UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Shaping Leaders, Driving Results

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
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Jan-Benedict Steenkamp

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp


Knox Massey Distinguished Professor of Marketing

"Strong leaders in the 21st century have to lead as well as to cooperate. Students that get the highest grades excel at both."

Research, teaching and impact on business

  • Netherlander Steenkamp grew up with such a strong basic European instinct about global marketing that he won the lifetime award of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences before age 45.
  • "The key," he reveals, "is to understand how consumers are similar and different. Their attitudes and behavior reflect their home countries."
  • Proctor & Gamble's president for Europe inspired Steenkamp's private label focus. The P&G executive's concerns about competitors led him to fund Steenkamp's initial research.
  • "Many top managers, even MBA students, underestimate the private label threat. They perceive store-brand products as tacky knock-offs, not consumer-valued brands."
  • His battle analogy: "Ignore private labels' impact and you create danger. Your opponents have free rein to win the retail war."
  • Major apparel chain H&M sells only store brands, says Steenkamp. "Women literally fight over Madonna logo dresses there." U.S. customers don't similarly battle to score Target's Mizrahi private label garb. At least, not yet, he adds.

"Private Label Strategy: How to Meet the Store Brand Challenge"

  • Published in 2007 by Harvard Business School Press; translated into Chinese, forthcoming in Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian.
  • Steenkamp's 15 years as a marketing consultant to global firms built a strong basis for his new book. Industry leaders praise it as the state-of-the-art tome on the topic. He details the best strategies for retailers, who are destined to compete against or collaborate with private label producers.

How UNC Kenan-Flagler creates strong leaders

"Strong leaders in the 21st century have to lead as well as to cooperate. To find the right combination is not easy. In its programs, Kenan-Flagler helps students develop this set of skills by a judicious combination of individual assignments and performance reviews and projects that have to be carried out by teams of students. Students that get the highest grades excel at both."

What personal passion brings balance to your life?

"Absolutely, my wife. She is the love of my life."

Read his full bio here.

Meet Our Faculty

Ted Zoller
Robert Bushman
Robert Connolly
Al Segars
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