Hand Over Control


Providing customers with an easy, automated way to achieve their goals may be counterproductive. Research has found that when customers have a low sense of control – the extent to which they felt they could make positive things happen and avoid negative results – they preferred brands that required them to put in more of their own effort.

Understanding your audience is key. Use surveys to identify customers with the lowest sense of control in the buying process. Try to find commonalities between them. Is it related to age or household income? Is it their technical sophistication or professional experience? Keep in mind that these feelings can be domain specific. For instance, a sense of control over one’s physical health may not carry over to their financial state.


For the identified groups, try to avoid marketing messages that emphasize your product’s capabilities – no matter how automated or incredible they may seem. Instead, focus on how the customer’s contributions together with your product will produce results. Their effort. Your product.


Cutright, Keisha & Samper, Adriana. (2014). Doing It the Hard Way: How Low Control Drives Preferences for High-Effort Products and Services. Journal of Consumer Research. 41. 730-745. 10.1086/677314.