STUDY: Consumers Are More Likely To Buy Products Marketed With (Some) Negative Information

Music man

Photo: OQuinn Photography via flickr

Attention, marketing directors: Stanford and Tel Aviv University researchers found that consumers are more likely to buy your product if you reveal that it’s not perfect.The key to selling, they say, is offering up a raving review, and then a “small dose” of negative information at the end. This accentuates the positive and establishes trust.

In “The Positive Effect of Negative Information,” a study soon to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, its authors examine four consumer groups, providing them with either all-positive or mixed reviews of hiking boots, chocolate bars and champagne glasses. Participants responded best to the products that offered up some negative information. According to the study:

“The core logic is that when individuals encounter weak negative information after already having received positive information, the weak negative information ironically highlights or increases the salience of the positive information. This makes the positive information seem more positive and ultimately fosters more positive evaluations.”

However, there was one other variable. Some participants were tested in distracting environments, meant to replicate a real-world purchasing situation; whereas others were able to focus intently on the sales pitch.

“In situations that encourage careful thinking, presenting exclusively positive information still does seem to be more compelling,” say the study’s researchers Danit Ein-Gar of Tel Aviv’s Recanati Graduate School of Business and Zakary Tormala and Baba Shiv from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. “But in less-focused settings — as is true of most online ads, for example — presenting some negative information has advantages.”

So it depends upon the environment in which you’re trying to sell your product. Given that consumers are increasingly researching products and services online, this study could be a push for comments sections like‘s, which CEO Jeff Bezos says has been integral to the site’s success.


Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.