Jill J. Avery

Senior Lecturer of Business Administration

Dr. Jill Avery is a Senior Lecturer in the General Management Unit at Harvard Business School. Her research focuses on brand management and customer relationship management issues. Prior to her academic career, Professor Avery spent nine years in CPG brand management, managing brands for The Gillette Company, Braun Inc., Samuel Adams, and AT&T, and spent three years on the agency side of the business, as an account executive managing consumer promotions for Pepsi, General Foods, Bristol-Myers, and Citibank.  She remains close to practice by offering marketing consulting services to a range of brands and non-profit organizations, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she serves as a Trustee and the chairman-elect of the Board of Overseers.

Her work has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, European Business Review, Business Horizons, and Journal for the Advancement of Marketing Education.  Her doctoral dissertation on online brand communities won the Harvard Business School Wyss award for excellence in doctoral research and the Marketing Science Institute’s best paper award for work published in the International Journal of Research in Marketing. Her branding insights have been cited in Advertising Age, The Economist, The New York Times, The Financial Times, Forbes and Bloomberg/Business Week.

She currently teaches Marketing and Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD), a new, experiential field-based required course, in the first year of the MBA Program. She also has taught Branding + Different, an elective course in the second year of the MBA program. In the past, she has taught marketing management, brand management, integrated marketing communications, and consumer behavior in the MBA and undergraduate programs at Simmons College, Boston University, and Northeastern University. She received the Simmons School of Management’s award for teaching excellence for her MBA teaching.  She was awarded a Certificate of Distinction in Teaching at Harvard University for her undergraduate teaching.  Her executive education teaching has included sessions in the “Taking Marketing Digital” and "Strategic Marketing Management" programs at Harvard Business School and in the "Strategic Marketing" and the "Digital Strategies" programs for arts and cultural organization leaders at National Arts Strategies. 

She has written a series of teaching cases on branding and social media.  Her case writing includes cases on J.C. Penney, Porsche, Pepsi, EMC, Tate Modern, Park Hotels, Eileen Fisher, HubSpot, Filene's Basement, and Better World Books.  She has also published a series of "Go to Market" quantitative analysis tools that are available from Harvard Business Review. Her HubSpot case was awarded The Case Centre Marketing Award in 2014.  

She holds a DBA (marketing) from Harvard Business School, a MBA (marketing and finance) from the Wharton School, and a BA (English and art history) from the University of Pennsylvania.  Prior to joining the HBS faculty, she was an assistant professor of marketing at the Simmons School of Management from 2007-2013, where she was awarded tenure and promotion to associate professor. 

  1. Overview

    I love brands and have been managing them and studying them for 25 years, as a brand manager and as an academic researcher and teacher. My research program focuses on brand management and customer relationship management and centers on themes relating to the meaning of brands in contemporary consumer culture. My research attempts to balance two goals often perceived to be at odds with one another — 1.) to serve businesses in their search to improve their marketing effectiveness by providing insight into how to manage their brands as meaning-based assets, and 2.) to serve consumers by providing insight into the critical role brands and their meaning play in our lives as individuals, in our relationships with others, and in the evolution of our culture.

    Keywords: marketing; brand building; brand management; Brand equity; brand positioning; advertising; CRM; Customer Focus and Relationship; customer lifetime value; Customer Management; customer relationship management; digital marketing; social media; brands and branding; consumer products; Brands and Branding; Marketing Communications; Marketing Strategy; Customer Focus and Relationships; Advertising Industry; Apparel and Accessories Industry; Auto Industry; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; Consumer Products Industry; Fashion Industry; Food and Beverage Industry;

  2. Creating and Consuming Brand Meaning

    This vibrant stream explores how managers build meaning into their brands through narrative stories, and nurture, leverage, and maintain meaning over time.  It also explores how consumers use this meaning embedded in brands to construct their identities and live their social lives.  In several papers, I explore how consumers collectively make meaning for brands in online brand communities.  In others, I explore how men construct their masculinity through the use of brands and show how gender-bending brands, taking a brand that has historically been targeted to one gender and targeting it to the other, harms men's identity work, prompting a defensive response.  In other work, I explore how consumers use underdog brands to help them negotiate their own lives.  I also explore how brands can be agents of political, social, and/or cultural change by weaving brand narratives with social missions.
  3. Consumer-Brand Relationships and CRM

    This highly pragmatic stream investigates the contemporary practice of customer relationship management (CRM) by exploring the phenomenological, lived experience of consumers' relationships with brands.  Using a contracting theory lens supplemented with knowledge of sociological practices, this work explores the consumer-brand relationship contract, outlines the contents of various relationship contracts found in consumption, and traces the process by which consumers and brands form, negotiate, and renegotiate relationships over time.  Select publications develop a critical perspective on customer relationship practices that leave the people out of the equation and create contracts that are opportunistic and misaligned. This research stream is one of the first to inquire into the dynamics of consumer-brand relationships — enlivening an important construct in marketing that had previously been theorized only as a static variable.
  4. Branding in Digital and Social Media

    This very contemporary line of research explores the rapidly changing digital world, and investigates how emerging technologies are creating a new consumer culture in which consumers expect to be partners in the co-creation of brands.  The work explores the branding effects of e-commerce, social media, virtual worlds, online brand communities, and peer-to-peer sharing and provides managerial insights into the challenges of managing big brands in the age of social media.