Helping Customers Avoid “Bad” Choices

Bruce Clark
23 min readJul 7, 2022

Let’s not make things worse

Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

I recently shared an article on social media detailing a consulting firm’s use of classic marketing tactics in a way that ended up turning out very badly for customers and, arguably, society. This provoked some complicated conversations both online and privately. Speaking from my not quite “ivory tower” as a business school professor, I like to think we can do better than this.

Here is an article about how we can help customers avoid bad choices.

One of my arguments, and I am comfortable calling it a belief, is that we as marketers and organizations have a higher “duty of care” in some situations than others. This article develops that argument and also includes a variety of suggestions on what we can do. It is organized as follows:

· Marketing as Closing Gaps

· Reducing the Negative Consequences of Choices

· Improving the Decision Processes around Choices

· “Stupid” Choices

· Our Choices: Tough and Humble

As a summary, organizations and marketers love to talk about the benefits of our products and the customers who benefit from our products. But there are always consequences to products. Sometimes they are substantial, and sometimes they affect some groups more than others. When products can have substantial negative consequences, can we shift the odds away from them:

· Can we reduce the odds that customers experience negative consequences from our products?

· Can we increase the odds that customers choose a product that is likely to be better for them?

Marketing as Closing Gaps

At a fundamental level, good marketing should improve a customer’s situation in some way. The customer is experiencing a gap between where they are and where they want to be, and that gap is big enough that they are open to or looking for a solution.

Sometimes this gap represents an aversion. The customer is in a negative state that they wish to go away (“I’m thirsty,” “I am sick”). Sometimes the gap represents an aspiration (“I’d like to do something fun tonight,” “I’d like to improve my career prospects”). Either way, our job as organizations and marketers should be to provide a solution that resolves this gap either partially or fully.

We are not the only providers out there. As the customer gap becomes large enough to trigger search (“how can I solve this problem?”), they must make choices. We encourage customers to choose our solution over competing solutions.

We cannot (and I’ll argue should not) control the choices customers make, but it is my belief that we should try to help customers avoid bad choices, which I will define as a choice that widens rather than reduces the gap. We cannot necessarily guarantee that we close the gap fully, but can we at least not make the gap worse?

First, this is a better way to treat our fellow human beings. Second, I will argue that there is no long-term money in encouraging bad choices. We might get the sale once, but we won’t get repeat purchase and in a social media age we may well earn negative reviews and press. Let’s not make the “detractor” portion of our customer base any larger than we have to. Cost effectively “fixing the negatives” may even have outsize benefits to the extent customers are more sensitive to losses than gains.

Reducing the Negative Consequences of Choices

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

We’re marketers, we like talking about benefits. Here are all the great things you can get from buying our product! (Note I am going to use the term “product” broadly to encompass both goods and services.) But the usage experience can also turn out badly for some customers for a variety of reasons, not all of which are within our control.

If the answer to “what’s the worst that can happen” in your product category is “not much,” then you may stop reading. If customer A likes blue soap and customer B likes green soap, who cares? There’s no likely difference in how well the soap cleans, and if there is some marginal emotional benefit to having soap in a color the customer likes, market away.

But in some product categories choices are consequential. To the extent we have big negative consequences in a domain or a lot of consequences across domains, a choice is consequential. To the extent a choice is consequential, I’ll argue we need to be more careful to do the best job we can. As uncomfortable as it may be, that means we need to have an accurate inventory of the potential negative consequences from our product and think about how to mitigate them.

Here is a “Wheel of Consequences” showing the various domains.

This borrows from research around perceived risk in consumer behavior. (For those of you interested in learning more about the research around perceived risk, see the Conchar et al. and Mitchell papers listed in the references at the end of the article.) Thinking about where our product is exposed on this wheel is a way of thinking about the things we can do before and after purchase to reduce the odds of negative consequences.

Performance Consequences

“Is this product going to work?”

The classic “does what it says on the tin” test is what matters here. A bad choice is one where the product does not close the gap between where I am and where I want to be.

This is the sine qua non of business, and most of us don’t get up in the morning thinking about “how am I going to disappoint customers today?” And yet sometimes the promises we make end up going unfulfilled.

In mature categories where needs are well-established and fairly homogenous, this is usually not a high risk. There are going to be very few bad choices in soap, shampoo, or toothpaste, for example, and in fact this is one of the reasons habits form in those and other categories: soap X works well enough and it’s not worth my time thinking about other soaps.

In other categories, assessing performance risk is trickier. Customer needs may be diverse, depending on their situation. Financial, medical, and legal advice all fall into this category, as do a lot of B2B services. Products that are complicated to use also likely carry higher performance risk, especially for less sophisticated customers who may lack the confidence or ability to deal with usage problems. We need to be more mindful here.

One solution is to choose only those customers we are confident of satisfying. This is a segmentation and targeting decision, and with limited resources may be a good choice. Some customers we are never going to satisfy. Satisfaction is also about setting customer expectations reasonably prior to the sale. The customer satisfaction rule I try to drill into students is “make promises you can keep and keep the promise you make.” Make sure you don’t overpromise!

Another solution is to serve a broad market with a broad product line. Customers can opt-in to the solution that fits their needs the best. I’ll return to this point later in the article.

A third solution lies in post-sale support. In many situations we cannot reasonably predict all the ways a customer’s experience could go wrong. But are there ways we can increase the likelihood that customers will benefit from our products? Websites, explainer videos, ongoing training, and customer service and support teams all can help here. This can be both expensive and complicated, but are part of what can make us successful if we are in a category with a lot of performance risk.

New products to the customer or the world also likely carry higher performance risk. Customers will be less certain what risks these may entail. This can occur even after consumption: “How good was my knee surgery?” Free trials, demonstrations, and samples are a staple of dealing with this. Making reviews widely available also can be reassuring.

Financial Consequences

“How much is this going to cost me?”

If the amount of money involved in a purchase is immaterial, this is low consequence. Market away. The more material the financial risk, the more we need to be mindful. A bad choice is one where the product’s realized cost ends up exceeding its realized value.

Of course, a lot of this is simply the product’s price, but perceived materiality may vary greatly even for customers with similar performance needs. First, a dollar matters more to a customer with low income than high income. They cannot afford to simply “throw money at a problem.” More subtly, even well-off customers may have poor cash flow. Income is high but so are expenses. When the money is coming in differs from when the money is going out. This can be a very big deal for B2B buyers. And when income or cash flow changes, so do risks.

The solutions here are well established. Yes, can we make it cheaper? Second, can we spread out payments so that the cost is less material in a given time period? A payment schedule also makes cash flow predictable. Third, we can often address this with product line tiers, e.g., the classic B2B threesome of low price-low-performance, mid-price mid-performance, high-price high-performance.

We also need to be wary of post-purchase costs, e.g., usage and disposal costs. For example, after a generation of profits from selling cheap printers and expensive ink, printer manufacturers are beginning to offer the option of printers that use ink more efficiently (at a higher price for the printer).

Physical Consequences

“Is this going to damage me?”

Another risk area is whether a product is or appears to be dangerous in some way. I don’t think my bar of soap is going to damage me. Market away.

Health care looms large here, but think as well about inherently dangerous products someone may need to use, such as mining or construction equipment. Think of cars.

Danger may also be immediate or long-term. A friend who is an emergency room doctor remarked once that one of the surprisingly frequent Sunday morning injuries in their ER is “cut by bagel slicer.” The immediate damage is that we mean to slice the bagel and we instead slice our finger.

Long-term risks can be more subtle but large. We as humans are not good at appreciating long-term risks. For example, smoking is bad for you ( But it’s often bad for you many years from now and that next cigarette is going to feel so good.

Make the product safe, sure! But sometimes impossible, often expensive, and customers can be catastrophically inventive in their misuse of products.

Because of the challenges in making any product completely safe, pre- and post-sale communication carry more of the consequence reduction burden. Let’s see if we can get beyond legal disclaimers that are about protecting us rather than customers. What promises are we making? How are we supporting safe use? For physical products, the package is a very important communication vehicle to convey what is needed.

Post-sale support and training can make a big difference here, but customers have to be willing to engage in it. We can also try to pro-actively identify customers who are less likely to misuse the product (we don’t sell cars to children). This is probably the area where there are the most trade-offs and also the area in which we are most likely to be regulated.

These first three consequences are the big ones. Products that are ineffective, unaffordable, and/or dangerous aren’t going to make it in the long-term. But if we pass that three-part bar, we still can engender consequences in other domains.

Commitment Consequences

“How long am I committed to this?”

Something that I can try with no further commitment is obviously more low consequence than something I have to stick with for a long time. One-and-done products, market away.

Products with what I will call high “stopping costs” are ones that customers may be more reluctant to start or continue using. Durable goods and long-term services fall into this category, as does anything where the difficulty of stopping will be high (e.g., long-term medical treatments, contracts with cancellation charges).

Easy refund and return policies help lower stopping costs. Shorter contract periods may increase number of customers though at the same time may increase churn. We can try to calculate a financial trade-off on this, but I’d recommend erring on the side of making it easier to stop. If people are eager to leave, shackling them to the organization probably does neither side much good. Let’s beware of making the stopping process difficult: this is an easy recipe for rage and social media posts.

Customers may also find it difficult to commit to a usage schedule. Medication compliance is an obvious phenomenon here, but issues such as required maintenance or service schedules can feel daunting. We should minimize these as best we can, and communicate effectively around the scheduling commitments we cannot avoid.

Psychological Consequences

“How is this going to make me feel?”

This and the following two risks are ones that may require market research. It may be hard to know which customers find a given product psychologically significant and how they may react to the product experience. If our category is one where many customers could experience feelings of guilt, regret, or shame, we need to tread more carefully. And if our product’s primary benefit is psychological, we need to be especially mindful! Customers low in self-esteem or status may be especially likely to experience psychological consequences.

Products high in symbolic value, e.g., flowers, may carry more psychological risk. Some customers may place higher psychological value on particular products that are personally symbolic (that brand I bought in college). Specific usage occasions may also carry more symbolic weight, e.g., the wine we buy for a special occasion. Products given as gifts may have a higher psychological risk for both the giver and the receiver.

Usage patterns may also influence the likelihood of experiencing negative feelings. Difficult-to-repeat, high stakes experiences (e.g., “the vacation of a lifetime”) are likely to receive more scrutiny before and after purchase. Products that are complicated to use (operating the product, adhering to a schedule) may also evoke feelings of guilt or inadequacy (“I am a bad person because I slipped off my diet.”).

Research can identify the emotional hot spots around a product. Product design may allow us to mitigate the potential pitfalls, but this is another area where communications are important. We need to avoid overpromising how someone will feel. We need to reassure the customer that any bumps in the road from the usage experience are normal.

Good customer support, either from reps or community forums, can reset the psychological balance for the customer, though I will note the latter can (properly) shift blame to the company. I had a colleague once who was having a terrible time operating a device. They started wondering if they were an idiot. Then they found a community forum where they discovered they were one of dozens of idiots. The product was simply hard to use.

Social Consequences

“What will important people in my life think?”

One question here is “will they know”? Socially visible products carry a social risk. People may judge me by the brand of my watch, not the brand of stent holding open my artery. Visible products that carry the risk of social embarrassment or shame carry a social burden. One of the ways to think about social consequences is that customers want to engage in what an animal behaviorist might call “display.” Animals display for self-defense and to attract resources. The last thing we want is for our display to be unacceptable.

A second question is which referent groups matter. We are socially visible to a lot of potential audiences. Where does our social risk lie? Our mother, our boss, and our friend group may all have different standards. People may want to self-express with different products depending on the group. And “important people in my life” may include social media audiences. People show off their product choices to perfect strangers.

Customers who are more socially insecure are more likely to perceive social risk. They feel their position is more precarious, so they are sensitive to slipping down the ladder. The classic example is teenagers who want to be unique in a way that is socially acceptable. Junior employees in an office might also feel the need to “display.” Recall the ancient maxim that employees should “dress like their boss.”

B2B markets are also subject to social risk. The products a company uses can say something about the company, and in fact companies may choose to use certain products (e.g., market leading software) because it helps say something about them. Companies may go to certain trade shows, use certain advertising media, or distribute through certain channels to convey that they are a company others should want to do business with. We don’t want to look weird. Companies that are smaller or newer to an industry are the analogue of the “socially insecure” in this sense.

As with psychological risk, research can help identify the reference groups and their norms. Product design and comms can then reassure customers that “your reference group will like/respect this choice.”

Societal Consequences

“Will my using this product harm others?”

While one could classify this under either psychological or social risks, it has become prominent enough that I think it deserves its own category. We’ve all seen the surveys where customers say they worry about social values in their purchases. I don’t think this is as important as some particularly breathless surveys would have us believe — an electric car that is unsafe is not going to succeed — but it clearly matters to some extent for some customers. If that’s our situation, we need to think about how to address it.

I’ll separate this out into two aspects. One is whether using our product produces bad outcomes for others. People sometimes feel guilty about flying, for example, because of increasing awareness that airliners generate a lot of carbon emissions. Can we make our product less damaging to use? Airliner manufacturers have been looking for ways to make their planes more fuel efficient and thus less polluting. Solutions here are more likely to rely on product or experience design, but we may also be able to advise or assist customers on ways to use our products with less harm (e.g., making a product easy to dispose of).

Second is whether our business model for producing a product generates negative societal consequences. Think about the pressure many companies have experienced to clean up abuses in their supply chains. Once again, we can think about design here, but there’s also a possibility of working with either partner or competing organizations to improve our model. Joint efforts may have more credibility to customers as well.

There is a third approach companies sometimes try, which is giving money to a cause. That’s fine as far as it goes, but I will say I think this is probably the least credible. We are buying our way out rather than acting. For an interesting perspective on this issue, see the Rangan et al. article in the references.

In summary, reducing negative consequences makes it less likely customers perceive risk before purchase and have a bad experience after purchase. It’s worth understanding what our negatives are and being creative about addressing them. And it’s a better way to treat our fellow human beings.

Improving the Decision Processes around Choices

OK, we’ve done the best we can. But customers have a lot of choices (or we hope they do, a point to which I’ll return). How can we help them find the best choices for them?

A nice HBR article I use with students is Spenner and Freeman (see references). The article’s title is “To Keep Your Customers, Keep it Simple.” The subtitle is, “They don’t want a ‘relationship’ with you. Just help them make good choices.” They argue that we make can make our purchase-decision journeys too complicated, and customers’ lives our complicated enough. They propose a “decision simplicity index” that answers three questions:

1. How easy is it for customers to navigate information about a brand?

2. How much can they trust the information they find?

3. How readily can they weigh options?

This implies a considered purchase, and we know many customer choices are not considered. However, the kind of consequential choices I talked about in the previous section is (or should be) more likely to be considered.

In a related vein, an underused framework from marketing ethics is N. Craig Smith’s Consumer Sovereignty framework (see references).

For consequential choices, he also proposes three questions:

1. Do customers have enough information to make a good choice?

2. Do customers have the competence to interpret this information?

3. Do customers have choice?

Both articles highlight the role of information. Smith’s framework was conceived in the very early days of the internet, and his first question is arguably moot. Lack of information is no longer a problem. The problem is how to filter and work with the vast torrent of information (and sometimes misinformation) that is available.

The distinction between the two frameworks is that Spenner and Freeman assume the answers to Smith’s competence and choice questions are “yes”. Smith says, “not so fast.”

Enabling Competence

For competence, of course some customers are more educated than others. Some are better able to understand product information. We need to understand our customers’ baseline in this regard. But Smith also highlights the issue of vulnerable customers. Some of this is education, but some of this represents the particular life situation of our customers. Children and the elderly, for example, may have very different abilities and constraints in accessing and processing information. In America, marketing to children is regulated for this reason.

While Smith does not discuss it in this way, customers can also be what I will call “situationally vulnerable.” The smartest person in the world is less likely to make good choices when they are sick, in pain, or under stress. This is why medical personnel are so heavily coached on how to talk to patients, and we need to think about this in healthcare marketing as well. Preying on the desperate is not a good idea. And people who are smart in one area may not be smart in another. In the 1980s, I remember an entrepreneur describing doctors and lawyers as “stupid money.” Really smart in their domain, and think they’re really smart outside their domain and can thus make very poor investment decisions.

Business customers may be vulnerable in the same ways. They may vary in their raw ability to handle information or have limitations across domains. And managers in desperate situations, e.g., struggling or failing companies or careers, can make desperate decisions. Preying on the desperate is not a good idea.

Assuming it is legal to market to a vulnerable population, we have two basic ways to address the vulnerability: good technology or good people.

On the technology side, our website and social media channels can both be extremely useful. For example, in investing, lack of information is not the problem. There is far too much investment information online. Any major financial services firm includes a section of its website with advice on things like retirement planning and asset allocation. This helps people navigate information in the Spenner and Freeman sense and become more competent in interpreting the market information available.

Sometimes, however, our website becomes the problem. Sometimes this is poor UX in the first place, but often it is simply the gradual addition of individually sensible pages that in mass turn your site into an unnavigable encyclopedia. And it can be maddeningly difficult to update depending on how it is governed and how interconnected the various pages are.

This is where social media can cut through the clutter. How many of us have typed “how to X” and then called up the YouTube video with the answer? This is arguably one of the godsends of the internet. First, if it doesn’t already, your organization should sponsor its own channels on social media. This is a great opportunity to post useful videos and links and, political bonus, because it is not running on the IT infrastructure of our website can be much easier to update and maintain. People are going to search on the internet and social media: let’s make sure there is some useful and trustworthy information about us that they can find.

Second, in many product categories there are now independent “experts” who post reviews and explainer content. There’s a temptation to police this, but honestly, let’s help these people. They’re often more credible than we are.

Good people are our second solution. These may be particularly valuable to vulnerable populations who are less able to deal with technology either in general or in the moment. These can be our employees, partner employees (e.g., retailers), or a broader user community. As with social media, there’s a temptation to try to control this, but I think we should err on the side of supporting people who are constructively discussing our offerings. User communities are good, and if they aren’t going well that is a learning opportunity (my friend who discovered he was one of dozens of idiots).

There is often a perceived trade-off between using people and technology for support, but our best practice is probably trying to figure out how they can fill in for each other. Directing customers to the website or, increasingly, using chatbots of some kind is fine as far as it goes, but if someone needs a person let’s try not to make them go through six hoops to get there. Teaching our support people where everything is on our website can sometimes make up for a complicated website, as they can show people how to use the site effectively.

In summary, enabling competence means helping people navigate, trust and weigh information in a way that addresses their limitations and capabilities. If customers are making a consequential decision and the information environment is either complicated in general or challenging for vulnerable populations in particular, we need to be careful.

And Smith argues, we do need to ensure they have some choice.

Enabling Choice

Does our customer have multiple plausible choices? If not, we need to be more careful.

Many of us were exposed at some point to the idea of “caveat emptor,” let the buyer beware. If it’s legal and profitable, just do it and it’s on customers to figure things out. You’ll have guessed by now that I don’t think this is a good idea.

Smith highlights the opposite extreme, “caveat venditor,” let the seller beware. Now it’s our job to be responsible that the customer make the best choice. There’s a philosophical aspect to this, but I don’t think this is a good idea either. First, we are unlikely to come up with the one best choice for every customer. (Insert your favorite bad marketing personalization example here.) Second, this takes away free will from the customer. Leaving aside whatever philosophical objections you might have to this, Smith points out that when we take choice away we also can take away the customer’s incentive to engage in the product experience. They won’t bother learning about the product or how to use it well. And from a competitive standpoint, we may have little financial incentive to improve.

Smith highlights the competition standpoint. Are there alternatives a customer can go to if ours proves unsatisfactory? If not, we bear all the burden and potential outrage of that customer. You don’t, Smith argues, want to be a monopolist, and I might add you may not want to fulfill 100% of category requirements for an individual customer either.

If there are plausible competing options, then our danger of customers making a bad choice decreases. If there are no plausible competing options, can we think about how to improve choice within our offerings? This goes back to the idea I floated earlier of serving a broad set of customers with a broad product line. Can we offer tiers or options that allow customers to opt into a satisfactory choice? This both increases the likelihood that they will avoid a bad choice and will provide the incentive for customers engage in the product experience. There’s a distinction in the academic literature between personalization and customization (see Arora et al. in the references for a review). I’m not a big fan of us trying to guess exactly what a customer wants (personalization). I’m much more positive about letting customers choose from among a set of options that means they have a good chance of choosing a satisfactory product (customization).

Beyond competition, there can be a situational aspect to choice. Alternative choices might be theoretically plausible, but in fact are either inaccessible or unaffordable. For an individual customer, an unavailable, unaffordable choice is a false choice. We’re back in a monopoly situation for this customer. We need to be more careful.

“Stupid” Choices

OK, we’ve provided good choices with low negative consequences. We have made the purchase decision process as straightforward as we can. And customers are still making stupidly wrong choices.

Let me start with one of my rules for life: Calling people stupid doesn’t make them smarter. (Remember that when you comment on this article!)

Just as we don’t get up in the morning intending to disappoint customers, customers don’t get up in the morning saying “what’s the dumbest thing I can do today?” If people are still making what appear to be defiantly bad choices, there is something we don’t understand here. This requires market research, and not the survey-based kind. We need to have some deep conversations with customers making choices we find incomprehensible. What in their world is driving them to these choices? This may suggest changes to our product or other aspects of our marketing.

In a free society, there is a certain “lead a horse to water” quality to this problem. Short of a government mandate, we can’t make the horse drink. (And even then people can be resistant to drinking. See every COVID vaccine campaign.)

You may be able to take a “slow burn” approach, making a better choice as attractive as you can and winning customers who are on the border between good and bad choices. There can be a strong social aspect to customer choices. If we win enough borderline customers, more people will know someone who has made the better choice, and this in turn may legitimate the better choice in the eyes of resistors. Engaging respected community members can be effective in this regard. But as many a political campaign can tell you, this is hard.

You may need to let this go.

Our Choices: Tough and Humble

Letting go is a tough choice. There has been a fair amount of writing over the past few years regarding “firing” customers because they are unprofitable or abusive of staff. At some level, letting go of “stupid choice” customers is another version of this: we’re never going to succeed with this customer group, stop trying. Which is tough when you think they’re actually harming themselves in some way.

Dropping a product line is another tough choice. But suppose you look at a line through the wheel of consequences and conclude it’s simply unsavable? The odds of negative consequences are too high. There is metaphorically insufficient or no “safe use.” You may need to let this go.

In B2B, we sometimes run into these two things together as a client choice. Suppose a client sells things that have lots of negative consequences. Do we work with that client? Is there a way to work with that client that is ethical, perhaps trying to “change the system” from within? Or do you need to let this go?

I’d also argue this is a career choice issue for many of us. I encourage students to think about industries they are going to enjoy working in, because you’re going to have to work hard at whatever you do and it’s a lot easier if you like your industry. Turn it around. Maybe a factor in career choice should be working in an industry where we are comfortable with the industry’s particular set of negative consequences, because all industries have some. If we are not comfortable with an industry’s negatives, we are not going to enjoy working in that industry. And getting out of bed gets harder every day.

I’m conscious that as a tenured professor, this is a pretty easy section for me to write. A mentor of mine once described tenure as “a loophole in society.” There’s some truth to that. I have the economic security and the academic freedom to turn down work I don’t wish to do.

The humble choice is to recognize that none of us are going to get this perfectly right and that reasonable people may disagree about the choices worth being tough about. The humble choice is to be compassionate about the incomprehensible choices others may make because they are in a world we don’t really understand and operate under constraints we do not have. The humble choice is to recognize the best we can do is try to improve ourselves and the others around us a little bit each day. It’s a slow burn. That’s hard. But we light the best fires we can.

I hope this article has been useful to you. I’ve given you references below in case you would like to learn more. Go out and make the best choices you can for your customers. And for you.

Bruce Clark is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. He researches, writes, speaks, and consults on managerial decision-making, especially regarding marketing and branding strategy, customer experience, and how managers learn about their markets. You can find him on LinkedIN at

References for Further Reading

Arora, Neeraj, Xavier Dreze, Anindya Ghose, James Hess, Raghuram Iyengar, Bing Jing, Yogesh Joshi, et al. 2008. “Putting One-to-One Marketing to Work: Personalization, Customization, and Choice.” Marketing Letters 19 (3/4): 305–21.

Conchar, Margy P., George M. Zinkhan, Cara Peters, and Sergio Olavarrieta. 2004. “An Integrated Framework for the Conceptualization of Consumers’ Perceived-Risk Processing.” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 32 (4): 418–36.

Mitchell, Vincent-Wayne. 1999. “Consumer Perceived Risk: Conceptualisations and Models.” European Journal of Marketing 33 (1/2): 163–195.

Rangan, Kasturi, Lisa Chase, and Sohel Karim. 2015. “The Truth about CSR.” Harvard Business Review 93 (1/2): 40–49.

Smith, N. Craig. 1995. “Marketing Strategies for the Ethics Era.” Sloan Management Review 36 (4): 85–97.

Spenner, Patrick, and Karen Freeman. 2012. “To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple.” Harvard Business Review 90 (5): 108–14.



Bruce Clark

A practical business professor musing on marketing and management from his not quite ivory tower. Writings do not represent the views of Northeastern University