Jim Kilts, ’74, learned the important role data plays in decision-making back when he was pursuing his MBA at Chicago Booth. Kilts believes his application of Booth’s data-driven approach has had a profound impact on his career, which has included stints as CEO of three iconic consumer product giants—Kraft, Nabisco, and Gillette. In recognition of that impact, Kilts has made several generous gifts to advance the school’s marketing efforts over the past 20 years. Now he is building on that strong foundation with an additional $10 million gift which will primarily be used to support the school’s marketing faculty through the establishment of two new professorships.
“Our world-class faculty applied data to marketing long before anybody else. Thanks to the Kilts Center, our faculty have transformed the field of marketing in the last decade and broken ground across disciplines,” said Madhav Rajan, Booth dean and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Accounting. “This latest generous gift from Jim will help ensure we can continue to attract and retain marketing faculty of the highest caliber.”
Thanks in part to Kilts’s generosity in establishing the James M. Kilts Center for Marketing, Booth has transformed the study and practice of marketing through the use of data-driven analysis. Prior to this gift, Kilts committed more than $12.5 million to advance the study of marketing at the school.
In addition to the new professorships and general support of the Kilts Center, a portion of the new gift will provide scholarships that will be matched with Black and Latinx students pursuing careers in marketing. These scholarships will play an important role in advancing the center’s newly defined diversity and inclusion goals.
“I gave this gift to aid Booth in becoming the best marketing school in the world, and to be recognized as such by all constituents—including faculty, students, and industry,” Kilts said. “I think Booth is the place where students go to learn to solve problems in a practical way and use evidence to support their point of view.”
Since the time he was a student, Kilts has had a deep appreciation for Booth faculty. Today, leading marketing scholars join the Booth faculty because they know that the school will fully support their pathbreaking research. These scholars leverage big data, analytics, and strategic and multidisciplinary expertise to conduct groundbreaking research and teach students how to leverage the core disciplines of economics, psychology, and statistics to make better business decisions.
While quantitative data has been incorporated into the school’s marketing curriculum since the 1950s, the center’s acquisition of the Nielsen datasets in 2009 when Kilts was chairman of Nielsen’s supervisory board, led to a new era. The Kilts Center now shares the Nielsen datasets with more than 1,300 researchers from 170 academic institutions worldwide for cutting-edge research in the fields of marketing, economics, public policy, and more.
“Twenty years ago, Jim Kilts generously endowed the Kilts Center for Marketing with a mission to promote the Chicago Booth ‘scientific’ approach to marketing through research support and the housing and dissemination of several invaluable marketing data assets. With the center’s mission successfully deployed, it’s exciting to learn that Jim has now generously endowed two chaired professorships with which we can continue to expand our research faculty and sustain the University of Chicago’s global thought leadership in marketing,” said Jean-Pierre Dubé, Kilts faculty director and Sigmund E. Edelstone Professor of Marketing.
Arthur Middlebrooks, ’88, clinical professor of marketing, became the executive director of the Kilts Center in 2008. Under Middlebrooks’s leadership, the center’s reputation, resources, and achievements have grown dramatically.
“The big growth we’ve had as it relates to faculty research has been the establishment of major data partnerships that have helped support academic research across a wide range of disciplines,” Middlebrooks said. “Some academic researchers had used Nielsen data in the past, but it was prohibitively expensive for most.”
In addition to the datasets, Kilts has added additional resources in recent years. Katie Claussen Bell, the center’s director and chief operations officer, has led efforts to increase student programming, including approximately 20 student events per quarter, and building a community of hundreds of engaged alumni.
“I am committed to Chicago Booth and the center as it continues to be at the forefront of marketing education,” Kilts said. “The team of JP Dubé, Art Middlebrooks, Katie Claussen Bell, and the entire Kilts staff, accelerates faculty research and brings innovations in marketing curriculum to life.”
There are more changes to come, including offering programs internationally and providing faculty with access to international data. Another major initiative, Marketing for Good, will use the datasets to help researchers focus on areas of health and wellness, social injustice, and more. A speaker series will also demonstrate to marketers how they can use their talents not only for profit but also to enhance and advance social causes.
“There are a few marketing-oriented centers at other universities,” Middlebrooks said. “But there is nothing really comparable to the Kilts Center, with its wide range of activities in the marketing community and resources for marketing researchers. And Jim Kilts has supported the center’s growth every step of the way.”