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How Anxiety—and Hope—Can Drive New Product Adoption

How Anxiety—and Hope—Can Drive New Product Adoption

Yu-Ting Lin, Deborah J. MacInnis and Andreas B. Eisingerich

New products offer consumers the opportunity to create positive outcomes that are congruent with the goals they hope to achieve. However, because they are new and untried, new products might also create anxiety about outcomes that are incongruent with consumers’ goals. A new Journal of Marketing study analyzes how varying levels of hope and anxiety about outcomes from new products affect consequential adoption intentions and actual product adoption. Our research team demonstrates that strong anxiety about outcomes from a new product actually enhances (vs. weakens) consequential adoption intentions toward and actual adoption of that new product when hope is also strong. This novel and provocative effect is observed in three studies that use diverse populations, use different types of products and services, and measure and manipulate hope and anxiety.

We show that this effect occurs because strong hope and strong anxiety motivate individuals to engage in action planning—that is, to contemplate actions that support the occurrence of hoped-for outcomes and actions that avoid the occurrence of anxiety-arousing ones. Action planning boosts new product adoption by enhancing consumers’ perceived control over outcomes from new product adoption. Our findings aid marketers in understanding how emotions like hope and anxiety can affect new product adoption. They also aid policymakers by suggesting that disclaimers that make consumers anxious about potentially negative outcomes from new product purchase or usage could encourage thoughtful processing in the form of action planning when hope is also strong.

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Specifically, if market research reveals that consumers already have strong anxiety about outcomes from new product adoption, marketing communications should emphasize the product’s relevance to the goals that consumers hope for, as opposed to downplaying consumers’ anxiety about potentially adverse outcomes. Conversely, if market research reveals that consumers have strong hope for the product but low anxiety, our results suggest that marketers might benefit by providing warning labels, disclaimers, or disclosures. Beyond encouraging new product adoption, such communications could also enhance product satisfaction. Specifically, if consumers consider goal-incongruent outcomes and plan for how they can be avoided, they may ultimately be more satisfied with the product than would consumers who never considered potential anxiety-evoking outcomes or engaged in action planning.

Relatedly, and from a public policy perspective, our findings suggest that disclosures or labels that evoke strong anxiety about goal-incongruent outcomes from new product use might encourage more thoughtful decision making when hope is also strong. Whereas marketers may be loath to use such disclaimers, our research suggests that when a new product evokes strong levels of hope, anxiety-inducing disclosures might not harm, and could potentially help, new product adoption.

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From: Yu-Ting Lin, Deborah J. MacInnis, and Andreas B. Eisingerich, “Strong Anxiety Boosts New Product Adoption When Hope Is Also Strong,” Journal of Marketing.

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Yu-Ting Lin is Teaching and Research Associate in Marketing, Imperial College Business School, Imperial College London, UK.

Deborah J. MacInnis is Charles L. and Ramona I. Hilliard Professor of Business Administration and Professor of Marketing, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, USA.

Andreas B. Eisingerich is Professor of Marketing and Head of Analytics, Marketing, and Operations, Imperial College Business School, Imperial College London, UK.