Antonella Zucchella, interview with a Visiting Professor

Interview de Martial Bellon

Antonella Zucchella is a professor at the University of Pavia, in Italy, specialized in marketing, internationalization, and entrepreneurship. She’s been a visiting professor at EM Strasbourg for many years. Jessie Pallud, head of the research area “Marketing and Digitalization” was very pleased to ask her questions about her most recent studies.

Hi Antonella, could you tell us more about your professional background?
Hello! My name is Antonella Zucchella and I’m a professor the University of Pavia, in Italy, where I’m teaching marketing as a main course but also topics related to business sustainability and circular entrepreneurship. I’ve been a visiting professor at EM Strasbourg for at least 20 years now, and I always enjoy going to Strasbourg to teach classes and collaborate with HuManiS researchers.

You recently published a book on circular entrepreneurship co-authored with Sabine Urban, professor emerita at the University of Strasbourg. What are the opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurship in the circular economy?
Circular economy is becoming a very trendy topic. Through all our studies, reported in this book, we could observe that there are two types of companies: grown circular or born circular.

The first type encompasses mostly large established firms that are increasingly embracing sustainability and some circular economy business models. They have plenty of resources to manage the transition, though it is a complex process. The other type (born circular firms) comprises smaller companies, new ventures that have circular economy in their DNA from the start. They have fewer resources from a managerial and financial perspective, but they have more innovativeness and fresher ideas about how to run a business nowadays. We found many of them in France and all across the world. They are becoming carriers of important innovations, and they cross-fertilize with the larger companies, which then creates a symbiotic system that works very well.

You wrote an article in International Marketing Review about the contribution of marketing to strategic agility in entrepreneurial internationalization. Could you share some insights on that matter?
This paper is about small or young companies going global very quickly, even with limited resources. The aim was to analyze why they are using internationalization to develop assets but also what could be the obstacles to this strategy and how to overcome them. Their agility refers to their customer-centric strategic design, to their flexibility and fast responsiveness to market changes and customer demands. It can help them to move from the traditional marketing approach based on segmentation-targeting-positioning to persona and value proposition design, through agile approaches.

Finally, they extensively leverage information and communication technologies to “read” the market, have timely customer feedback, and develop their strategy. The Internet, social media, and all these new digitalization processes are a very powerful booster for fast internationalization.

In the research area “Marketing and Digitalization,” several researchers are specialized in consumer behavior. Based on your findings, what are the research topics that you see important to investigate in relation to customer behavior?
I’m doing a lot of research on customer behavior in the sustainability field. The “sustainable consumer” is a really interesting topic because, based on statistical analysis, I realized there are huge gaps between what consumers say and what they actually do.

A striking example is that 90% of consumers say they are in favor of sustainability, but 30% of them declare that they are willing to buy sustainable goods and services. And in reality, only 3% of them effectively purchase those products. So my research activity in consumer behavior is devoted to understanding these huge intention-action gaps, cognitive dissonance, and other factors of resistance in consumer behavior and then to using behavioral economics to help companies convince consumers to buy more sustainably.

As an eminent scholar who has published numerous papers, what advice would you give to develop a successful career in academia?
The first advice I would give to researchers is to really understand what topics they are passionate about and use them as subjects of study. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. You tend to overcome obstacles more easily if you choose personal interests as a research field. For example, I have chosen to study sustainability because I believe so much in increasing sustainable behaviors in companies and among consumers.

The second advice would be to stay persistent, no matter what. Even if you are in love with a subject, if you don’t really put continuous efforts in it, it will be more difficult to finish your projects. I have noticed that the most successful scholars I met were very persistent; they never felt discouraged and kept on working hard until their papers were accepted.

Thank you very much Antonella for taking the time to answer our questions!

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