by Véronique Jouhaud
Marketing Professor Michel Laroche was recently elected Fellow of the world's largest association of psychologists, the American Psychological Association (APA), for his contributions to consumer psychology.
Laroche, who joined Concordia's Faculty of Business and Administration in 1979, has an impressive research profile in consumer psychology, especially in the area of consumer information processing and cross-cultural psychology.
His research has led him to develop several models and measurement scales, write more than 100 papers, 26 textbooks and 30 supplementary manuals, in addition to winning many awards.
Within the span of one year, Laroche received the APA award, was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and honoured for the best paper published in 1997 by the Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences.
Before turning to marketing and customer psychology in the early 1970s, Laroche had received his early education and earned an engineering degree in his native France. He had also earned a Master's in operations research at John Hopkins University.
After getting his Master's from John Hopkins University, he earned a scholarship to Columbia University, where he met renowned psychologist John A. Howard.
Under Howard, rather than pursuing doctoral research in production management, he wrote his doctoral dissertation on consumer psychology, A New Approach to Non-linear Consumer Behaviour and Market Segmentation by the Use of Orthogonal Polynomials. "I found that marketing was far more interesting and diversified than production management," Laroche said.
Howard was one of the first to introduce psychology into the field of marketing in the 1960s, marking the beginning of customer psychology.
"When we deal with consumer behaviour," Laroche explained, "we deal with every behavioural aspect. The social sciences that try to understand human behaviour can be applied in marketing. Because of my engineering background, I like to quantify, to develop mathematical models that can be applied to the social sciences."
Laroche is particularly interested in consumer information processing, the understanding of how consumers choose when many brands are available.
"Some immigrants didn't have many brand choices in their country," Laroche said. "How do they pick a product in another country, with 30 brands of the same product to choose from?"
For the past 10 years, Laroche has been focusing his research on the influence of culture on consumer behaviour.
Taking advantage of the multicultural aspect of Canadian society, Laroche and his team conduct research on acculturation and ethnic identity, basing their research on Montreal and Toronto in an attempt to develop universal models.
For example, in Montreal, the opportunity to study anglophones, francophones, Italians, Greeks and Chinese led Laroche to find different consumer habits. "Greeks and Italians don't like canned food because they come from countries where fresh food is widely available. [Long-established] Canadians tend to buy more canned and frozen food."
There is still a lot of work to be done. According to Laroche, "Consumer psychology is booming, and there are endless research opportunities -- just not enough time."