Academic Trustees Reading List

Alexander Chernev’s Journal Must-Reads from 2014

Alexander Chernev is Professor of Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. His research applies theories and concepts related to consumer behavior and managerial decision making to develop successful marketing strategies.

His recommendations for our 2014 reading list:

“Reviews Without a Purchase: Low Ratings, Loyal Customers, and Deception” by Eric T. Anderson and Duncan I. Simester, Journal of Marketing Research, June 2014

Chernev: During the past decade, shopper reviews have become an increasingly important source of information about products and an important driver of subsequent purchases by other shoppers. Therefore, understanding the antecedents and consequences of these reviews is of key importance to both manufacturers and retailers.

This article examines product reviews on a large private-label retailer's website to identify significant patterns in consumer reviews. Specifically, the study shows that (1) very few customers (1.5%) write product reviews, (2) about 5% of product reviews are submitted by customers who apparently have not purchased the product, (3) the content of these reviews is significantly more negative, and (4) lower ratings in a review are associated with reduced demand for that product over the next 12 months.

The article offers an in-depth discussion of the reasons behind negative consumer reviews that can dissuade future product purchases, including that consumers act as “self-appointed brand managers” who use product reviews to provide a company with feedback on how to improve its products. The insights provided by this article can be helpful to jump-start managers’ understanding of customers’ motivation for writing negative product reviews.

 Free access to journal article until February 27, 2015

“Judging a Part by the Size of Its Whole: The Category Size Bias in Probability Judgments” by Mathew S. Isaac and Aaron R. Brough, Journal of Consumer Research, August 2014

Chernev: This research documents a decision-making phenomenon referred to as category-size bias, whereby consumers’ probability judgments are sensitive to the number of categories into which a set of possible outcomes is grouped.

For example, the authors show that people believed they were more likely to win a lottery if their ticket color matched many (vs. few) of the other gamblers’ tickets - a finding that suggests that consumers’ perceptions of risk and probability are influenced not only by the number of categories into which possible outcomes are classified but also by category size.

In another study investors were asked to estimate the likelihood that a particular bank would be one of the top gainers in a Japanese stock index. Half of the investors were told that the bank was part of a large group of 98 financial services companies, whereas the other half was told that it was part of a small group of only 12. Being part of the larger group significantly increased the bank’s perceived chance of being one of the top gainers. This suggests that investors may be biased toward investing in stocks that are part of large industries or large portfolios.

 Free access to journal article

“Slim by Design: Redirecting the Accidental Drivers of Mindless Overeating” by Brian Wansink and Pierre Chandon, Journal of Consumer Psychology, July 2014

Chernev: Food decisions involve at least two major choices: what to eat (a burger or a salad) and how much to eat (regular or supersized). Most consumer research has focused more on understanding the mechanisms that influence food choice rather than on understanding what influences food consumption quantity. This article addresses this discrepancy by focusing on the antecedents of consumption quantity.

Specifically, this research identifies three powerful drivers of food consumption quantity: (1) sensory cues (how your senses react), (2) emotional cues (how you feel), and (3) normative cues (how you believe you are supposed to eat). To date, consumption quantity research has focused on the first two drivers. In contrast, the authors argue that small changes in consumption norms and the consumption environment (such as package downsizing, smaller dinnerware, and reduced visibility and convenience) can improve consumers’ monitoring of how much they eat and thus help manage consumption.

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