Frankly Speaking

A profile of Dr. Frank Bass, Director of the PhD Programs
By Phil H. Shook

(Article in the The School of Management, The University of Texas at Dallas volume 1, No.2 Spring 1998)

On those occasions when the name of The University of Texas at Dallas pops up in conversation among marketing faculty at such esteemed institutions as the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, the University of Virginia's Darden School and MIT's Sloan School of Management, it is likely to be referred to as "Bass's Shop."

Nicknames are born for many reasons. This one is an acknowledgment of the reputation the School of Management has for excellence and a reflection of the esteem held for Dr. Frank Bass, UTD's Eugene McDermott Professor of Management and director of its PhD Programs.

Dr. Bass, a pioneer in the development of the modern business school as well as one of the founders of the field of marketing science, joined UTD as a marketing professor in 1982. A native Texan, he previously served twenty-one years at Purdue University, where he was the Loeb Distinguished Professor of Management. His landmark contributions in marketing and economics have earned him international recognition, major awards, and Nobel Prize nominations.

The faculties on which his PhD students now serve read like a Who's Who of American universities, and his papers are among the most widely cited in the field.

Dr. Bass has earned a reputation as a builder as well as a scholar, educator, and marketing scientist.

In 1959, he was among forty management school faculty members chosen by the Ford Foundation to help bring credibility and direction to American business education. They were sent to Harvard University for a year of study that focused on mathematics.

Studies at the time reported the sad state of business school education. Students in business schools were ranked second from the bottom in terms of quality, and the faculties had about the same status.

Like the gathering at Harvard, efforts to improve this standing led to a revolution in business schools in the 1960s. For the first time, PhD students in business started receiving training in underlying disciplines, including psychology, economics, mathematics, and statistics. This philosophy of American business education has now spread throughout the world,

Like Dr. Bass, many of the participants of the 1959 Harvard group went on to help build programs at leading universities. One became dean of the Harvard Business School, another dean of Stanford Business School. Donald Jacobs, another participant, currently serves as dean at Northwestern's J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

A native of Cuero, Texas, Dr. Bass received his PhD from the University of Illinois after earning an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin and a BBA from Southwestern University.

Dr. Bass joined the faculty at Purdue University in 1961. In 1974, he became the Loeb Distinguished Professor of Management at Purdue's Krannert School of Management.

"One of the reasons that Frank Bass came here was because the dean at the time told him that he wanted him to do the best marketing done anywhere in the world. [The dean] realized that he was a talented person and turned him loose," says Dr. Dennis J. Weidenaar, dean of Krannert.

One of Dr. Bass's many landmark achievements came when he developed a marketing model that tracks the distribution of durable goods. It was 1966, and color TV sets recently had been introduced to American consumers. Sales were booming, but while everyone from Walla Walla to Wall Street looked at the industry and saw no end in sight, Dr. Bass alreadv was doing some "back of the envelope" model building that indicated otherwise.

Using differential equations, he plotted a peak in sales and a subsequent decline occurring in a short time frame.

He forecast that sales would reach a plateau in 1968, only two years away. Companies had built capacity for fourteen million color TVs, and he was predicting sales would peak at around seven million or a little less.

"I got lots of phone calls and mail from people about this, and some of them were angry," Dr. Bass recalls. "Some Wall Street people in particular were especially nasty."

The lack of recognition for the study even extended to some business school faculties, Dr. Bass says. "It involved a differential equation and a certain amount of mathematics, and they just didn't understand that sort of thing at all."

But in 1968, just as Dr. Bass had predicted, color TV sales reached their peak. Some of the manufacturers went out of business and had to ship their machinery to South America.

In 1969, the mathematical model was published in a research paper in Management Science Theory, and it later became known as the Bass Model.

By the mid-1970s, a growing number of marketing scholars with a grounding in mathematics and statistics recognized the significance of the model and began using it. Computer programs were written for it, and it has since found its way into a multitude of industry applications.

"It was exciting back in 1968, seeing the model playing out in a dynamic marketplace, and it is still exciting today," Dr. Bass says. Since then, he and his students have developed several extensions of the model.

More recently, it his become a key element in modeling the diffusion and substitution effects of successive generations of computer chips.

Dr. Bass and Professor John A. Norton, a UTD PhD graduate, used the Bass Model to study how newer technologies are constantly replacing older ones. The study, which they published in 1987, won the John D.C. Little Award, given annually by the international College of Marketing of the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science for the best paper published on management science or marketing science.

In 1994, Dr. Bass published what he calls the ultimate Bass Model. One of his colleagues, Dr. Gurumurthy (G.K.) Kalyanaram, director of the Masters Programs for the School of Management, describes this version, called the General Bass Model, as a great intellectual exercise with a lot of practical value.

Today, versions of the Bass Model are being used in industry to track the diffusion of products ranging from wireless telephones to disposable diapers.

Another significant milestone for Dr. Bass occurred in 1974 when he published a paper on stochastic brand choice in marketing. It made the case that consumers' choices cannot be predicted easily but that they vary depending on mood and many other factors.

Like the original Bass Model, this one also stirred controversy. Dr. Bass says it flew in the face of a view, then prevalent in the social sciences, of a deterministic world where it was thought that if you could measure everything about anyone, then you could predict with certainty what individuals would do.

"People who thought that way, didn't like this model," Dr. Bass says. "In fact, it made them angry."

His article, "The Theory of Stochastic Choice and Brand

Switching," published in the Journal of Marketing Research, won the American Marketing Association's William Odell Award in 1979 for its contribution to the field.

The work has had a significant impact on the way marketing managers think about brand choice and related consumer measurement. It also has led to many extensions and is frequently cited in marketing literature.

Dr. Bass also was one of the first marketing scholars to apply econometric methods in developing statistical estimates of the effects of advertising, promotions, and prices upon sales. In 1986, he was awarded the Paul D. Converse Award, given periodically by the American Marketing Association for contributions to marketing science and theory, for a long series of articles on econometric methods and stochastic processes.

Dr. Bass's international stature as a pioneer in the field of management sciences dates to 1978-79 when he served as president of the Institute of Management Sciences.

He and Dr. John D.C.Little, for whom the Little Award was named and who is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, established the Journal of Marketing Science. During that time, Dr. Bass was successful in getting the National Science Foundation to recognize marketing as an area for support. He also established an international conference on marketing science that will be held this year in France.

Dr. Bass's colleagues and students say he brings the same level of dedication and energy to his role as a mentor and educator as he brings to his work as a marketing scientist. "He worked very closely with his doctoral students. That was a distinct feature of his mentoring," says Dr. Mark Moriarty, professor of management at Purdue.

In addition to Purdue and UTD, PhD students that Dr. Bass has guided now serve on the faculties of the nation's leading business schools including Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Illinois, Ohio State, Duke, Cornell, U.T.Austn and UCLA, to name a few.

Of all the honors he has received, Dr. Bass says, none makes him more proud than the Frank Bass Award for Best Doctoral Dissertation. It was established by the marketing and economic community and is awarded annually.

Many of his students also hold key positions in business, government and industry. Donald Rice, one of Dr. Bass's PhD students at Purdue has served as president of the Rand Corporation, COO of Telydyne and secretary of the Air Force. He now runs his own company.

In 1988, many of Dr. Bass's former PhD students returned to UTD to take part in a "Bass Mania" gathering.

Over the years, Dr. Bass also has played an active role as a consultant to industry. He and Dr. Ram C. Rao, another senior member of the UTD marketing faculty, are actively involved with companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including Frito-Lay, Texas Instruments, Inc., and Nortel.

"You can't use old concepts in electronic, fast-changing markets," says Dr. B.P.S. Murthi, another member of the UTD marketing faculty. "And these are two gentlemen who can help [the companies] along in a big way.

Dr. Bass currently is working on a project with Nortel related to the development and market diffusion of wireless telephones.

Dr. Bass also excels in recruiting exceptional faculty for the UTD School of Management. His colleague and close friend Dr. Kalyanaram praises Dr. Bass for his skills as a mentor and as a recruiter.

He says Dr. Bass counseled him during his early career and then tried to lure him to the PhD management program at UTD.

Dr. Kalyanaram says Dr. Bass was very understanding and gracious about his decision to go elsewhere and gladly provided a recommendation for him to several schools. Dr. Kalyanaram says that while his grades were good enough to get into all the schools, what really helped him was Dr. Bass's recommendation.

A year before Dr. Kalyanaram finished final work on his PhD in marketing from MIT, Dr. Bass talked him into coming back to join the UTD faculty.

"UTD has an opportunity that doesn't exist in other business schools in Texas," Dr. Bass says, "to establish a national reputation for excellence, because it is new and because it is innovative. This is well understood by Dr. [Franklyn] Jenifer, our president."

A widower, Dr. Bass, 71, says he has no plans to retire.

His son, Douglas, 40, is enrolled in UTD's PhD program in computer science. The younger Bass says he thinks of his father in his academic career as someone who has stayed in touch with the real world.

"He took marketing, which was really like a black art when he came along," says Douglas, "and basically transformed it almost single-handedly."