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Knowledge May Not Make the Heart Grow Fonder

Paul Michas
Assistant Professor of
Marketing Jayati Sinha.

By Lia Samson
Eller MBA '13

Coming up with as many reasons as possible for liking a product may actually decrease a consumer’s fondness for it, according to a new paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology by Assistant Professor of Marketing Jayati Sinha and Dhananjay Nayakanakuppam of the University of Iowa.

“Because it is more difficult to retrieve many reasons than few, individuals appear to say, ‘If it was that hard to come up with reasons for liking this product, I guess it is not such a nice product after all,’” Sinha explained.

She and Nayakanakuppam tested how this phenomenon could be affected by the consumer’s level of knowledge. In many situations, knowledgeable individuals have more difficulty recalling, valuing, and expressing minimal information from their field of expertise than someone with limited knowledge. For example, a non-art aficionado might only be able to cite one great photographer when asked, while a master’s student in photography might have difficulty narrowing the choice down to a single name. Conversely, the master’s student might easily name five great photographers, while a non-art aficionado might struggle to come up with the same number.

Applying this concept to purchase decisions, Sinha and Nayakanakuppam demonstrate that knowledgeable individuals tend to spend more money in situations in which they can develop many reasons for liking a product. For instance, knowledgeable participants in a study wanted to spend less money for a vacation if they only recalled a few examples of tourist destinations. “Less knowledgeable people were willing to pay more for a trip after bringing less information in mind than more information,” explained Sinha.

These findings further demonstrate the importance of targeted marketing and awareness of consumer differentiation. “Marketers might need to be judicious in their provisions of ease of recall experiences for consumers,” Sinha said. “They might want to pay attention to differential requirements of ease of recall across different segments to maximize evaluations in the favor of particular brands.”

Learn more about the dynamic faculty and research of the Department of Marketing.

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