The impact of regulatory focus and word of mouth valence on search and experience attribute evaluation

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Document Type

Journal Article

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Roy, R., & Naidoo, V. (2017). The impact of regulatory focus and word of mouth valence on search and experience attribute evaluation. European Journal of Marketing, 51(7/8), 1-41.

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© Emerald Publishing Limited 2017


1758-7123 online, 0309-0566 print


Purpose – This paper investigates the direct and interactive effects of regulatory focus (promotion versus prevention), attribute type (search versus experience) and word of mouth valence (positive versus negative) on consumption decision for a service and a product.

Design/methodology/approach – Three empirical studies (two laboratories and a field experiment) using ‘university’ and ‘mobile phone’ as the research setting were used to test the key hypotheses.

Findings – Promotion (prevention) focused subjects preferred experience (search) attributes over their counterparts while making consumption decision. This preference was further reinforced for both promotion and prevention focused people under positive word of mouth. Under negative word of mouth, in comparison to their counterparts, promotion focused people still retained their preference for experience attributes, while prevention focused subjects reversed their preference and maintained status quo.

Research limitations/implications – Future research may validate and extend our findings by looking into the underlying process or studying additional word of mouth variables that may moderate the current findings.

Practical implications – Our findings will help managers devise a range of marketing strategies in the areas of advertising and product positioning, especially for products/services that are showcased in terms of experience and search attributes.

Originality/value – The current research is novel as no prior research has proposed and tested the two-way interaction between regulatory focus and search/experience attributes, or its further moderation by word of mouth valence.

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This document has been peer reviewed.