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Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales

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Author Info

  • Jonah Berger

    ()
    (The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

  • Alan T. Sorensen

    ()
    (Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305)

  • Scott J. Rasmussen

    ()
    (Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305)

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    Abstract

    Can negative information about a product increase sales, and if so, when? Although popular wisdom suggests that "any publicity is good publicity," prior research has demonstrated only downsides to negative press. Negative reviews or word of mouth, for example, have been found to hurt product evaluation and sales. Using a combination of econometric analysis and experimental methods, we unify these perspectives to delineate contexts under which negative publicity about a product will have positive versus negative effects. Specifically, we argue that negative publicity can increase purchase likelihood and sales by increasing product awareness. Consequently, negative publicity should have differential effects on established versus unknown products. Three studies support this perspective. Whereas a negative review in the New York Times hurt sales of books by well-known authors, for example, it increased sales of books that had lower prior awareness. The studies further underscore the importance of a gap between publicity and purchase occasion and the mediating role of increased awareness in these effects.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mksc.1090.0557
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Marketing Science.

    Volume (Year): 29 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 5 (09-10)
    Pages: 815-827

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:29:y:2010:i:5:p:815-827

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    Keywords: negative publicity; awareness; word of mouth; product success;

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    Cited by:
    1. Sherry Bartz & Alexander Molchanov & Philip Stork, 2013. "When a celebrity endorser is disgraced: A twenty-five-year event study," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 131-141, June.
    2. Craig L. Garthwaite, 2012. "You Get a Book! Demand Spillovers, Combative Advertising, and Celebrity Endorsements," NBER Working Papers 17915, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Michela Ponzo & Vincenzo Scoppa, 2013. "Experts’ Awards And Economic Success: Evidence From An Italian Literary Prize," Working Papers 201306, Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza (Ex Dipartimento di Economia e Statistica).
    4. Michael Scholz & Verena Dorner, 2013. "The Recipe for the Perfect Review?," Business & Information Systems Engineering, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 141-151, June.
    5. Dobrescu, Loretti I. & Luca, Michael & Motta, Alberto, 2013. "What makes a critic tick? Connected authors and the determinants of book reviews," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 85-103.
    6. Juan Nicolau & María Santa-María, 2013. "Celebrity endorsers' performance on the “ground” and on the “floor”," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 143-149, June.

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