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Research Roundup: Fall 2020

Research Roundup: Fall 2020

Marilyn Stone

seating map with question marks

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

Predicting Where Your Eventgoers Will Want to Sit

By Simon J. Blanchard, Tatiana L. Dyachenko and Keri L. Kettle

Locational Choices: Modeling Consumer Preferences for Proximity to Others in Reserved Seating Venues,” Journal of Marketing Research, 57 (October 2020). 

seating map

In a nutshell: Accommodating customers’ preferences for proximity to others—or the lack thereof— will be key as people begin to venture out to concerts and movies. The authors have developed a model that helps event operators determine optimal seating choices for eventgoers, using data from people who purchased tickets as well as those who did not. 

Practitioner takeaways: Event operators should collect data beyond purchased ticket logs and include consumers who did not purchase. Managers can use fitted, individual-level parameters and an optimization model to make more effective seat-level availability decisions. 


What Do Online Reviews Really Tell Marketers? 

By Verena Schoenmueller, Oded Netzer and Florian Stahl 

The Polarity of Online Reviews: Prevalence, Drivers and Implications,” Journal of Marketing Research, 57 (October 2020). 

people holding up red stars

In a nutshell: Consumer online reviews commonly clump at the positive end of the rating scale, with a few reviews in the midrange and some at the negative end— surprising, considering they represent crowdsourced preferences of a large body of heterogeneous consumers, which often results in a normal distribution. Such skewed ratings reduce the informativeness of reviews. 

Practitioner takeaways: Platforms on which people review a large number of products have less polarity than when people review only selected products; therefore, the number of reviews the reviewer has written on the platform can serve as a signal of how informative a review is. Firms should encourage good reviewers to write more. 

Cultural Considerations in Determining Advertising Budgets 

By Jung Seek Kim

National Culture and Advertising Sensitivity to Business Cycles: A Reexamination,” Journal of International Marketing, 28 (forthcoming in December). 

In a nutshell: The author looks at 35 years’ worth of national advertising expenditures across 59 countries and finds that cultural traits can account for advertising sensitivity differences according to business cycles. Sensitivity is lower in long-term-oriented and high-uncertainty-avoidant countries and is unrelated to individualism. However, power distance is unassociated with cyclical sensitivity, and masculinity and indulgence reduce it. 

Practitioner takeaways: Marketing managers are under growing pressure to engage in speedy, cyclical adjustment to their advertising spending over economic contractions and expansions. However, it’s wise to consider all stakeholders: To increase an advertising budget during an economic downturn, marketing executives should address mental programming of their managers, collaborators and investors of diverse cultural backgrounds as well as meticulously assess organizational constraints and resources. 

How to Pick a Good Micro-Influencer

By Francesca Valsesia, Davide Proserpio and Joseph C. Nunes 

The Positive Effect of Not Following Others on Social Media,” Journal of Marketing Research, 57 (forthcoming in December 2020). 

hand holding small woman with blank speech bubble

In a nutshell: Firms are increasingly using micro-influencers because famous influencers have become prohibitively expensive. But what makes a good micro-influencer? The authors find that for two influencers who have similar amounts of followers, the one who follows fewer accounts is perceived more favorably. 

Practitioner takeaways: Famous influencers are outside many firms’ budgets, but micro-influencers can work well, too. When deciding among influencers, choose those who don’t follow as many people. Potential customers tend to see micro-influencers who follow fewer accounts as more authoritative, autonomous and trustworthy. 

Taking a Stand—the Right Way

By Jessica Vredenburg, Sommer Kapitan, Amanda Spry and Joya A. Kemper 

Brands Taking a Stand: Authentic Brand Activism or Woke Washing?” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 39 (October 2020). 


In a nutshell: Companies are struggling with whether to take a stand in today’s politically charged environment, and no one wants to come off as inauthentic. The authors create a typology of brand activism to determine how and when a brand engaging with a sociopolitical cause is likely to be viewed as authentic. 

Practitioner takeaways: Firms that frequently use activist messaging, are highly involved with the sociopolitical cause and tout explicit prosocial brand purpose and values are positioned well to be considered authentic. In contrast, firms that do not have these characteristics are likely to be viewed as deceptive or opportunistic— in other words, engaging in woke-washing. 

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