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Vanitha Swaminathan

Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing

Marketing and Business Economics

Office: 344 Mervis Hall


  • PhD in Business Administration, University of Georgia
  • MBA XLRI, Jamshedpur, India
  • BA, Economics University of Madras

Vanitha Swaminathan joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in 2002. She is the director of the Katz Center for Branding. Her first stream of research is in branding strategy and consumer-brand relationships. Specifically, her focus is on understanding why consumers are attached to certain brands, and the conditions that foster consumer-brand relationships. Additionally, her research investigates how firms can successfully design brand strategies (e.g., co-branding, brand extensions, loyalty programs) to strengthen brand attachment. More recently, her focus is on understanding brand presence in social media influences brand equity and how brand managers can leverage the power of social media to build stronger relationships with customers.

A second stream of research focuses on how various brand acquisitions and marketing alliances contribute to firm value. In this context, her research examines how brand names that are acquired in a merger or acquisition can be successfully leveraged to enhance value creation. Further, her research examines how firm networks of partnerships and marketing alliances contribute to firm value.

Professor Swaminathan serves on the editorial review boards of Journal of Marketing and Journal of Consumer Psychology. In July 2014, Professor Swaminathan joined the American Marketing Association's Academic Council as a member for a term of 2014-2017. Professor Swaminathan will join the Executive Committee of American Marketing Association's Academic Council for a  four year term (2016-2020) beginning with the role of President - Elect designate  for 2016-2017 and will serve as President of the Council during her term. 

Her research has been cited in various media sources including Forbes,The Miami HeraldSirius Radio, Science Daily, EurekAlert! (DC), (VA), Eureka! Science News (Canada), Houston Chronicle, Pittsburgh Business Times, Hindu (India), Economic Times (India), Frontline (India), BBC Brasil (UK),Último Segundo (Brazil), O Globo (Brazil), Terra Brasil (Brazil), Estadão (Brazil), (Brazil). She has worked with numerous companies, such as H.J. Heinz Co., The Hershey Company, StarKist Co., AC Nielsen, GlaxoSmithKline, and P&G, on marketing and branding consulting projects. She has also extensively worked with small businesses on advising them regarding their digital marketing efforts.

  • Marketing Management
  • Brand Management
  • Swaminathan, Vanitha (2016), “Branding in the Digital Era: New Directions for Research on Customer-Based Brand Equity,” AMS Review, 6, 33-38. 
  • Casey Newmeyer, Vanitha Swaminathan and John Hulland (2016), “When Products and Brands Trade Hands: A Framework for Acquisition Success”, Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 24 (2), 129-146.
  • Kubat, Umut and Vanitha Swaminathan (2015), “Crossing the Cultural Divide through Bilingual Advertising: The Moderating Role of Brand Cultural Symbolism”, International Journal of Research in Marketing. 32 (4), 354–362.
  • Thomaz, Felipe and Vanitha Swaminathan (2015), “What Goes Around Comes Around: The Impact of Marketing Alliances on Firm Risk in Highly Embedded Networks,” Journal of Marketing, 79 (5), 63 - 79.
  • Swaminathan, Vanitha, Zeynep Gürhan-Canli, Umut Kubat and Ceren Hayran  (2015), “How, When, and Why Do Attribute-Complementary versus Attribute-Similar Cobrands Affect Brand Evaluations: A Concept Combination Perspective,” Journal of Consumer Research, 42 (1), 45 - 58. 
  • Winterich, Karen Page, Vikas Mittal and Vanitha Swaminathan (2014) "Friends and Family: How In-Group-Focused Promotions can Increase Purchase, Customer Needs and Solutions 1:333–344.
  • Swaminathan, Vanitha, Christopher Groening, Vikas Mittal and Felipe Thomaz (2014), “ Dual Emphasis and Financial Performance in Horizontal Mergers,” 17 (2), Journal of Service Research, 182-194. 
  • Dommer, Sara Loughran, Vanitha Swaminathan, and Rohini Ahluwalia (2013), "Using Differentiated Brands to Deflect Exclusion and Protect Inclusion: The Moderating Role of Self-Esteem on Attachment to Differentiated Brands," 40 (4), Journal of Consumer Research, 657-675.
  • Dommer, Sara Loughran, and Vanitha Swaminathan (2013), "Explaining the Endowment Effect through Ownership: The Role of Identity, Gender, and Self-Threat,"  Journal of Consumer Research, 39 (5), 1034-1050.
  • Kopalle, Praveen K., Scott A. Neslin, Baohong Sun, Yacheng Sun, Vanitha Swaminathan (2012), "A Dynamic Structural Model of the Impact of Loyalty Programs on Customer Behavior," Marketing Science, 31 (2), 216-235.
  • Swaminathan, Vanitha, Srinivas K. Reddy and Sara Dommer (2011), "Spillover effects of ingredient branded strategies on brand choice: A field study," Marketing Letters (21 October),1-15.
  • Swaminathan, Vanitha and Christine Moorman (2009), "Marketing Alliances, Firm Networks and Firm Value Creation," Journal of Marketing, 73 (5), 52-69.
  • Swaminathan Vanitha, Karen Stilley and Rohini Ahluwalia (2009) "When Brand Personality Matters: The Moderating Role of Attachment Styles,"  Journal of Consumer Research, 35 (6), 985-1002.
  • Shah, Reshma and Vanitha Swaminathan (2008), "A Contingency Framework of Factors Influencing Partner Selection in Strategic Alliances: Exploring The Moderating Role of Alliance Context," Strategic Management Journal, 29 (5), 471-494.
  • Swaminathan, Vanitha, Feisal Murshed and John Hulland (2008) "Value Creation Following Merger and Acquisition Announcements: The Role of Strategic Emphasis Alignment," Journal of Marketing Research, 45(1), 33-47.
  • Swaminathan, Vanitha, Karen Page and Zeynep Gurhan-Canli (2007), "My Brand or Our Brand: Individual-and Group-Based Brand Relationships and Self-Construal Effects on Brand Evaluations," Journal of Consumer Research, 34(2), 248-259.
  • Leigh, James, George Zinkhan and Vanitha Swaminathan (2006), "Dimensional Relationships Of Recall And Recognition Measures With Selected Cognitive And Affective Aspects Of Print Ads.," Journal of Advertising, 35(1), 105-122.
  • *Received the Best Paper of the Year Award, 2006 from the American Academy of Advertising
  • Swaminathan, Vanitha, Richard J. Fox and Srinivas K. Reddy (2001) "The Impact of Brand Extension Introduction on Choice," with Richard J. Fox and Srinivas K. Reddy, Journal of Marketing, 65 (4), 1-15 (Lead Article).
  • Winner the 2002 Lehmann Award for the Best Dissertation-Based Article published in the Journal of Marketing or Journal of Marketing Research in the years 2000 and 2001.
  • Reddy, Srinivas K., Vanitha Swaminathan and Carol M. Motley "Exploring the Determinants of Broadway Show Success (1998)," Journal of Marketing Research, 35 (3), 370-383.

Book Chapters and Press Mentions:

  • Profiles from the Academy: Vanitha Swaminathan (American Marketing Association)
  • Marketing Experts Dissect the Outcome of the Presidential Race (American Marketing Association)
  • Bridging the Cultural Divide for Multicultural Consumers (Smart Business Pittsburgh)
  • How to Make a Living as an Online Media Star (U.S. News & World Report)
  • Should Companies Seek Growth By Acquiring Products or Brands? (American Marketing Association)
  • NPR/WESA Interview on Marketing to a Multicultural Population 
  • Understanding The Bicultural Consumer: Crossing The Cultural Divide Through Bilingual Advertising (Forbes)
  • 5 Legacy Brands That Evolved Insanely Well Over The Decades (And 5 Rising Brands About To Become A Legacy) (Advertising Week)
  • Did Earth Day Go Corporate? (Allegheny Front)
  • Off Brands: Understanding the terrible spelling and punctuation in corporate names (Slate)
  • The Most Undervalued Brand in the World (Forbes)
  • Garage Sales: Is It Worth It? (Miami Herald, Seattle Times, Charlotte Observer)
  • AMC leaves moviegoers in the dark on rewards program change (Los Angeles Times)
  • Press Coverage for "Explaining the Endowment Effect through Ownership: The Role of Identity, Gender, and Self-Threat", Journal of Consumer Research, February 2013, (co-authored with Sara Dommer):
    • ABC News Republicans, Democrats Can't Even Agree On Coffee (ABC News)
  • Swaminathan, Vanitha and Alokparna (Sonia) Monga (2011), "Self and Brand Relationships," forthcoming, Identity and Consumption, edited by Russ Belk and Ayalla Ruvio, published by Taylor and Francis.
  • "For customers, will United-Continental merger fly?," with Vikas Mittal and Christopher Groening, Houston Chronicle, October 9, 2010, article published in Houston Chronicle
  • Swaminathan, Vanitha and Sara Loughran Dommer (2011), "When is our Connection to Brands like our Connection to People? Differentiating Between Consumer-Brand Relationships and Interpersonal Relationships," forthcoming in Consumer-Brand Relationships, edited by Marc Fetscherin, Mike Breazeale, Susan Fournier, and T.C. Melewar and published by Routledge.
  • "Personal attachments" article featured Professor Swaminathan's research in Pitt Magazine, Spring, 2010 (
  • "Pitt's Google AdWords project offers Insight into Online Advertising" article featuring Professor Swaminathan's MBA marketing management class project was described in Future of the MBA series in Pittsburgh Business Times, April 9, 2010.
  • "The Future of Business" article noted how Professor Swaminathan's MBA marketing management Google project reflected recent trends in MBA education in Pittsburgh Business Times, April 9, 2010.
  • "Pay Per Click" article in Pitt Business alumni magazine featured Professor Swaminathan's MBA Google adwords project, Spring 2010, 21-23.
  • 2015 Distinguished Research Award, Katz Graduate School of Business
  • 2015 Distinguished Service Award, Katz Graduate School of Business
  • 2015 Co-Chair, American Marketing Association's Winter Educators' Conference
  • 2014 Katz Excellence in Service Award
  • 2014-2017 Member, American Marketing Association's Academic Council
  • 2011 AMA Doctoral Consortium Faculty
  • 2009 Faculty Participant, Academy of Marketing Science Doctoral Consortium, Oslo, Norway
  • 2006 Best Paper of the Year Award, Journal of Advertising.
  • 2003 Marketing Science Institute, Young Scholar Program Participant.
  • 2002 Lehmann Award for the Best Dissertation Article in Journal of Marketing or Journal of Marketing Research in 2000 and 2001.
  • Best Special Session Award, 2002 Winter Educators' Conference (Session Chair and Organizer).
  • Recipient of the 1997-98 dissertation award from Procter & Gamble's Innovation Research Fund.