“Ten Million Readers Can’t Be Wrong!” or Can They? The Role of Information about Initial Adoption in New Product Trial

Coby Morvinski, and On Amir, and Eitan Muller, 2014, 14-117

Marketers have long held that a large “stock” of initial sales of a new product increases the likelihood of subsequent adoption, presumably because of its positive signal to potential customers. Coby Morvinski, On Amir, and Eitan Muller examine the underlying mechanisms and the conditions under which this assumption holds. They explore when and whether information about a large adoption stock (e.g., “over 19 billion served”) increases the adoption likelihood of a new product, as well as its interaction with the clarity of new product information (e.g., degree of uncertainty about the product quality) and information about the adoption stock identity (e.g., the degree of similarity to the customer).

In controlled choice experiments and a field experiment, the authors demonstrate that the influence of information on product diffusion is complex. In order to increase the new product’s purchase likelihood, the large stock of adoption needs to be of similar others and be coupled with low product uncertainty (e.g., an informative product description). Otherwise, information about a large stock of adoption may be insignificant to or even reduce purchase likelihood.

For example, in a field experiment, potential customers approached on the street who were told that a new performance drink was consumed by thousands of others “like them” were more inclined to buy a trial product than those who did not receive such information. Importantly, however, this positive influence on sales held only if these individuals also received a clear product description. When the description of the new drink was vague, including a statement about thousands of similar adopters decreased the likelihood that a potential customer would buy a trial product.


These findings should allow marketers to more effectively communicate information about adoption stock and better understand the scope in which such information would be beneficial. For example, marketers might prefer to avoid using such information if they cannot clearly communicate their product’s characteristics (e.g., due to limited ad space or  media choice) or when product quality uncertainty might be high (e.g., due to product category). When information about stock of adoption can be coupled with a clear product description, information about adoption by a large stock of similar others might be effective in increasing the likelihood of subsequent adoption.

Coby Morvinski is a doctoral student and On Amir is Associate Professor of Marketing, both at the Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego. Eitan Muller is Professor of Marketing, Stern School of Business, New York University and the Arison School of Business at Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya.

Related links

Innovation Diffusion and New Product Growth
Eitan Muller, Renana Peres, and Vijay Mahajan (2009) [Book]


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