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Research Roundup: Summer 2020

Research Roundup: Summer 2020

Marilyn Stone

illustration of man with traffic cone on head

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

Why Warning Labels and Regulations Can Backfire Among Certain Populations

illustration of man wearing traffic cone on his head

By Caglar Irmak, Mitchel R. Murdock and Vamsi K. Kanuri 

When Consumption Regulations Backfire: The Role of Political Ideology,” Journal of Marketing Research, 47 (forthcoming in October 2020). 

In a nutshell: This research shows that political conservatives, but not liberals, increased their use of mobile phones in cars, purchased more unhealthy foods and viewed smoking e-cigarettes more favorably after laws were enacted prohibiting these activities. No such effects occurred when a nongovernment source issued a warning message or when the message from the government was framed as a notification versus a warning. 


Practitioner takeaways: Conservatives, who favor small government, react negatively to “warnings” but favorably to “notifications” from the government and when firms recommend activities. Liberals, who believe government exists to help people, comply similarly to warnings, notifications and firms’ recommendations.

Are Free Shipping Promotions Worth It for Your Bottom Line?

By Edlira Shehu, Dominik Papies and Scott A. Neslin 

illustration of packages on handtrucks

Free Shipping Promotions and Product Returns,” Journal of Marketing Research, 47 (forthcoming in August 2020). 

In a nutshell: Shipping fees are a pain point for customers purchasing online, so it follows that free shipping promotions can lead to more sales. However, free shipping promotions increase product returns because they encourage consumers to make riskier purchases that are consequently more likely to be returned.

Practitioner takeaways: Managers should account for additional returns when they consider using free shipping promotions. Higher return rates can render a promotion unprofitable. Consider the product category and size of the shipping fee before diving into free shipping promotions. 

illustration of red cross under glass case

Perceptions Outweigh Objective Measures in Healthcare Access

By Emily C. Tanner, Richard J. Vann and Elvira Kizilova 

Consumer-Level Perceived Access to Health Services and Its Effects on Vulnerability and Health Outcomes,” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 39 (April 2020). 

In a nutshell: Although physical access to healthcare is important, perceived health vulnerability and overall health also determine consumers’ access perceptions. When people distrust the health system, they perceive reduced access and increased vulnerability. Even people who are highly motivated to remain healthy perceive greater vulnerability when their overall health is low. 

Practitioner takeaways: Healthcare marketers are encouraged to take a holistic view of what “access” means. Addressing feelings of vulnerability is critical, even before addressing health motivation. Improving health motivation, rather than overcoming the negative effects of limited health access, may actually contribute to worse health outcomes if perceived vulnerability is not first addressed. 

Poor Review? All Is Not Lost

By Thomas Allard, Lea H. Dunn and Katherine White 

Negative Reviews, Positive Impact: Consumer Empathetic Responding to Unfair Word of Mouth,” Journal of Marketing, 84 (July 2020). 

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In a nutshell: Negative reviews, when perceived as unfair, can activate feelings of empathy toward firms that have been wronged. This empathy can motivate consumer responses such as paying higher purchase prices and reporting increased patronage intentions. 

Practitioner takeaways: Allow unfair negative reviews to remain on your website; they can motivate consumer empathy and generate supportive responses. Managers could even consider highlighting unfair negative reviews and strategically leveraging them. For example, the Drake Hotel in Toronto emphasizes unfair negative reviews from TripAdvisor as part of its marketing communications by turning complaints about its decor into unintended praise for its hip styling.

Consumers’ Anticipated Regret Can Determine Whether They Choose a Global Brand

By Vasileios Davvetas, Adamantios Diamantopoulos and Lucy Liu 

Lit Up or Dimmed Down? Why, When, and How Regret Anticipation Affects Consumers’ Use of the Global Brand Halo,” Journal of International Marketing, 28 (forthcoming in September 2020). 

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In a nutshell: “Global equals better” has long been a marketing staple for brands aiming to capitalize on their global status. However, consumers don’t always respond positively to global brands, depending on the category. Regret anticipation can be a powerful motivator when they perceive a mismatch between the product and global brand status. 

Practitioner takeaways: Messaging that primes regret when not purchasing their brand can be effective. For example, consumers tend to see global bicycle brands as more trustworthy, so craft messaging that emphasizes the perils of making the wrong choice with a domestic brand.

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