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Prof. Peter Leeflang: ‘Marketing in practice still not profiting enough from academic research, and vice versa’

13 September 2011

In his valedictory lecture on 19 September 2011, Professor Peter Leeflang of the Faculty of Economics and Business will review the spectacular developments in his field. ‘Marketing has become a completely different subject as a result of the dramatic expansion in customer detail collection possibilities’, he says. ‘But marketing in practice still makes far too little use of academic knowledge and the academic world is often still working too much in isolation.’ According to Leeflang, a clear distinction should also remain between research universities and universities of applied science.

Leeflang’s valedictory lecture will round off a seminar on 19 September, where national and international speakers from academia and professional practice will explain trends and developments in the marketing field and discuss the impact of Leeflang’s professorship. After thirty-five years, the Frank M. Bass professor of Marketing will be officially saying farewell to the Faculty of Economics and Business, a teaching and research institute that is very dear to his heart, he says.

More and more customer details

‘Marketing science and professional practice have undergone a spectacular development in the last thirty to forty years’, says Leeflang. ‘That’s mainly due to the enormous growth in ways to collect data with the help of scanners (barcodes) and the arrival and use of the internet. All this data can be used to improve ways of meeting the wishes of customers.’

Despite the fact that marketing has thus become much more scientific, marketing in practice still makes far too little use of the increasing academic knowledge. On the other hand, the academic world could concentrate more on better support for concrete practice-related issues. Too often we are still working in a too isolated and theoretical way.’

Research university versus university of applied science

According to Peter Leeflang, we should cherish, protect and even shield academic marketing talent. ‘Dutch marketing scientists are second in the global ranking list of top publications, and marketing is the strongest growing field within economics and business studies.’ In order not to endanger this, the professor recommends only allowing (1) research universities with (2) a good name where (3) research is given high priority to offer Master’s degree programmes in economics and business. ‘A merger with universities of applied science, as suggested by State Secretary Zijlstra, is an extremely misbegotten plan. Unlike the numerous MBA degree programmes, research universities train students for an MScBA, a research-based degree.’

The professor has a preference for a two-year Master’s degree, to be concentrated in four or five locations in the Netherlands: ‘That way we would guarantee the quality and create a concentration of top researchers. In addition, we should select students and limit the numbers; we should also appoint fewer professors, but at the same time pay them an internationally competitive salary – just look at the US and even Germany. Finally, working at a research university should be made more attractive so that talented people stay in the Netherlands – and that includes sufficient research time and a reduction in administrative duties.’

Leeflang’s career: research and teaching

Reviewing his career, Professor Leeflang can see that in the last few years in particular, he has had a lot of time to conduct research. ‘I’m enjoying it immensely’, he says. ‘These are my top years for research, although I still love teaching too.’ The professor was voted Lecturer of the Year on a number of occasions, has never had a day’s illness when he’s had to teach, and all in all has good memories of his contacts with students. ‘I’ve always thought the person behind the student much more important than the marketing I was teaching. I took the students seriously, as I also did the people I met in the companies for which I was or am a commissioner.’

Promoting contacts between university and business

In addition to membership of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), Leeflang has also held business appointments, including at Koninklijke Niemeijer, EHCO-KLM, RetailNet, Ophtec and Duintjer-Veendam. In order to get more professional practice in the course units, in 1981 he founded MARUG, the University of Groningen Marketing Association. ‘The idea was to relieve some of the pressure on me and offer more to students.’ Previously it had been Leeflang himself who had promoted the contacts between the university on the one hand and businesses on the other, now a club of motivated students does this.

Nothing beats Groningen’

Rotterdam, Birmingham/Aston, Frankfurt and Rome: these are just a few of the places where Professor Leeflang has taught and researched. And although Korea maybe beckoning for the future, there are few places in his opinion that can beat Groningen. ‘The way that the marketing department works together here is something that I’ve never met anywhere else in the world. I firmly believe in the idea that a good relationship between people creates synergy for the whole team. And that is a good basis for research and teaching that you shouldn’t underestimate. I’ve spent six months in America on two separate occasions – the departments there are much less cohesive.’ Leeflang is also full of praise for SOM, FEB’s research school: ‘SOM is incredibly well organized. I’ve seen nothing like it at virtually any other university. Rotterdam, perhaps, or Tilburg, but actually there’s nothing to compare it with in the Netherlands either.’


The seminar in honour of Peter Leeflang will be held on Monday 19 September from 10 a.m. until 5.15 p.m., with Leeflang’s valedictory lecture at 4 p.m. in the Aula of the Academy Building, Broerstraat 5, Groningen.

Academic Programme: The Future of Marketing Models and The Future of Marketing
-Tammo Bijmolt (Professor of Marketing and Scientific Director of the SOM Research School, FEB, University of Groningen)
-Marnik Dekimpe (Professor of Marketing at Tilburg and Leuven): Strategic Marketing Models
-Michel Wedel (PepsiCo Professor of Consumer Science, University of Maryland): New Developments in Marketing Science
-Koen Pauwels (Professor of Marketing, Özyegin University, Istanbul): Marketing and Finance Interface
-Ruud Frambach (Professor of Marketing, VU University Amsterdam): New Developments in Marketing Strategy

The Legacy of Peter Leeflang
-Janny Hoekstra (Professor of Direct Marketing, University of Groningen),
-Jaap Wieringa (Associate Professor of Marketing, University of Groningen),
-Peter Verhoef (Professor of Marketing, University of Groningen),
-Sander van der Laan (Chief Operating Officer Ahold Europe),
-Hans Leeflang (Director of Knowledge, Innovation and Strategy of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, The Hague),
-Elmer Sterken, Rector Magnificus, University of Groningen,
-Harry Garretsen, Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen
-A representative of MARUG Marketing Association, University of Groningen

More information

-Information about the valedictory lecture and interviews: professor Peter Leeflang, tel. (050) 363 3686, p.s.h.leeflang
-Information about the seminar: dr. Jenny van Doorn, tel (050) 363 70 65

Last modified:13 March 2020 01.54 a.m.
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