Communication strategies for when a product s negative attributes are only partially reduced

  • SU, Lei (PI)

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    Does telling your customer that your product now contains fewer bad materials negatively affect their view of your product? In many situations, manufacturers cannot completely eliminate the perceived negative qualities of a product, due to the nature of the product, technical limitations, or time constraints in a highly competitive environment. Therefore, when manufacturers manage to partly improve a product by reducing its negative qualities, they might choose to advertise the new product as having “less of a negative attribute,”— this is called “partially reduced negativity” product information. For instance, in response to the widespread perception that a high sugar content adversely affects the healthiness of a product, many packaged lemon tea manufacturers in Hong Kong launched reduced sugar versions several years ago. For example, Vitasoy launched the VITA Low Sugar Lemon Tea in 2007. Communicating new information normally costs millions of dollars, but does telling consumers that the product is now “less bad” really benefit sales? One real market case suggests otherwise. In 2010, Coca-Cola marketers of Bonaqua water advertised in Hong Kong that the new 500 mL Bonaqua lightweight packaging could reduce plastic use by 34% (Coca-Cola Company 2010). However, when this message was communicated to consumers, many consumers have negative attitudes towards the product which finally negatively impact on Bonaqua sales.

    In this research, we examine whether a commonly used marketing strategy (i.e., communicating a “partially reduced negativity” product attribute) may reduce product sales in certain situations, but not in the others. According to the incremental-versus- entity theory of self-developed by Carol Dweck and her colleagues (1983; 1995), people have either an “incremental” or “entity” belief about changes in human nature, abilities, personalities, etc. We make an analogous distinction in people’s attitudes toward product performance. Specifically, we propose that incremental theorists will be attuned to incremental changes in a quality and will therefore react to the improved product positively, whereas entity theorists may see the partially reduced negativity information as a reminder of the immutable negative attribute and this will result in reduced willingness to purchase the produce. Moreover, we expect that processing fluency will mediate the effects of incremental-versus-entity belief on product evaluation. We will collect real market data to support our arguments in the pilot study, and four studies were further proposed to test our propositions.
    Effective start/end date1/01/1530/06/17


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