John T. Gourville

Albert J. Weatherhead, Jr. Professor of Business Administration

John Gourville is the Albert J. Weatherhead, Jr. Professor of Business Administration at the  Harvard Business School.  He joined the HBS Marketing Unit in 1995 after receiving his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in marketing and behavioral research.  He has recently returned to teaching in the Core Marketing course in the first year of the MBA program, a course for which he had previouosly been course head.  He has also taught the electives The Marketing of Innovations, Consumer Marketing, and Entrepreneurial Marketing in the second year of the MBA program.  In the HBS Executive Education program, he has chaired the Strategic Marketing Management program.  He also teaches in the Aligning Sales and Strategy program and the Program for Leadership Development, as well as a number of custom company programs. John also has participated in specialized executive education programs throughout the world.  Prior to receiving his Ph.D., John held management positions with Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Mobil Oil, and New York Telephone.

John's research focuses on consumer decision making, especially in the areas of pricing and the adoption of innovations.  For instance, in several papers John has investigated subtle changes in the presentation of product price can lead to significant changes in a consumer's decision to purchase and consume that product.  In other work, he has looked at the impact of product variety on consumer choice and finds that offering a wide assortment of goods often harms a brand.  Finally, his current research investigates when and why innovative new products fail to gain traction in the marketplace.  John's research has appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Marketing Science, the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Marketing Research, and in Marketing Letters.

  1. Overview

    by John T. Gourville

    John's research focuses on behavioral decision theory, which studies all the ways in which people systematically deviate from rational decision making. To date, his work has looked at the ways in which people irrationally respond to pricing, to product portfolios, and to the adoption of innovative new products.

    Keywords: marketing;

  2. Consumer Decision Making and Behavioral Research

    by John T. Gourville

    John Gourville’s research focuses on consumer behavior, especially in the areas of pricing and consumer decision making. In the area of pricing, for instance, he has looked at the role of time on how consumers interpret and react to product costs and prices. He has looked at how the temporal separation between payments and product consumption, as increasingly seen with advanced payment transactions, impacts the likelihood and timing of product consumption. he has investigated the effect of price bundling on product consumption.  And John has looked at 'downsizing price increases,' the increasingly common practice of increasing the price of a product by keeping the sticker price the same, but reducing the quantity contained in the offering. He is intestested in its effects on consumer purchase and its implications for manufacturers and retailers.

    In the realm of consumer decision making, John has explored the impact of brand variants on likelihood of consumer choice.  This research suggests that while some types of product variety (e.g., size variety) increase the likelihood of choosing within a brand, other types of variety (e.g., non-overlapping features) decrease that likelihood.

    In recent years, John has been investigating the decision making surrounding the adoption and purchase of technological innovations. In particular, he is interested in 'why consumers don't buy' when rational expectations suggest that they should. As part of this work, he developed a new MBA course called 'The Marketing of Innovations.' Increasingly, he is working with companies apply this research to foster more effective new product development.