When Consumers Learn, Money Burns: Signaling Quality Via Advertising With Observational Learning And Word Of Mouth
54 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2020
Date Written: May 28, 2020
This research analyzes a firm's investment in advertising that signals quality when consumers learn about quality not only from such advertising but also from interactions with other consumers in the form of observational learning or word of mouth. Further, word of mouth interactions may involve under-reporting (not everyone shares experiences), positivity (positive experiences are communicated more widely than negative ones) or negativity (negative experiences are communicated more widely than positive ones). The analysis focuses on whether a firm should advertise more or less aggressively in the presence of such consumer interactions as compared to their absence, and offers four key insights. First, consumer interactions can amplify the signaling effect of advertising, and as a consequence, to prevent mimicking it may be optimal for a high quality firm to become more aggressive and spend more on advertising to signal quality in the presence of such interactions, than without. Second, as under-reporting increases, it can be optimal to reduce advertising, sometimes significantly. Third, with increasing positivity, it can be optimal to increase advertising; and finally, even with increasing negativity, under certain conditions it may still be optimal to increase advertising rather than decreasing it.
Keywords: experience goods, advertising, observational learning, word of mouth, positivity, negativity, game theory, signaling, behavioral industrial organization
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