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"Your Reputation Is Who You're Not, Not Who You'd Like To Be''

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  • George J. Mailath
  • Larry Samuelson

Abstract

We construct a model in which a firm's reputation must be built gradually, is managed, and dissipates gradually unless appropriately maintained. Consumers purchase an experience good from a firm whose unobserved effort affects the probability distribution of consumer utilities. Consumers observe private, noisy signals (consumer utilities) of the behavior of the firm, yielding a game of imperfect private monitoring} The standard approach to reputations introduces some "good" or "Stackelberg" firms into the model, with consumers ignorant of the type of the firm they face and with ordinary firms acquiring their reputations by masquerading as Stackelberg firms. In contrast, the key ingredient of our reputation model is the continual possibility that the ordinary or "competent" firm might be replaced by a "bad" or "inept" firm who never chooses the Stackelberg action. Competent firms then acquire their reputations by convincing consumers that they are not inept. Building a reputation is an exercise in separating oneself from inept firms who one is not, rather than pooling with Stackelberg firms who one would like to be. We investigate how a firm manages such a reputation, showing, among other features, that a competent firm may not always choose the most efficient effort level to distinguish itself from an inept one.

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Paper provided by University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences in its series CARESS Working Papres with number 98-11.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:pennca:98-11

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  1. Kreps, David M. & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Reputation and imperfect information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 253-279, August.
  2. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-41, August.
  3. George J. Mailath & Larry Samuelson, . ""Who Wants a Good Reputation?''," CARESS Working Papres 98-12, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  4. Douglas Gale & Robert W. Rosenthal, 1994. "Price and Quality Cycles for Experience Goods," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(4), pages 590-607, Winter.
  5. V. Bhaskar & Eric van Damme, 1998. "Moral Hazard and Private Monitoring," Game Theory and Information 9809004, EconWPA.
  6. Paul Milgrom & John Roberts, 1980. "Predation, Reputation, and Entry Deterrence," Discussion Papers 427, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  7. Mailath, G.J. & Morris, S., 1998. "Repeated Games With Imperfect Private Monitoring: Notes on a Coordination Perspective," Papers 349, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  8. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine & Eric Maskin, 1994. "The Folk Theorem with Imperfect Public Information," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2058, David K. Levine.
  9. Diamond, Douglas W, 1989. "Reputation Acquisition in Debt Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 828-62, August.
  10. Compte, Olivier, 2002. "On Failing to Cooperate When Monitoring Is Private," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 102(1), pages 151-188, January.
  11. David Kreps & Paul Milgrom & John Roberts & Bob Wilson, 2010. "Rational Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoners' Dilemma," Levine's Working Paper Archive 239, David K. Levine.
  12. Fudenberg, Drew & Kreps, David M & Maskin, Eric S, 1990. "Repeated Games with Long-run and Short-run Players," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(4), pages 555-73, October.
  13. repec:wop:humbsf:1996-65 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Watson, Joel, 1999. "Starting Small and Renegotiation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 52-90, March.
  15. Al-Najjar, Nabil Ibraheem, 1995. "Decomposition and Characterization of Risk with a Continuum of Random Variables," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(5), pages 1195-1224, September.
  16. Sekiguchi, Tadashi, 1997. "Efficiency in Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma with Private Monitoring," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 345-361, October.
  17. David K. Levine & Cesar Martinelli, 1997. "Reputation with Noisy Precommitment," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1987, David K. Levine.
  18. Wolfgang HÄRDLE & J. MARRON & L. YANG, 1996. "Discussion," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1996,65, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
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