When Less Is More: How Mindset Influences Consumers’ Responses to Products with Reduced Negative Attributes

Vincent Chi Wong*, Lei Su, Howard Pong Yuen Lam

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Marketing communications often describe a reduction in a product’s negative attributes (e.g., “our mineral water now uses 34% less plastic”). This claim may be interpreted as a trend of improving relative to previous state. However, such a claim may also call attention to a negative product feature that might have otherwise been overlooked. The authors suggest that whether consumers are positively or negatively influenced by such claims depends on whether the claims are interpreted through an incremental or entity mindset. When a reduction in negative attributes is viewed through an incremental mindset—the tendency to think of attributes as malleable—a trend-based interpretation results in improved product evaluations. In contrast, an entity mindset that emphasizes attributes are unlikely to change produces a negative effect for the claim. Four experiments and a field survey (N = 2,543) across food, pharmaceuticals, and plastic bottle products confirm the effects and indicate that the effects diminish when consumers believe the attribute is easy to eliminate or when the attribute has extremely threatening consequences. The opposite is observed for claims of reduced positive attributes, such that an entity mindset produces more positive evaluations. The findings offer marketers consumer insights to guide the communication of negatively framed attributes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)137-153
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Marketing
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Business and International Management
    • Marketing

    User-Defined Keywords

    • attribute framing
    • incremental versus entity mindset
    • marketing communications
    • reduced negative attribute


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