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Pricing to Signal Product Line Quality

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  • Kyle Bagwell

Abstract

This paper offers a general characterization of the optimal product line prices for a monopolist whose quality of products is initially unknown to consumers. In the focal equilibrium, a monopolist signals a high-quality product line by pricing as if quality were known to be high, but costs of production were higher than they truly are. In a rich set of environments, this characterization implies that the prices of all products are initially distorted upward, with the price distortion being largest for products with the most inelastic demands and/or quality-sensitive production costs. These implications yield predictions for the time path of prices that are broadly consistent with evidence from the marketing literature. The multidimensional signaling problem is made tractable by the satisfaction of a very simple and powerful single crossing property. Copyright 1992 by MIT Press.
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Suggested Citation

  • Kyle Bagwell, 1991. "Pricing to Signal Product Line Quality," Discussion Papers 921, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:921
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    File URL: http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/research/math/papers/921.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kreps, David M & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Sequential Equilibria," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 863-894, July.
    2. Kyle Bagwell & Garey Ramey, 1988. "Advertising and Limit Pricing," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 19(1), pages 59-71, Spring.
    3. Bagwell, Kyle, 1991. "Optimal Export Policy for a New-Product Monopoly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1156-1169, December.
    4. Gerard J. Tellis & Birger Wernerfelt, 1987. "Competitive Price and Quality Under Asymmetric Information," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 6(3), pages 240-253.
    5. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1986. "Price and Advertising Signals of Product Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 796-821, August.
    6. Bagwell, Kyle & Riordan, Michael H, 1991. "High and Declining Prices Signal Product Quality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 224-239, March.
    7. Bagwell, Kyle & Ramey, Garey, 1990. "Advertising and pricing to deter or accommodate entry when demand is unknown," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 93-113.
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    Cited by:

    1. Menzler-Hokkanen, Ingeborg & Spinanger, Dean, 1993. "On the quality of quality measures in international trade," Kiel Working Papers 587, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    2. Daughety, Andrew F. & Reinganum, Jennifer F., 2007. "Competition and confidentiality: Signaling quality in a duopoly when there is universal private information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 94-120, January.
    3. Janssen, Maarten C.W. & Roy, Santanu, 2010. "Signaling quality through prices in an oligopoly," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 192-207, January.
    4. Kyle Bagwell, 2007. "Signalling and entry deterrence: a multidimensional analysis," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(3), pages 670-697, September.
    5. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2008. "Imperfect competition and quality signalling," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(1), pages 163-183.
    6. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2005. "Secrecy and Safety," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1074-1091, September.
    7. Ingeborg Menzler-Hokkanen & Rolf Langhammer, 1994. "Product and country substitution in imports: An empirical comparison of theoretical concepts," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 130(2), pages 309-328, June.
    8. Cesaltina Pacheco Pires & Margarida Catalão-Lopes, 2011. "Signaling advertising by multiproduct firms," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 40(2), pages 403-425, May.
    9. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2008. "Products Liability, Signaling and Disclosure," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 164(1), pages 106-126, March.
    10. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2008. "Communicating quality: a unified model of disclosure and signalling," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(4), pages 973-989.
    11. Clements, Matthew T., 2011. "Low quality as a signal of high quality," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 5, pages 1-22.
    12. Auboin, Marc & Ruta, Michele, 2013. "The relationship between exchange rates and international trade: a literature review," World Trade Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(03), pages 577-605, July.
    13. Thomas, Louis & Shane, Scott & Weigelt, Keith, 1998. "An empirical examination of advertising as a signal of product quality," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 415-430, December.

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