If you’ve ever questioned whether marketing was an art or a science, or even both, look no further than the Academy of Marketing Science Annual Conference.

There, you’ll find leaders marketing industry leaders, left- and right-brained thinkers, data scientists, creatives, analysts, and even designers. During the conference, Anita Pansari, an assistant professor in the Department of Marketing at the Broad College of Business, presented during the Mary Kay Doctoral Dissertation Competition. She walked away a champion, showcasing the art and science behind her dissertation, “Engagement: A Source of Competitive Advantage.”

Anita Pansari accepts her award onstage

Pansari (second from left) poses with Mary Kay Doctoral Dissertation Competition judges and runners-up from Georgia Tech and LSU.

Pansari’s research examined how companies’ internal employee engagement impacted their bottom lines. She broke her study into two parts: the first focused on understanding how customer management has evolved over time and how it impacts customer engagement; the second focused on testing the relationship between customer and employee engagement.

After testing 120 different companies over two time periods, Pansari found that employee engagement directly impacts customer engagement, and both employee and customer engagement impact a firm’s performance (in short: the better companies are to employees, the more engaged they are with customers, and the better they perform overall).

Sponsored by Mary Kay Inc. and the Academy of Marketing Science, the competition was chaired by marketing academics from the University of Texas at Arlington, James Madison University, and Kent State University. Pansari competed in the finals against marketing faculty from Georgia Tech and Louisiana State University.

Looking ahead, Pansari will dive deeper into understanding the relationship between customer experience and engagement, as well as analyzing the benefits a firm has when engaging stakeholders.