previous discussion about design in business, today I will write about another aspect of design, which I find very interesting – design thinking. You may hear about it somewhere but might not be entirely sure of what it really means. In this short blog text, I will explain very simply what design thinking within my comprehension means and how we can adopt it in our everyday life.


Design thinking or thinking as a designer is a term which has been used the past few decades. Surprisingly, it is stemmed from the design world but used mostly in business and engineering world. It arose from practitioners’ activity but has now been looked closer in several studies (Shapira et al., 2017).


Stanford university has introduced an Executive Education Initiative to influence business leaders and their organizations’ capacity for using design thinking in the workplace. IDEO, a global design firm, has aggregated it as a tool kit named “human-centered design tool kit” to introduce design thinking to business and it has reached over 100,000 downloads.



In the lateblog ciuchita 2 summer of 2009 I was leaving my home country of Romania for what I thought would only be a fast but intensive Master of Science (MSc). At that time, I had just finalized my bachelor’s degree with a specialization in marketing and I was working in strategic brand consultancy. For my Master studies, I had chosen Maastricht University in the Netherlands because they offered a one-year MSc which focused on strategic marketing. I started with a clear intention to work hard, get it done and get back to my branding work in Bucharest. If you had told me then that ten years later I would be an assistant professor in the Department of Marketing at Hanken School of Economics, I probably would have thought you had too many student-priced beers. Alas, this summer I packed my life into thirty or so moving boxes and shipped them (and myself) from Maastricht to Helsinki. As this is my first entry in the CERS blog, I thought it would be a great opportunity to reflect a bit on my journey so far.

Before my MSc, I had gained some experience with applied research during my branding consultancy work. Particularly, we were applying a brand auditing methodology that involved conducting interviews with top and middle management, sending out a questionnaire to all the other employees, analysing the data, deriving the brand identity and making recommendations. I very much enjoyed that process and was particularly intrigued by how different people within the same company perceived differently what their organisation stood for.


Imagine that you, as a destination marketing manager, have a crystal ball where you can see where the visitors have been, where they are at the moment and where they are going. What a tool for planning and development - transportation optimization, overtourism mitigation, safety and security issues and tourist experiences facilitation - we are talking about a digital twin.

A digital twin is a digital replica, a virtual representation of a physical object or a process, a digital aid companies can use for product development and test, and to monitor their products’ performance in real time. In comparison to CAD and blended spaces (Ayan & Benyone, 2013), the digital twin has, at least, two benefits. First, the digital twin represents a one-to-one connection between the real and the virtual reality. Second, it is dynamic and generates real time data using sensors and automated information sharing processes. Being an extension and consequence of the Industry 4.0 discourse, the digital twin offers business value by being the tool managers can use to reduce time to market for a new product, predict and detect quality defects, and improve on-time maintenance services (Tao, Cheng, Qi, Zhang, Zhang & Sui, 2018). Just to mention a few benefits.

In comparison to the development of digital twins for the manufacturing industry, the discussion of dynamic virtual representations of services and destinations is emerging. The three year tourism development and research project “Destination Kvarken” that Hanken and the Department of Marketing are involved in, started in August 2018, with one of the sub-goals to develop a digital platform for the Kvarken region, including Vasa (and neighbor communities) in Finland, and Umeå (and neighbor communities) in Sweden, and the transportation in between the two countries (today operated by Wasaline). This gave us a reason to draft an architecture for a “Digital Twin Kvarken”, being painfully aware of the fact that there is a huge discrepancy between theory (what we would like the virtual representation to be) and practice (what it will be), especially in business settings dominated by small and micro firms (with limited resources). However, let us not be depressed.