John A. Deighton

Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration

John Deighton is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is an authority on consumer behavior and marketing, with a focus on digital and direct marketing. He initiated and has led the HBS Executive Education program in digital marketing and taught the elective MBA course, Digital Marketing Strategy.

His research on marketing management and consumer behavior has been published in a variety of journals including the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Marketing Research, the Journal of Marketing, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and the Harvard Business Review. His research has also received a number of commendations, including the American Marketing Association’s Best Article Award for an article in the Journal of Marketing and an honorable mention from the Journal of interactive Marketing. He received the European Case Clearing House Award in Marketing (2012), the Edward N. Mayer, Jr. Award for Education Leadership (2011), the Direct Marketing Education Foundation Robert B. Clarke Outstanding Educator Award (2002), and the University of Chicago's Hillel J. Einhorn Excellence in Teaching Award (1995). He has been a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo, Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, and the Judge School of Business at Cambridge University.

He is the immediate past editor of the Journal of Consumer Research, a leading outlet for scholarly research on consumer behavior, and was the founding co-editor of the Journal of Interactive Marketing, which reports academic research on marketing and the Internet. He is the immediate past Executive Director of the Marketing Science Institute, a member of the Chairman’s Advisory Council of Marketing Edge, and a Director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. He has been with HBS since 1994 and received the Greenhill Award for outstanding service to the school.

Prior to joining HBS, he was on the faculties of the University of Chicago and the Tuck School of Business (Dartmouth College). He has a Ph.D. in Marketing from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from the University of Cape Town. He also has a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Natal. His applied research includes consulting with a number of U.S and international corporations.

  1. Marketing Intrusion and Consumer Resistance

    Although marketing is customarily described as the process of identifying and satisfying consumer needs, its history can also be read as progressive refinement of the arts of intrusion and surveillance on the side of the seller, from door-to-door selling through direct mail to cookies on browsers.   Early in the Internet era, it looked as if new powers were about to be available to marketers.  Data profiling and digital media would allow for deeper targeting and more intrusion into consumers’ lives than broadcast marketing ever could.  However the technologies that enabled intrusion have also enabled defense against intrusion. Tivo, Caller ID and a new generation of consumer-side technologies, as well as consumer access to video broadcasting on YouTube and other  social media, are giving consumers ways to assert privacy and respond to unwelcome intrusion. This research project explores the play between intrusive marketing and consumer resistance.
  2. Viral Propagation of Consumer-Generated Content

    Within the last decade it has become possible for people with no special talent or technology to generate video content and disseminate it widely. Each year sees a number of "amateur" video products reaching global audiences of 5 million to 100 million. Some of these communication products have large economic consequences, for example in shaping consumer tastes in music and other entertainment industries, but also in propagating rumors and consumer complaints. This project models the way these audiences are built. It examines the interplay among new and traditional media in the dissemination process. It investigates the relative importance of specific media in the early and later stages of the process, as a function of the network properties of their audiences, their audience sizes, and the time to cycle content on each medium.
  3. Anonymity and Identity

    In most consumer markets, consumers are accustomed to operating in relative anonymity. A complex social adjustment is occurring as people realize that anonymity is often no longer their default condition - it must be sought and in some cases bought. New conceptions of privacy are being constructed by processes of public policymaking and marketplace negotiation in settings that range from healthcare to security in air travel to email spam. This research is building a conceptual framework and empirical evidence on consumer preferences for anonymity and identity.
  4. Social Media and Their Consequences for Celebrity

    Social media have had negative consequences for entertainment industries such as music and motion pictures, but they have had positive implications too. This project is concerned with one aspect of these social media effects: changes in the process by which talented people achieve individual success. It investigates how people rise to celebrity when they cannot or chose not to rely on traditional media entertainment industry infrastructures. It explores how, and to what extent, a more populist process is enabled by social media, in which we the people make fame. It studies the balance between celebrity manufactured for us, and celebrity manufactured by us.