Understanding People

Michael Fox applied the research methods of his sociology major to a career in audience analysis.

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Mike Fox, discussing his career during a Maxwell talk in October


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s a junior, Michael Fox ’95 BA (Soc) switched his major to sociology, and loved it. He was fascinated by quantitative research and its potential to predict human group behavior.

It has served Fox well. In an early job in advertising, he sensed that quantitative research, when applied to consumer tastes and online proclivities, could spawn effective marketing, rooted in data. He helped pioneer generational marketing, with methods used in a Maxwell project about generational values in the USSR.

He has since held executive positions in marketing at Sony, Snapple, CNN, SpoonRocket, TreeHouse, and, significantly, Facebook, which he joined in 2009, “when it was smaller than MySpace,” he remembers. “People thought I was crazy.” During his five years there, annual ad revenue went from a few hundred million dollars to more than $12 billion.

Fox is now marketing head for Culture Trip, an online destination for world adventurers. The company is defining its market segment. “Ultimately,” he says, “it comes down to some very basic concepts and techniques I learned in sociology, about understanding people.”

This article appeared in the winter 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.