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Experimental Evidence on the Negative Effect of Product Features and Sales Promotions on Brand Choice


  • Itamar Simonson

    (Stanford University)

  • Ziv Carmon

    (Duke University)

  • Suzanne O'Curry

    (DePaul University)


Sales promotions and product enhancements are commonly expected to increase a brand's sales, when they do not negatively impact its utility and cost. That is, the purchase probability of consumers who find the promotion or additional feature attractive will increase, whereas the purchase likelihood of other consumers will not be affected. In contrast, we propose that consumers, who perceive a new feature or promotion as providing little or no value, will be less likely to purchase the enhanced brand even when the added feature clearly does not diminish the value of the brand. Thus, a new product feature or promotion may decrease a brand's overall choice probability when the segment of consumers who perceive it as providing little or no value is large compared to the segment that finds the feature attractive. This prediction was supported in three studies using actual promotions that have been employed in the marketplace (e.g., a Doughboy Collector's Plate that buyers of Pillsbury cake mix had the option to purchase for $6.19). We examined five alternative explanations for this effect. The results suggest that, when consumers are uncertain about the values of products and about their preferences, such features and premiums provide reasons against buying the promoted brands and are seen as susceptible to criticism. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of the findings for segmentation, product, promotional, and pricing strategies.

Suggested Citation

  • Itamar Simonson & Ziv Carmon & Suzanne O'Curry, 1994. "Experimental Evidence on the Negative Effect of Product Features and Sales Promotions on Brand Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 13(1), pages 23-40.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:13:y:1994:i:1:p:23-40

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Larson, Ronald B. & Steinhofer, Kelley, 2005. "Supermarket Selection by Singles in the Midwest," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19429, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    2. Soman, Dilip & Liu, Maggie Wenjing, 2011. "Debiasing or rebiasing? Moderating the illusion of delayed incentives," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 307-316, June.
    3. Newman, George E. & Jeremy Shen, Y., 2012. "The counterintuitive effects of thank-you gifts on charitable giving," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 973-983.
    4. Gregory W. Fischer & Ziv Carmon & Dan Ariely & Gal Zauberman, 1999. "Goal-Based Construction of Preferences: Task Goals and the Prominence Effect," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 45(8), pages 1057-1075, August.
    5. Liberman, Varda & Ross, Lee, 2006. "Idiosyncratic matching and choice: When less is more," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 101(2), pages 168-183, November.
    6. Marianne Bertrand & Dean Karlin & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Jonathan Zinman, 2005. "What's Psychology Worth? A Field Experiment in the Consumer Credit Market," NBER Working Papers 11892, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Kristina Shampan'er & Dan Ariely, 2006. "How small is zero price? : the true value of free products," Working Papers 06-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    8. Ivanova Marusya, 2012. "A Benefit-Based Approach for Increasing the Effectiveness of Promotions," Scientific Annals of Economics and Business, De Gruyter Open, vol. 59(2), pages 67-82, December.
    9. Waller, William S. & Zimbelman, Mark F., 2003. "A cognitive footprint in archival data: Generalizing the dilution effect from laboratory to field settings," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 254-268, July.
    10. Kivetz, Ran & Simonson, Itamar, 2003. "The Role of Effort Advantage in Consumer Response to Loyalty Programs: The Idiosyncratic Fit Heuristic," Research Papers 1738r, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    11. Jonah Berger & Alan T. Sorensen & Scott J. Rasmussen, 2010. "Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(5), pages 815-827, 09-10.
    12. Wilfred Amaldoss & Sanjay Jain, 2008. "—Trading Up: A Strategic Analysis of Reference Group Effects," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(5), pages 932-942, 09-10.
    13. Danijela Mandić, 2009. "Long-term impact of sales promotion on brand image," Tržište/Market, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, vol. 21(2), pages 235-246.
    14. Nayga, Rodolfo M., Jr. & Shaw, W. Douglass & Silva, Andres, 2006. "The Effect of Risk Presentation on Product Valuation: An Experimental Analysis," 2006 Annual meeting, July 23-26, Long Beach, CA 21429, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    15. Raghubir, Priya & Celly, Kirti Sawhney, 2011. "Promoting promotions: Does showcasing free gifts backfire?," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 55-58, January.
    16. Sooyeon Lee-Wingate & Kim Corfman, 2010. "A Little Something for Me and Maybe for You, Too: Promotions that Relieve Guilt," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 385-395, December.
    17. repec:wsi:ijimxx:v:21:y:2017:i:02:n:s1363919617500165 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Besharat, Ali & Langan, Ryan J. & Nguyen, Carlin A., 2016. "Fashionably late: Strategies for competing against a pioneer advantage," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 718-725.
    19. Ashley, Christy & Gillespie, Erin A. & Noble, Stephanie M., 2016. "The effect of loyalty program fees on program perceptions and engagement," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 964-973.
    20. Marianne Bertrand & Dean Karlan & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Jonathan Zinman, 2010. "What's Advertising Content Worth? Evidence from a Consumer Credit Marketing Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 263-306.
    21. Popkowski Leszczyc, Peter T.L. & Pracejus, John W. & Shen, Yingtao, 2008. "Why more can be less: An inference-based explanation for hyper-subadditivity in bundle valuation," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 233-246, March.


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