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USF marketing professor’s research impacts classroom, business

Do heavier or lighter glasses make champagne taste better? What sensory factors encourage students in public school cafeterias to make healthful choices? Do different scents in hospitals impact patient recovery times?

Marketing Professor Dipayan Biswas can and has answered all of those questions in his research on sensory marketing. But aside from his prolific research and publishing record, the USF professor's students also say he has transformed the way they think about marketing. This year, Biswas was awarded the Academy of Marketing Science Outstanding Marketing Teacher Award, in addition to USF promoting him to full professor a month later.

"With all his business acumen, he has an innate ability to turn the theoretical into real world application," undergraduate student Meagan Gunsteen wrote in her support letter for the teaching award. "He creates an atmosphere where the students learn to dissect the traditional and accepted business 'norms' in order to develop a deep and personal understanding of the underlying values and core motivations."

Gunsteen's letter was just one of almost 100 comments -- some from letters, most from student course evaluations -- that praised Biswas' teaching to the selection committee.

"Definitely one of the best professors I have ever had," reads one student evaluation from the undergraduate basic marketing class. "He arranged to make the class interesting and simple, covering many topics of the subject."

"It really moved me, they were so nice," said Biswas of the student letters and comments. "The typical winners of this award are usually more senior professors - so I was pleasantly surprised to be a recipient at a relatively junior stage in my career."

Since receiving his PhD in 2004 and joining USF in 2011, Biswas' research on sensory marketing has been publicized all over the world. His interviews and research have been featured extensively in the media, by over 100 media outlets, including the New York Times, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, NPR, US News & World Report, Daily Mail (UK), Scientific American magazine, Men's Health and Women's Health magazines, and the Tampa Bay Times, to name just a few.

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2014, especially, drew international interest. He and his fellow researchers found that people were likely to perceive foods with crunchier textures as healthier, which could have a big impact on the way food is marketed. The study drew eye-catching headlines in The New York Times ("Chew On This"), ("Chewing the fat away? How dieters perceive crunchier foods as low-calorie"), and even Men's Health ("The Snacking Trick You Fall For").

Since then, Biswas has conducted research for various companies and organizations. His research in the Hillsborough County School District has examined the impact of atmospherics on students' food choices. He looked into the glasses a champagne grower in France was using for its champagne tastings on tours, and found that weights of glasses influenced assessments of the champagne's taste. A project with a hospital led to the discovery that some ambient scents could lead to faster patient recovery times. A project with USF's Monsour Executive Wellness Center resulted in recommendations (and subsequent implementations) related to ambient color and ambient music that could lead to increased patient satisfaction.

Biswas says while ambient color and food texture might seem like small things in the overall marketing arena, this growing field of research holds huge implications for changing the way companies do business.

"It feels good to know that my research on sensory marketing is not only helping companies create better customer experiences and superior product offerings, but that this research is also having positive implications for consumer health and overall well-being," he said.