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Research Roundup: Crisis Edition

Research Roundup: Crisis Edition

Marilyn Stone

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Highlights from the AMA journals related to marketing during uncertainty

Part of the Marketing News COVID-19 Special Issue

When Consumers Feel Out of Control, They Prefer Numerical Certainty

By Christophe Lembregts and Mario Pandelaere

Falling Back on Numbers: When Preference for Numerical Product Information Increases after a Personal Control Threat,” Journal of Marketing Research, 56 (December 2018).

In a nutshell: Feeling a loss of control is a common reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. This study shows that when consumers are seeking to regain control of their environment, they prefer specific numerical product information (e.g., 12- to 14-hour battery life, 20 calories per serving). In fact, when people lack personal control, they appreciate point value information so much that they express preferences for a product that has a lower benefit but holds a specified point value, compared with when its benefit is higher but is presented as a range.


Practitioner takeaways: Consider your customers’ psychological need to control their environment in these uncertain times by advertising precise numerical benefits of your product—the more specific, the better. Even ranges are less optimal than actual numbers.

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Marilyn Stone is Director, Academic Communities and Journals, American Marketing Association.