Do Products with Reduced Negative Attributes Always Sell? Consumers’ Implicit Theory Matters

Chi Vincent WONG, Lei SU, Howard Pong-Yuen LAM

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Other Conference Paperpeer-review


The current research focuses on how consumers respond to marketing communications conveying reduced negative attributes (e.g., “our mineral water uses 34% less plastic than before”)—a specially framed negative attribute that has not been studied in marketing research despite its prevalence in marketing practice. Across five experiments and one field study, the authors found that consumers’ responses to such communications depend on their implicit theories of the self. Incremental theorists, who believe traits and abilities are malleable, tend to interpret reduced negativity communications as reflecting a trend of improvement, and as a result have more positive responses; in contrast, entity theorists, who believe that traits are dispositional and fixed, tend to interpret reduced negativity communications based on the undesirable end state of the attribute, and as a result have more negative responses. The authors further found that the proposed effect diminishes when consumers believe it is quite easy to eliminate the negative attribute, or when the negative attribute has extremely harmful consequences. The findings contribute to the understanding of implicit theories, attribute framing, and marketing communication in the novel context of reduced negative attributes. Importantly, the findings have marketing implications for managers concerning when, how, and to whom to communicate such attributes. The authors further developed new marketing communication tools (e.g., advertising copy, spokespersons’ quotes) that affect the accessibility of implicit theories, which presents an opportunity for companies to influence consumers’ temporary implicit theory orientation and thus to strategically manage their perceptions of products that make reduced negativity claims.


Conference41st Annual ISMS Marketing Science Conference
Abbreviated titleISMS 2019
Internet address


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