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Does wooing work?

New research into how consumers respond to extra effort

University of Chicago Press Journals

"'It's the thought that counts.' 'Most improved swimmer.' 'An 'E' for effort.' The implication in all of these examples is clear--people like to reward effort," opines Andrea Morales (University of Southern California) in the March 2005 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Morales explains that when companies or firms go the extra mile in marketing their products, consumers respond favorably--even if the products themselves are not improved whatsoever. This research builds on previous studies that have shown that extra effort in the form of personal attention while shopping is related to consumers feeling obliged to buy.

"The focus of the current paper is whether consumers demonstrate 'general reciprocity' by rewarding firms for actions from which they receive no personal benefit, in contrast to 'personal reciprocity' for effort directed at them individually," notes Morales. "For instance, if a store spends a lot of time creating product displays, the store's effort is not directed at an individual consumer. The store increases its costs as a result of the displays, but most consumers do not feel their personal benefits increase, as the effort was only generally directed. For cases like these, will reciprocation still be invoked?"

The findings of the experiments summarized in the article indicate that consumers do in fact demonstrate general reciprocity. Regardless of why a business is putting in the extra effort--whether it be an altruistic reason or not--consumers seem to respond more so based on what they believe to be the cause for the effort.

"An important point here is that the true motives of firms do not matter, but what influences consumer responses to effort are the perceived motives," Morales determines.


Giving Firms an "E" for Effort: Consumer Responses to High Effort Firms. By ANDREA C. MORALES © 2005 by JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Inc. - Vol. 31 - March 2005

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