Erin Anderson

ERIN ANDERSON (1955-2007)

Erin Anderson was a widely respected scholar and a beloved teacher.  She got her doctoral degree from University of California in Los Angeles in 1982.  Over the next 25 years, she was a trail blazer for innovative scholarship and empathetic mentorship as member of academe in Wharton and then in INSEAD (France.)  She was the John H. Loudon Chaired Professor of International Management and Professor of Marketing at INSEAD until her death in 2007.

Erin’s doctoral dissertation and her subsequent research on transaction cost economies was as deep as it was broad, and as applicable as it was path-breaking.  Nobelist Oliver Williamson offers this assessment of Erin’s contributions, “Following Erin Anderson’s perceptive uses of TCE in her 1982 dissertation, the field of marketing has made constructive uses of, and contributions to, TCE,…broadening TCE’s reach, posing important challenges, and identifying opportunities still to be addressed.”

Leigh McAlister, Ed and Molly Smith Chair in Business Administration at The University of Texas at Austin, former Executive Director, Marketing Science Institute, and a champion of women in academe, is as fulsome in her praise of Erin’s work as Williamson but also detailed.  Leigh draws our attention pointedly to “her (Erin’s) dissertation.”  Leigh goes on to describe the contribution thus, “In that dissertation she gave the first operationalization of Williamson’s transaction cost analysis theory (and that theory gave Williamson a Nobel prize).  Not only was Erin’s dissertation pathbreaking in Economics, it is imminently “teachable”.  Probably most of us rush through the selling portion of our marketing management courses.  If you will re-read Erin’s dissertation, you will find a very clear explanation of when a company should “own” its salesforce (i.e., have in-house sales employees with some fixed compensation) vs. when that company should “rent” its salesforce in the market (i.e., use brokers or manufacturers’ reps who are only paid if they are able to sell).  A Harvard note that was influential before Erin’s dissertation says that a new company should “rent” salespeople until that company gets big enough to be able to afford “own” their salesforce.  Erin explains logically what that is not the best rule to follow.  I urge you to reread: “The Salesperson as Outside Agent or Employee: A Transaction Cost Analysis”, Erin Anderson, Marketing Science, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Summer, 1985), pp. 234-254.  The finest tribute we can pay Erin is to read and use her work.”

A fellow doctoral scholar, Harish Sujan, now Freeman Chair for Doctoral Studies and Research in Business at Tulane University, is so effusive about Erin’s mentorship and scholarship, “Erin Anderson was Bart’s first real doctoral student, second if you count Bob Saxe who chose to go to Industry, and in my view far and away his best. Erin, who was two years ahead of me in the PhD program, was an outstanding mentor for other students, an amazing researcher and remarkably good at recognizing Bart’s preferences. It would have done me a whole lot of good to be more like her: it was obvious to me how deeply Bart cherished having her as his doctoral student.  Erin was married to Hubert who was also in the UCLA PhD program.”

Hubert Gatignon, The Claude Janssen Chaired Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus at INSEAD (France), husband and a partner of Erin, affirms the universal recognition of Erin’s contribution, “She developed innovative ways to measure factors such as environmental uncertainty or complexity of the sales transaction.  Her findings concerning the role of transaction costs in many “make versus buy” decisions remain central to management research today.”

What made Erin so insightful?  Sandy Jap, Sarah Beth Brown Endowed Professor of Marketing at Emory University and a friend of Erin, offers this assessment, “the ability to see a potential story in a wide range of datasets; coupled with her meticulous attention to writing and exposition.”

Of Erin’s collegiality and mentorship, Sandy Jap remembers fondly, “Erin was not only a valued mentor and an extraordinary coauthor, she was also a beloved friend.  She had the amazing ability to always find the good in something and the value in someone. Beyond the work, her warmth and upbeat perspective was an encouragement to countless individuals and remains an example for us.”

Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (G.K.), a doctoral alumnus of MIT, a faculty colleague of Frank Bass and a junior faculty in the 1990s recalls this: "Erin's intellectual contributions in developing empirical insights from transactional cost theory are seminal.  She brought empiricism to Williamson's theory, and thus enriched its applications.  Erin brought such joy and energy to learning and teaching, and exploring and discovery that she inspired her colleagues and doctoral students in the community to enjoy the process of research."

For her many contributions, Erin has been recognized with many awards, including the Louis Stern Award from the Journal of Marketing Research and the Decade Award from the Journal of International Business Studies. She belonged to the ISI Highly Cited list in Business and Economics, which includes the most referenced ½ of 1 percent of researchers in Business and Economics.

Erin was purposeful and visionary in that she was “devoted to supporting women’s success in academia and to mentoring doctoral students,” as observed by Hubert Gatignon and as evidenced by her work as the co-chair of faculty gender diversity at INSEAD.  In recognition of her purposeful mission, American Marketing Association has established “Erin Anderson Award for an Emerging Female Marketing Scholar and Mentor.”  And Erin’s daughter, inspired by her mother, is now a distinguished scholar and professor. 


Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (G.K.)
Dated: July 2021