How Power States Influence the Persuasiveness of Top-Dog versus Underdog Appeals

Liyin Jin*, Yunhui Huang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Although both top-dog and underdog positioning appeals are widely used in marketing and advertising, little is known about which strategy is more effective in persuading consumers. By introducing a sense of power, a social variable that is inherently relevant to the nature of the top-dog versus underdog classification, we propose that consumers' responses to these two appeals are influenced by their psychological experience of power. Specifically, low-power consumers will respond to top-dog appeals more favorably because associating with top dogs facilitates power restoration. In contrast, high-power consumers will respond to underdog appeals more favorably because supporting underdogs facilitates power expression. In four experimental studies, we provide consistent support for our main predictions as well as the underlying processes. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate the differential effect of consumers' power states on their attitudes toward top-dog versus underdog appeals. Providing process evidence, Studies 3 and 4 identify boundary conditions under which the basic effect was eliminated. These findings contribute to the persuasion literature and power research and provide important implications for positioning strategy and advertisement development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-261
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

User-Defined Keywords

  • Sense of power
  • Underdog appeal
  • Top-dog appeal
  • Persuasion
  • Positioning strategy


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