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Influencing Consumers’ Preferences (Management Project)

This project comprises a series of three essays that investigate the influence of consumers’ mental construal and information processing on product evaluations. In the first essay, we examine shifts in consumers’ preferences for products before and after a direct product use experience.

This essay investigates how consumers balance their desire for product capability and product usability when they evaluate products with different numbers of features, before and after use. Three studies show that consumers understand that there are usability costs and capability benefits when features are added to products. However, consumers tend to give more weight to capability and less weight to usability in their product evaluations before use relative to after use, which results in choices that do not maximize satisfaction after use – an effect we refer to as “feature fatigue.”

In the second essay, we investigate a theoretical explanation for this discrepancy between product evaluations before and after use. Based on construal level theory, we predict that changes in product preferences before and after can be explained by changes in consumers’ level of mental representation before and after a direct product experience. Results indicate that when consumers evaluate products before use, they tend to adopt a higher-level, more abstract mental representation of the product, which favors desirability aspects (such as capability) over feasibility aspects (such as usability).

However, after product use, consumers tend to adopt a lower-level, more concrete mental representation of the product and are more influenced by feasibility aspects than desirability aspects. In the third essay, we investigate the influence of two modes of information processing, analytical and imagery processing, on consumers’ evaluations of products that are advertised through comparative and non-comparative ads. We propose that matching ad format and consumers’ mode of information processing improves ad effectiveness by enhancing information processability.

Results show that when consumers are exposed to comparative ads, evaluations of the sponsor product are enhanced when consumers use analytical processing as opposed to imagery processing. In contrast, when consumers are exposed to non-comparative ads, evaluations of the sponsor product are more favorable when they use imagery processing rather than analytical processing.
Source: University of Maryland
Author: Thompson, Debora Viana

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