2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Ethan Pancer, Saint Mary’s University

Ethan Pancer

Assistant Professor of Marketing

Saint Mary’s University

First impressions matter to Ethan Pancer. They are the foundation of branding. Often, these split second reactions drive buying decisions. This passion for first impressions — and how to generate favorable responses — has been a consistent theme in Pancer’s research, which has appeared in the Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Advertising, and the Journal of Historical Research in Marketing. It has also colored his recent research in social media, which has shown that tools designed to increase traffic (i.e hashtags, links, etc.) actually muddle the message and decrease response rates.  

All scholarship and no sport make for a dull classroom. And Pancer is anything but ho-hum or humdrum. He is well-known for doing a chicken dance in front of his class — in a full chicken costume — after losing a bold bet. While some may regard marketing as an art, his students get a full on dose of the science behind the success stories. His many student fans say his ability to connect and engage with them has made marketing not only pertinent but pressing.

“His intense passion for the subject and thirst for knowledge is inspirational and he is the reason I am pursuing marketing as a career,” explains one student. “His teaching style pushed us to research with extreme scrutiny, ensuring that the details were correct and all the bases were covered. Evidence-based marketing was the bottom-line and he left us with excellent skills and habits to carry forward into industry.”

Pancer’s research may be geared towards first impressions, but his teaching ultimately yields lasting ones.

Age: 32

At current institution since: 2013

Education: Ph.D., Marketing, Queen’s University (2013); M.Sc., Management, Queen’s University (2008); B.Com., Queen’s University (2007).

List of courses you currently teach: Marketing Management to undergrads and MBAs plus directed studies courses in Social Media Analytics & Case Writing

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I’m currently really interested in social media analytics, and more specifically, what is it about certain messages that drive interactions online. My coauthors and I use real Facebook posts, Twitter messages, and YouTube videos to predict the factors that drive this sort of engagement.

One of our recent projects looked at Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton’s tweets during the presidential election to see what factors were responsible for their audience’s liking and retweeting behavior. We find that using Twitter tagging tools like hashtags, user mentions, and website links – which are intended to increase audience exposure – actually corresponded to a decrease in likes and shares. We argue that these tools unintentionally introduce disfluency, making it harder to decipher the meaning of a message. This work has meaningful practitioner implications and was featured in The Globe and Mail.

Professor you most admire: Theo Noseworthy. He’s an incredible researcher who takes genuine pride in teaching as well as student & faculty development. He reinforces my belief that professors can strive for both balance and excellence.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I realized I could get paid for kvetching about products and services.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I’d probably be a pediatrician – it’s somehow become the Pancer family business.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Fake-it-til-you-make-it.

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: Back in 2012, when I was a very fresh prof, I wanted to communicate some of the challenges of social marketing, especially soliciting donations for unsought goods from less-than-willing consumers under time pressure. I told my students that if they could raise $200 for mental health research in the next 10 minutes, I’d perform the chicken dance in a full chicken suit. They did, so I did. I’m pretty sure there’s a video still kicking around Twitter somewhere.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Earning my Ph.D. Also, this!

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? I really enjoy shooting the breeze with students outside the classroom. I remember spitballing with a student about app development opportunities that addressed a real consumer need. A few months later, that student had entered the idea in a provincial technology start-up competition and secured $100,000 in venture financing. It was amazing to be there at the germination of an idea and see it blossom into a viable business.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Dealing with students who don’t put in the work.

What is your favorite company and why? Right now, it’s Pampers. Their diapers are… robust.

Fun fact about yourself: I was at the Gold Medal Men’s Hockey Game at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and witnessed Sidney Crosby’s golden goal from the 4th row.

Bucket list item #1: I wouldn’t turn down a safari in the Serengeti if someone wants to take me.

Favorite book: Anything from Dave Barry followed by “Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference” by William Shadish, Thomas Cook, and Donald Campbell.

Favorite movie: “Jurassic Park”: My brother and I wore out the VHS cassette.

Favorite type of music: Anything from the Lumineers and almost anything from Matthew Good.

Favorite television show: Breaking Bad

Favorite vacation spot: Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

What are your hobbies? Based on what I’ve been doing lately, it’s a combination of shoveling snow and changing diapers.

Twitter handle: @realethanpancer. Just kidding. I don’t have Twitter.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…a greater emphasis on experiential learning, which would better integrate what we teach with how it is actually used outside of academia. I think immersion experiences (e.g., implementing marketing strategies for social causes and tracking their effectiveness) are seldom used learning opportunities in business schools. These schools would also have a rich augmented reality platform in each classroom to help transport students to a variety of different environments. And free daycare! And free meatballs! The more I think about this, the more it sounds like I should work at Ikea.”

Students say:

I had grown used to showing up to class and sitting idle in lectures. Not so in Dr. Pancer’s class. Dr. Pancer used modern teaching methods to engage students in the material and the class. We were reading, analyzing and discussing cutting edge marketing industry case studies, both individually and as part of group projects, to an extent that I still remember the specific cases and material. He was an integral part of my university experience.”

“Dr. Pancer’s teaching style is not only engaging but uniquely informative. His case-based approach and demand for students to think critically was important to my enjoyable experience in his class. Not only is Dr. Pancer generating impressive consumer behaviour research, but he is creating a generation of future students that think critically, make effective decisions, and are ready for the business world. I know I speak for many of my classmates when I say that Dr. Pancer’s approach to teaching sets an unprecedented standard.”

“Throughout my time as a student, I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of outstanding professors – however, none have been quite like Dr. Pancer who always brings his extensive knowledge and genuine passion to the classroom. Dr. Pancer challenges each student to reach higher levels of learning. Dr. Pancer doesn’t just want students to remember, understand, and apply his material – rather, he encourages students to analyze, evaluate, and create original work with the newfound knowledge that he’s instilled in us.”


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