The Jilting Effect: Antecedents, Mechanisms, and Consequences for Preference

Aaron M. Garvey, Margaret G. Meloy and Baba Shiv
Article Snapshot
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Key Takeaways

​What? Jilting occurs in marketing contexts when a consumer anticipates a desirable product or service but it ends up being unavailable.

So What? Jilts provide opportunities for competitors to steal market share away from the status quo option and serve as a source of exposure for the jilting firm or brand.

Now What? Brand managers should work closely with retailers to ensure that shelf availability and promotional activities are sufficient to meet demand. Companies should invest in identifying customers who have been jilted by competitors and move quickly to direct promotions toward them.

Article Snapshot​s: Executive Summaries from the Journal of Marketing Research

The research reveals that that when people experience a jilt—that is, they expect to receive something extremely attractive but their hopes are dashed—the experience of the jilt drives people to no longer be content with the status quo and instead to seek out new and different alternatives.


Research Question
Though the implications of jilting have been examined for the hoped for (i.e., aspirant) option, we examine the implications of jilting for the status quo (i.e., incumbent) option.  When a highly attractive aspirant option is introduced but later withdrawn, do consumers hold on more tenaciously to their incumbent option or does the incumbent become tainted while the hoped-for aspirant is in play?  We predict that the affectively charged jilt will alter preference for incumbent and non-incumbent options.

Methods
Through a series of four field and laboratory studies, we create a preferred incumbent option, introduce an aspirant, and examined preference for incumbent and non-incumbent options after a jilt (i.e., after the aspirant is withdrawn).  We measure changes in choice share, affective response, and information processing in response to the jilt among student and non-student adult samples.

Findings

We show that consumers liberate from incumbent (i.e., status quo) options after a jilt and seek greener pastures because of a now-tainted incumbent and the sadness resulting from the jilt experience.

Implications

The experience of a jilt can steal your pre-existing happiness with your current, status quo option that you have been content with, and fail to return it after a jilt occurs. Thus, the jilt drives consumers to be less content with the status quo, and to seek out new and different alternatives. Managers should guard against inadvertently jilting consumers (e.g., through new product stock-outs, launch delays, and concellations), as this may result in heightened exposure to competitor threats. The results apply across a broad range of consumer product sectors. 

Questions for the Classroom

  • After a jilt occurs, do consumers hold on to the incumbent option more tenaciously, or do they prefer it less?
  • What role do emotions play in the jilting effect?
  • What are the implications for a current customer who intended to upgrade within a brand, but was jilted?

Article Citation: Aaron M. Garvey, Margaret G. Meloy, and Baba Shiv (2017) The Jilting Effect: Antecedents, Mechanisms, and Consequences for Preference. Journal of Marketing Research: October 2017, Vol. 54, No. 5, pp. 785-798

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jmr.14.0373 


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Aaron M. Garvey, Margaret G. Meloy and Baba Shiv
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