Z. John Zhang

Z. John Zhang
  • Tsai Wan-Tsai Professor
  • Professor of Marketing
  • Director, Penn Wharton China Center

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    754 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
    3730 Walnut Street
    University of Pennsylvania
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: channel and retail management., competitive strategies, market entry, targeted pricing and other pricing strategies

Links: CV


Professor Z. John Zhang’s research focuses on targeted pricing and other pricing strategies, competitive strategies, market entry and channel and retail management. Recent work probed the complex, unintended pitfalls of targeted pricing – the process of targeting a competitor’s customers with lower prices – in the fast-moving Internet age. Zhang’s research suggested that while this approach isn’t for every business, it can be an effective tool under the right circumstances. Zhang also provided guidelines to help companies understand when targeted pricing might play an effective role in their marketing strategy.

Professor Zhang’s research has been published in top-tier academic journals including Marketing Science, Management Science and the Journal of Marketing Research. He also serves as Area Editor for Marketing Science, Management Scienceand Quantitative Marketing and Economics, and has won numerous academic and teaching awards.

Professor Zhang currently teaches Marketing Management to EMTM students, and Pricing Strategies to undergraduate and MBA. He also teaches pricing strategies to executives in China in Chinese.

Professor Zhang received a PhD and MA in economics from the University of Michigan , a PhD and MA in History and Sociology of Science and Technology from the University of Pennsylvania , and a BA in Engineering Automation from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Hubei, China.

Continue Reading


Current Projects: Targeting and channel strategies; behavior-based targeted pricing; demand collection systems.

  • Z. John Zhang and Dongsheng Zhou (Working), The Art of Price War: a Perspective from China.

  • Yuxin Chen, Sridhar Moorthy, Z. John Zhang (Working), A Non-Price-Discrimination Theory of Rebates.

  • Yunchuan Liu and Z. John Zhang (Working), The Benefit of Targeted Pricing in a Channel.

  • Upender Subramanian, Jagmohan Raju, Z. John Zhang (Working), Customer Value Based Management: Competitive Implications.

    Abstract: Many ?firms today quantify the value of individual customers and serve them differentially; providing better service, prices and other inducements to high value customers. We refer to this practice as Customer Value-based Management (CVM). While previous research and popular press has strongly advocated CVM, ?firms have often met with mixed results. One possible reason why actual outcomes differ from anticipated results could be that ?firms often implement CVM in a competitive environment. Our objective is to study CVM explicitly in a competitive setting. We find that while some recommendations and prescriptions from past research continue to apply in a competitive environment, some others do not. For example, we find that one of the benefits of CVM in a competitive setting is that it can discourage the rival from competing intensely, by increasing the rival’s chances of acquiring unprofitable customers. In this context, low-value customers can play an important strategic role by limiting the intensity of rival’s poaching. Consequently, ?firing low value customers or even increasing their value may prove counter-productive.

  • Z. John Zhang (Working), Dominant Retailer and Channel Coordination.

  • Z. John Zhang and Gila E. Fruchter (Working), Dynamic Targeted Promotions: A Customer Retention and Acquisition Perspective.

    Abstract: This research analyzes the strategic use of targeted promotions for customer retention and acquisition in a dynamic and competitive environment. We develop suitable differential games for both finite- and infinite-time problems and provide analytical solutions in each case for defensive and offensive Nash equilibrium closed-loop strategies. Our analysis shows that a firm's optimal targeting strategies, both offensive and defensive, in a dynamic setting depend on its actual market share, the relevant redemption rate of its targeted promotions, the value of its market share increase, and the effectiveness of its targeted promotions. Optimal targeting strategies call for a firm to increase its expenditure on defensive (offensive) targeting relative to offensive (defensive) targeting, thus focusing more on customer retention (customer switching), when its market share becomes larger (smaller). These optimal strategies have the attractive feature of being an adaptive control rule. A firm can operationalize these strategies by adjusting its planned promotional incentives on the basis of the observed differences between actual and planned market shares and between actual and planned redemption rates. In the long run, a focus on customer retention is not an optimal strategy for all firms. A firm with a sufficiently large market share should stress customer retention, whereas a firm with a small market share should stress customer acquisition. When market shares are more evenly divided in a market, firms are better off in the long run if they all focus on customer acquisition. Our analysis also suggests that to build a long-run market share advantage in the age of information-intensive marketing, a firm must strive to improve its targeting effectiveness and increase its unit profit margin. We illustrate the results through a numerical example and show the trajectories of a firm's market share, promotional expenditures, and profits as competing firms use targeted promotions optimally over time.

  • Yuxin Chen, Yogesh Joshi, Jagmohan Raju, Z. John Zhang (Forthcoming), A Theory of Combative Advertising, Marketing Science, 2006.

  • Vibhanshu Abhishek, Kinshuk Jerath, Z. John Zhang (Under Review), Platform Selling or Reselling? Channel Structures in Electronic Retailing (under review).

  • Vibhanshu Abhishek, Kinshuk Jerath, Z. John Zhang (Forthcoming), Platform or Wholesale: Channel Structures in Electronic Retailing, CIST 2011.

  • Yuxin Chen and Z. John Zhang (Working), Price-for-Information Effect and Benefit of Behavior-Based Targeted Pricing.


Past Courses


    The pricing decision process including economic, marketing, and behavioral phenomena which constitute the environment for pricing decisions and the information and analytic tools useful to the decision maker.


    This course is designed to equip students with the concepts, techniques, and latest thinking on pricing issues, with an emphasis on ways in which to help a firm improve its pricing. The orientation of the course is about practice of pricing, not theory. We will focus on how firms can improve profitability through pricing, look at how firms set their prices and how to improve current practices to increase profitability. The first part of the course focuses on how to analyze costs, customers, and competitors in order to formulate proactive pricing strategies. The second part focuses on price promotions, price bundling, price discrimination, versioning, nonlinear pricing, pricing through a distribution channel, dynamic pricing, etc.



    The course provides a systematic presentation of the factors to be considered when setting price, and shows how pricing alternatives are developed. Analytical methods are developed and new approaches are explored for solving pricing decisions.


    This course is a two part series. The first part concentrates on the Indian Consumer and the second part concentrates on the Chinese Consumer. India and China add up to half of the world's population. Each presents its own challenges and opportunities. US and European MNCs have been in both countries for many years, but emerging market MNC's are becoming stronger and in many cases overtaking US and European companies despite their strong brands and know-how. Marketing to the Indian Consumer will provide a careful understanding of: The opportunity and challenges in the Indian consumer market 2) Various segments within the Indian consumer market. 3) Consumer psychology and decision making processes in each segment 4) Distribution channels in Indi Media in India: Mass, Local and non-traditional. 6) Bottom of the pyramid consumers and rural markets. 7) Product design and development decisions. The course will focus on the following industries: consumer packaged goods, mobile phones, financial services (insurance and banking), healthcare, sports and entertainment, and transportation. The course will involve case studies from local and international companies, guest lecturers, and visits to consumer homes to observe their tastes, habits, and preferences. Marketing to the Chinese Consumer will provide students with a critical understanding of the Chinese consumer, distribution channels, pricing environment, branding and competitive dynamics so as to enhance their ability to market to the Chinese consumer successfully. The course will consist of a combination of lectures, case studies, presentations by industry experts, and a short evening field trip.


    A student contemplating an independent study project must first find a faculty member who agrees to supervise and approve the student's written proposal as an independent study (MKTG 899). If a student wishes the proposed work to be used to meet the ASP requirement, he/she should then submit the approved proposal to the MBA adviser who will determine if it is an appropriate substitute. Such substitutions will only be approved prior to the beginning of the semester.



    Requires written permission of instructor and the department graduate adviser.


Awards and Honors

  • Finalist for the O’Dell Award for the Most Impactful JMR Paper Five Years Later, 2007
  • Wharton EMBA Electives Teaching Award., 2003
  • Frank Bass Award for the Best Dissertation Paper, 2001
  • John Little Award for the Best Paper in Marketing Science, 2001
  • Eugene Lang Research Fellowship, Columbia University, 2000
  • Eugene Lang Research Fellowship, Columbia University, 1999
  • Rackham Fellowship, University of Michigan, 1992
  • Maas Research Fellowship, University of Michigan, 1990
  • Pensfield Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1987
  • The Newcomen Award for Best Essay in History of Technology, 1987
  • Mellon Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1986
  • Dean’s Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1985

In the News

Knowledge @ Wharton


Latest Research

Z. John Zhang and Dongsheng Zhou (Working), The Art of Price War: a Perspective from China.
All Research

In the News

Tariff Troubles: Will Consumers Feel the Pinch?

Will tariffs have an overall corrosive effect on the economy, and, if so, when?

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2018/07/30
All News

Awards and Honors

Finalist for the O’Dell Award for the Most Impactful JMR Paper Five Years Later 2007
All Awards