Torment Your Customers (They'll Love It)

Harvard Business Review, Vol. 79, No. 9, pp. 82-88, 2001

8 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2012

Date Written: October 1, 2001


Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against customers. Some of my best friends are customers.

Customers are a good thing, by and large, provided they're kept well downwind. My problem is with the concept of-and I shudder to write the term - "customer centricity." Everyone in business today seems to take it as a God-given truth that companies were put on this earth for one purpose alone: to pander to customers. Marketers spend all their time slavishly tracking the needs of buyers, then meticulously crafting products and pitches to satisfy them. If corporate functions were Dickens characters, marketing would be Uriah Heep: unctuous, ubiquitous, unbearable. My friends, it's gone too far. The truth is, customers don't know what they want. They never have. They never will. The wretches don't even know what they don't want, as the success of countless rejected-by-focus-groups products, from the Chrysler minivan to the Sony Walkman, readily attests. A mindless devotion to customers means me-too products, copycat advertising campaigns, and marketplace stagnation.

Keywords: customers, customer centricity, advertising campaigns, marketplace stagnation

Suggested Citation

Brown, Stephen, Torment Your Customers (They'll Love It) (October 1, 2001). Harvard Business Review, Vol. 79, No. 9, pp. 82-88, 2001, Available at SSRN:

Stephen Brown (Contact Author)

Ulster University ( email )

Northland Road
Londonderry, BT48 7JL
Northern Ireland

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