For Swedish-born Johny Johansson, coming to the School of Business in 1964 straight from the Stockholm School of Economics was nothing short of a revelation. “The idea that professors were human beings and could be approached outside the classroom was completely new and very refreshing to me,” he says laughingly.
So when he was offered funding to continue at the School for his Ph.D., Johansson decided to extend his stay. “I became interested in serving as a professor myself because I saw that the job could be quite exciting,” he says. “I’d get to work with bright people, take on the issues of the day, and really do something in the world.”
For Johansson, now a professor of international business and marketing at Georgetown, those issues include grappling with the queasy ethics that can sometimes characterize the marketing field. Still true to the idealistic spirit of the ’60s that he found so inspiring as an undergraduate at Cal, Johansson endeavors to teach his students to do the right thing.
“I really believe that the basic contribution of marketing is a positive one,” he says. “It’s a way of communicating to people about goods and services that will improve their lives. But I’m unhappy about the overt manipulation that some marketers don’t hesitate to engage in. I teach my students that it’s very important that they become sensitive and responsible professionals. My advice to them is don’t oversell, overpromise, or hurt people. Don’t manipulate. And most of all, make sure you believe in what you’re doing.”
Johansson’s research has taken him to Japan, where, in 1979, he reunited with Berkeley fellow student Ikujiro Nonaka (PhD 72). The duo eventually ended up co-authoring The Japanese Way of Marketing together. The intrepid Nonaka also came to serve an even more pivotal role in Johansson’s life: he helped broker the transcontinental marriage between Johansson and his Japanese fiancé, Tamiko. “Nonaka was literally a go-between, smoothing things with Tamiko’s initially reluctant parents and helping to make sure everything was done according to according to Japanese tradition,” Johansson says with obvious delight.
After graduating from Cal, Johansson landed one of the few faculty positions in marketing at the time (at the University of Illinois), and since then has taught at New York University and the University of Washington, where he has served as a full professor. “I realize that my Berkeley education taught me to focus not just on the topical matters of the day, but on the bigger picture,” he says. “That’s enabled me to have a sense of foresight about developments in the field of business and has prepared me professionally for the long haul.”
Johansson and Tamiko, who is a former concert pianist, have two daughters, Anna, 18, who just started as an undergraduate at Georgetown this fall, and Sonja, 16. “One of my favorite hobbies is fishing with both of them,” says Johansson, who also loves playing squash.
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