• Kaan Varnali, Ph.D.

    Professor of Marketing | Researcher | Consultant

    @Irvine, California

    Welcome! I am a Professor of Marketing, a researcher, and a business consultant with a dual specialization on customer experience design and marketing communications in digital environments. In essence, I study human behavior in the domain of marketing effectiveness. I have conducted research in various organizational settings ranging from major retail banks and multinational corporations to digital start-ups mainly in the EMEA region. I also have experience in consultancy, graduate-level teaching, board membership, and corporate training.

  • Research

    Behavioral Modeling, Experimental Studies, Journey Mapping, (N)etnography

    Marketing Communications in Digital Environments

    Marketing communications landscape has transformed into a highly data and algorithm driven platform business. The use of mobile devices and targeted ads are the hallmarks of this new communications environment. My research in this domain focuses on the factors that drive consumer behavior primarily in the contexts of mobile marketing and online behavioral targeting. Apart from publishing several articles in top-tier academic journals, I have also co-authored one of the pioneering books on mobile marketing, entitled "Mobile Marketing: Fundamentals & Strategy", published by McGraw-Hill in 2010.

    Prior works published in: Electronic Commerce Research & Applications, International Journal of Information Management, Journal of Marketing Communications

    Customer Experience Design

    Customer experience is a subjective, dynamic, and highly context dependent phenomenon. As experiences are co-created along many direct and indirect contacts, customers rarely recognize the enabling structure behind them; instead perceive each experience as a complex and unitary feeling. From the lenses of complexity theory, I investigate how customer experience unfolds along a journey, which perpetually goes through a process of unanticipated re-configuration and self-organization.

    Prior works published in: Journal of Business Research, Service Industries Journal​

    Social Psychology on Social Media and Advertising

    Social media exerts a dramatic effect on how humans perceive themselves and others, which reflects on their subsequent behaviors, such as voting, socializing, information gathering, brand engagements, and consumption. From the lenses of social psychology, I have been investigating a several of these behaviors. This domain of inquiry also introduced me to Netnography. I authored the first book on social media research in Turkish, which has been endorsed by the founder of Netnography, Prof. Robert Kozinets.


    Prior works published in: Information, Communication & Society, International Journal of Communication, Social Behavior & Personality

    Case Studies in Industry

    Case studies are crucial to provide a real-life context to a theoretical issue or problem. I have had the chance to work with a number of organizations to apply my academic work on digital marketing communications to real-life situations. I studied Garanti Bank’s social media communication strategies, one of the biggest retail banks in Turkey, a BBVA subsidiary. I worked with the mobile marketing team in Turkcell, the top mobile carrier in Turkey, and with the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) in London to write case-studies and industry reports.


    Prior works published in: Emerald Emerging Market Case Studies, Springer Strategic Marketing Cases in Emerging Markets

  • Highlights from Publications

    See GoogleScholar for the complete publication list and recent updates

    Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

    Varnali, K. & Cesmeci C. (2021). Customer responses to service failures on social media. Journal of Services Marketing. DOI: 10.1108/JSM-11-2020-0484


    Ozcelik, A.B., Varnali, K. and Burnaz, S. (2021), A holistic framework for patient experience: 5P model. International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing.


    Ozcelik, A.B. & Varnali, K. (2019). Effectiveness of online behavioral targeting: a psychological perspective. Electronic Commerce Research & Applications, 33, 1-11.


    Varnali, K. (2019). Online behavioral advertising: an integrative review. Journal of Marketing Communications, 1-22.

    Varnali, K. (2019). Understanding customer experience from the lenses of complexity theory. The Service Industries Journal, 39(11-12), 820-835.

    Levi, E., Varnali, K., & Tosun, N.B. (2017). The match-up hypothesis revisited: a social psychological perspective. International Journal of Communication, 11, 278-300.

    Kasnakoglu, B. T., Yilmaz, C., & Varnali, K. (2016). An asymmetric configural model approach for understanding complainer emotions and loyalty. Journal of Business Research, 69(9), 3659-3672.

    Yilmaz, C., Varnali, K., & Kasnakoglu, B. T. (2016). How do firms benefit from customer complaints?. Journal of Business Research, 69(2), 944-955.

    Varnali, K., & Toker, A. (2015). Self-disclosure on social networking sites. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 43(1), 1-13.

    Varnali, K., & Gorgulu, V. (2014). A social influence perspective on expressive political participation in Twitter: The case of #OccupyGezi. Information, Communication & Society, 18(1), 1-16.

    Varnali, R., & Varnali, K. (2014). Information Technology and Non-traditional Work Arrangements: Employee Preferences. İktisat, İşletme, Finans, 29 (339), 27-48.

    Aslanbay, Y. & Varnali, K. (2014). Co-creating a future of happiness. Society, 51(6), 665-669.

    Varnali, K., Yilmaz, C. & Toker, A. (2012) Predictors of attitudinal and behavioral outcomes in mobile advertising. Electronic Commerce Research & Applications, 11 (6), 570-581.

    Varnali, K. (2012). SMS advertising: How message relevance is linked to the attitude toward the brand? Journal of Marketing Communications, 1-13.

    Toker, A., Varnali, K., & Yilmaz, C. (2011). Mobile Marketing at Turkcell: Turkey’s Leading Mobile Operator. Emerald Emerging Market Case Studies, 1(1), 1-12.

    Varnali, K., & Toker, A. (2010). Mobile marketing research: the-state-of-the-art. International Journal of Information Management, 30, 144-151.


    Varnali, K. (2017). Musteri Deneyimi (Customer Experience). Istanbul: Kapital Medya MediaCat Yayinlari. [In Turkish]

    Varnali, K. (2013). Dijital Kabilelerin Izinde: Sosyal Medyada Etnografik Arastirmalar (In the Footsteps of the Digital Tribes: Conducting Ethnographic Research on Social Media). Istanbul: Kapital Medya MediaCat Yayinlari. [In Turkish]

    Varnali, K. (2012). Dijital Tutulma: Pazarlama Iletisimi ve Insan (The Digital Eclipse: Marketing Communications and People). Istanbul: Kapital Medya MediaCat Yayinlari. [In Turkish]

    Varnali, K., Toker, A. & Yilmaz, C. (2010). Mobile Marketing: Fundamentals & Strategy. New York: McGraw-Hill. [In English]

    Book Chapters

    Varnali, K., Ersoy, E., Tanriverdi, S.G., & Terzi, E. (2017). Managing Social Media Communications at Garanti Bank. In A. Adhikari & S. Roy (eds.), Strategic Marketing Cases in Emerging Markets. Springer.


    Varnali, K. (2015). Müşteri Şikayetleri Yönetiminin Marka Başarısı ile İlişkisi (The Relationship Between Customer Complaint Management and Brand Success). In M. Arslan (ed.), Masamızda Marka Sohbetleri. Istanbul: Beta Yayinlari.


    Toker, A., Varnali, K., & Yilmaz, C. (2011). Mobile Marketing at Turkcell: Turkey’s Leading Mobile Operator. Emerald Emerging Market Case Studies, 1(1), 1-12.


    Varnali, K. (2012). Mobile Social Networks: Communication & Marketing Perspectives. In I. Lee (ed.), Strategy, Adoption and Competitive Advantage of Mobile Services in the Global Economy. Hershey: IGI Global.


    Varnali, K. & Yilmaz, C. (2010). Exploring the Mobile Consumer. In I. Lee (Ed), Encyclopedia of E-Business Development and Management in the Global Economy (768-778). Hershey: IGI-Global.


  • Teaching

    Courses taught

    Undergraduate Level Courses

    • Digital Product Development
    • Quantitative Reasoning
    • Brand Management

    Graduate Level Courses

    • Consumer Psychology and Behavior
    • Advanced Research Methods
    • Strategic Brand Management
    • Customer Experience Design

    Academic Administrative Experience

    • Vice Dean, Faculty of Communication, Istanbul Bilgi University, 2011 - 2017
    • Founding Program Director, M.A. in Marketing Communication, Istanbul Bilgi University, 2012 - 2017
    • Graduate Institute of Social Sciences, Administrative Board Member, Istanbul Bilgi University, 2016 – 2017
  • Industry Experience

    Self-employed Consultant, Trainer & Board Member

    Senior Consultant and Coach

    @FutureBright Research

    Industry: Market research

    Brief summary of role and responsibilities:

    • Methodological design and data interpretation for custom market research studies (for numerous companies including emerging market subsidiaries of Fortune 500 companies).
    • Developing new custom research models and novel approaches to industry specific problems.
    • Providing on-the-job training to senior managers and coaching executives.

    Independent Researcher, Consultant & Professional Trainer

    Worked with dozens of firms, on a variety of topics.

    Highlights from previous projects::

    • Customer journey mapping projects, end-to-end journey performance tracking, business impact measurement of customer experience decisions, customer experience strategy development and deployment. 
    • Conducting field (n)etnography.
    • Conceiving go-to-market strategies.
    • Consulting on customer segmentation, customer analytics, customer profiling projects mainly in FMCG, Telecommunications, Banking and Pharma industries.
    • Designing, executing and consulting on numerous customer insight generation projects, quantitative and qualitative market research, cross-cultural insight validation projects, concept tests and user acceptance tests.
    • Training senior level marketing managers, providing on-the-job training and coaching to senior level research managers, lecturing in management trainee programs, moderating ideation and innovation workshops.​

    Industry: Mobile services and mobile marketing

    Brief summary of role and responsibilities:

    • Leading business growth
    • Leading organizational transformation and talent development efforts
    • Mentoring and steering upper management in strategic decisions to achieve both short-term revenue and profitability goals and a long-term sustainable competitive advantage.

    Board Member (2016 to 2018)

    @4play Mobile Creative People

    Industry: Mobile services and mobile marketing

    Brief summary of role and responsibilities:

    • Consulting on new product development projects of the company.
    • Auditing new projects on the basis of market proposition and potential, user experience design, marketing strategy, and customer segmentation.
    • Keeping the company on the edge of mobile marketing literature and developments in the field.
    • Overseeing major grant applications for research and development.

    Board Member (2016 to 2018)


    Industry: Media and events

    Brief summary of role and responsibilities:

    • Consulting on content development for Brandweek Istanbul, DigitalAge Summit, CMO Society, and MediaCat.
    • Auditing new projects on the basis of market proposition and potential, marketing strategy, and customer segmentation.
    • Consulting on digitalization efforts and corporate digital transformation.