Kusch Lecturer Hopes Audience Is Game for Topic
Prof Says Strategic Theories Enliven Study of Retail Marketing and More
Apr. 14, 2011
Dr. Ram C. Rao doesn’t want to give too much away about his forthcoming Polykarp Kusch lecture. He will say he thinks that it will be thought-provoking, fun and mind-expanding, too.
In large measure, “the things you are encountering in everyday life are what I’m going to be talking about,” he assures, and he promises to show some “really fun stuff in game theory.”
The lecture is this Friday, April 15, at 1 p.m. in the UT Dallas McDermott Library Auditorium.
While game theory is a comparatively new field of study that took hold in the realm of mathematics, it has made inroads into psychology, biology and several other disciplines, including economics and management — Rao’s turf.
A Founders Professor and professor of marketing in the School of Management, Rao says game theory underpins his work. “What it is,” he explains, “is a way of modeling the interactions of multiple decision-makers. … Game theory provides a framework to think about what they might do or what we might expect them to do or what they should do. … Game theory is like a tool to examine that interaction.”
Rao, whose game-theory courses are part of SOM’s doctoral program, is a leading scholar in the use of game-theory analysis to study the competitive effect of advertising, promotions and pricing on firms’ strategies and profits. Recently he has considered issues related to supermarket and other retail competition and how retailers should formulate competitive strategies relative to pricing.
Although game theory dates as far back as the early 1700s, “its real force in management and economics has been in the last 40 or 50 years,” Rao says. That roughly coincides with the length of his career and when his game-theory interest started. “Some of us got lucky,” he says. “We got in on the ground floor, so to speak.”
He says the “Perfection” in his lecture title, “From Perfection to Retail Competition,” involves wordplay on “perfectness,” a game-theory concept.
“My very first encounter with game theory involved perfectness,” he says, “which was sort of unknown at the time. … So that’s where I started getting interested in game-theoretic ideas.”
“Retail Competition” refers to how, “over the years, I’ve used ideas in game theory, including perfectness [and] another idea called mixed strategies to apply to marketing problems, in particular, retail competition.” he says.
He plans to use his lecture to link game theory to important ideas in management, but much of what he has to say will tread recognizable territory. “The context is very familiar,” Rao says. “For example, prices at supermarkets – I’m going to spend quite a bit of time on that.”
Listeners are going “to get a dose of pricing and competition and little stories along the way,” he says, “about some of the people that came into my life and how I got interested in some things, and how I didn’t know how to do certain things.”
There will be in his speech, Rao says, “an excitement about ordinary things.”
“Even the familiar things I’m going to be talking about, I’m hoping that I can share why it’s been exciting for me.”
Dr. Ram C. Rao
Dr. Ram C. Rao is Founders Professor and professor of marketing in the School of Management, where he teaches marketing in the master’s program and game theory in the doctoral program. He also teaches online and in the Executive MBA program.
He joined the UT Dallas faculty in 1983, and he previously served as associate dean for academic programs in the School of Management.
Rao’s research investigates how firms compete and how they should formulate competitive marketing strategies with emphasis on pricing.