Putting Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes Doesn’t Work: An Interview with Johannes Hattula

March, 2015. Article by Scott Berinato in the Harvard Business Review Magazine

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Experiments consistently show that the more marketing managers empathize with their customers the more likely they will incorrectly project their own preferences onto their customers and ignore objective market data that showed otherwise.

This interview discusses several years of research by Dr Johannes Hattula, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Imperial College Business School. Hattula has been running experiments that look at marketing managers and their personal preferences for a selected product or service, then influencing the levels they empathise with their customers and measuring the results.

“One thing from our research that should show how strong the effect is was that no matter how seasoned the marketers were, they behaved the same way. Marketing managers with decades of experience ignored the objective research just as much as young managers with only a few years’ experience.”

Main Findings

The key findings are that the more empathetic the marketing managers were, the more they:

  • Used their personal preferences to predict what customers would want
  • Ignored the

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