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Latest Research Insights: November/December 2019

Latest Research Insights: November/December 2019

Marketing News Staff

illustration of smiling driver in green car

Highlights from the AMA journals—and what the findings mean for practitioners

Media Coverage of Climate Change Increasing Hybrid Vehicle Adoption

By Yubo Chen, Mrinal Ghosh, Yong Liu and Liang Zhao

“Media Coverage of Climate Change and Sustainable Product Consumption: Evidence from Hybrid Vehicle Market,” Journal of Marketing Research, 56 (December 2019).

In a nutshell: The authors show that mass-media coverage of climate change or global warming can increase adoption of hybrid vehicles, even when that coverage is general and does not pertain specifically to vehicle emissions. Such coverage can create and shape the norm that sustainable consumption is socially desirable. One caveat: Media coverage that either denies climate change or holds a neutral position on the issue has little impact on hybrid vehicle adoption.


Practitioner takeaways: An effective, long-run marketing strategy for firms selling sustainable products is to proactively work with the media on sustainability issues rather than simply focusing on marketing their own products.

Customer Participation Improves Bank Branch Performance

By Seigyoung Auh, Bulent Menguc, Constantine S. Katsikeas and Yeon Sung Jung

“When Does Customer Participation Matter? An Empirical Investigation of the Role of Customer Empowerment in the Customer Participation-Performance Link,” Journal of Marketing Research, 56 (December 2019).

In a nutshell: Is it worth allowing customers to participate in shaping product offerings? This research shows that the return on customer participation (CP) is tangible and benefits the organization. In the context of the banking industry, the authors show that customer satisfaction and empowerment influences bank branch performance in terms of profitability, sales growth and customer retention.

Practitioner takeaways: The authors caution against formalizing CP, as customers desire discretion, control and autonomy in how they participate. They suggest that offering feedback on customers’ input empowers them and lets them know their participation is valued.

Format Matters in Student Loan Repayment

By Yi Zhang, Ronald T. Wilcox and Amar Cheema

“The Effect of Student Loan Debt on Spending: The Role of Repayment Format,” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 40 (January 2020).

In a nutshell: Student loan borrowers are often not aware of the cost of higher education until much later. Seeing these large debts can overwhelm inexperienced student borrowers, so much so that the feeling of difficulty associated with paying off student loan debt decreases the motivation to control spending. A motivated and committed borrower will likely make every effort to control spending. Unmotivated and indifferent borrowers, on the other hand, are more likely to overspend.

Practitioner takeaways: The authors find that presenting student loan debt in an attainable monthly repayment format helps borrowers stay motivated and control their spending.

Social Metrics Can Help Determine Global Brand Reach

By Moon-Yong Kim, Sangkil Moon and Dawn Iacobucci

“The Influence of Global Brand Distribution on Brand Popularity on Social Media,” Journal of International Marketing, 27 (December 2019).

In a nutshell: Gauging the success of a global brand’s social media strategy can be tricky; traditional sales-based measures may not provide clear guidance. The authors find that country brand popularity is influenced by brand (brand globalness, brand home country and social signaling industry), culture (power distance, individualism, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation and indulgence), social media accessibility (English speakers, internet penetration and cell phone penetration) and economics (per capita GDP, trade importance, Gini index).

Practitioner takeaways: Think beyond traditional sales-based measures to understand the global reach of your brand on social media.

Where Your Customers Live Can Predict Product Success

By Duncan I. Simester, Catherine E. Tucker and Clair Yang

“The Surprising Breadth of Harbingers of Failure,” Journal of Marketing Research, 56 (December 2019).

In a nutshell: Previous research has identified “harbinger customers” as people who systematically purchase new products that fail and are discontinued by retailers. These harbingers have preferences that are not representative of other customers in the market, and they show a pattern of adopting niche products. This article finds that these harbingers tend to live close to one another, in “harbinger ZIP codes.” If households in these ZIP codes adopt a new product, this is a signal that the new product is likely to fail. Furthermore, households in harbinger ZIP codes tend to make other decisions that differ from most households, such as contributing funds to a political candidate who is ultimately not elected.

Practitioner takeaways: “Know your customer” has never been more relevant. Determining if they live in a harbinger ZIP code can provide a wealth of information.