1 Protecting Consumers from Harmful Advertising: The Role Counter Claim Alignment in Creating Resistance to Persuasion Petia K. Petrova Robert B. Cialdini Noah J. Goldstein Vladas Griskevicius working paper, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in preparation for 2nd round review Journal of Consumer Research Each year consumers spend more than $17 billion on a variety of health and dietarysupplements, such as CortiStress, TrimSpa, One-A-Day WeightSmart, many of whichclaim to either facilitate weight loss (e.g. Xenadrine EFX is clinically proven to causerapid and substantial weight loss, Consumer Affairs 2007) or decrease the risk of variousdiseases such as osteoporosis, Alzheimers, or cancer (FDA 2002). Concerns, however,have been raised about the effectiveness and safety of such supplements, and consumershave been warned that the ingredients of some of these remedies can lead togastrointestinal side effects, headaches, and sleep disturbances (County of SanBernardino, Department of Public Health 2006; “Does Trimspa Really Work?” 2004). Asa result, the Federal Trade Commission fined several companies, including themanufacturer of Xenadrine EFX, $25 million for deceptive advertising. Yet, animportant question remains. Given the health, financial, and psychological risks thatsuch advertising poses to consumers, what are the most effective strategies to protectconsumers and generate resistance toward harmful persuasive attempts? More generally,how can we counteract ad claims that are misleading to consumers? Although the consumer behavior literature provides considerable insight formarketers in designing persuasive communications to increase consumers’ intentions topurchase a product, little knowledge exists on how to create resistance to misleadingadvertising and prevent consumption of harmful products. This imbalance seemsunfortunate, given the efforts of various organizations to combat the influence ofdifferent persuasive messages to which consumers are exposed. Such efforts are oftenmotivated by the general goal of protecting consumers from massive advertising that islikely to increase risky behaviors such as smoking (Pechmann and Shih 1999, Pechmannand Knight 2002; Pechmann et al. 2003), alcohol abuse (Casswell and Zhang 1998;Grube and Wallack 1994; Wyllie, Zhang, and Caswell 1998), unhealthy foodconsumption (Brownell and Horgen, 2004; Halford et al., 2004, 2007, 2008; Harris,Bargh, and Brownell 2009; Hastings et al., 2003; Murray, 2001), gambling, and drugmisuse or abuse (Volkow 2006). Unfortunately, research provides evidence that theseefforts are often unsuccessful. For example, antismoking advertising campaigns are oftenfound to be ineffective (Chassin, Presson and Sherman 1990; Pechmann and Reibling2000), disclaimers, disclosures, and product warnings have not been proven effective(Andrews 1995; Argo and Main 2004; Hankin, Sloan, and Sokol 1998; Johar and
2Simmons 2000), and even corrective advertising may not reduce false beliefs (Dyer andKuehl 1974; Jacoby, Nelson, and Hoyer 1982; Johar 1996). Spurred by this imbalance in the consumer research literature, the presentinvestigation examines the effectiveness of various types of counter claims in creatingresistance to misleading advertising and undermining consumption of products withpossible harmful effects. We focused on one particular dimension: whether the counterclaim undermines the original claim made by the ad or presents negative informationwithout refuting the ad claims. For example, tobacco products are commonly advertisedusing images of attractiveness and fun, creating a positive stereotype of smokers (Mazis ,Ringold, Perry, and Denman 1992; Pechmann and Knight 2002; Pechmann and Shih1999). At the same time, anti smoking campaigns often provide information about thenegative health consequences of smoking without undermining its positive stereotype.Indeed, research shows that these messages have increased perceptions of risk. However,they had little impact on the favorable image of smoking promoted in tobacco advertising(Romer and Jamieson 2001). Thus, it has been suggested that a more efficient way toreduce tobacco consumption might be to attack the positive image of smokers andassociate smoking with negative stereotypes (Blum 1994; Pechmann and Knight 2002). If one wishes to create maximal resistance to a message, should one designcounter claims that attack the specific claims in that message or is it more effective toprovide competing information that reveals another side of the issue? Although bothstrategies can be seen in existing campaigns, the current literature does not tell us whichof the two approaches is likely to be more effective. To answer this question we draw onstructural alignment theory and biased assimilation research to predict that whether oneor the other approaches will be more effective will depend on the credibility of the sourceof the counter message. That is, we propose that counter claims that attack the specific adclaims are more effective than competing information that reveals another side of theissue when the source of the counter message is perceived as credible. However, whenthe source of the counter message is not perceived as credible, negative information thatdoes not undermine the specific ad claims is likely to be more effective. This research offers three important contributions. First, it represents an initialstep toward reducing an unfortunate gap in the consumer behavior literature regardingeffective strategies for creating resistance to persuasion. Second, it provides insight intothe effects of different types of negative information by proposing a novel distinctionbetween information that directly refutes the claims of an ad and information thatpresents competing evidence unrelated to the ad claims. Third, this research revealsinsight into how the credibility of the source of the negative information determines whattype of information is most likely harm the brand. Along with their theoretical implications, the findings from this research haveimportance for policy makers, consumer advocacy organizations, and marketingpractitioners by providing practical advice on how to best counter misleading advertisingand prevent consumption of products with potential harmful consequences. CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND Research into the process of persuasion reveals that the impact of a persuasivecommunication depends to a large extent on the personal reactions of the audience to the
3message (Greenwald 1968). As a central assertion of the cognitive response model ofpersuasion (Greenwald 1968), this idea has spurred a number of studies demonstratingthe negative effect of counter argumentation on message acceptance (Brock 1967; Eaglyand Chaiken 1993; Osterhouse and Brock 1970; Petty and Wegner 1998; Killeya andJohnson 1998; McGuire and Papageorgis 1962; Petty and Cacioppo 1977; Romero,Agnew, and Insko 1996). The impact of a persuasive communication can also beundermined by directly providing individuals with ready counter arguments, whichresults in levels of resistance similar to those created by forewarning them of a futurepersuasive attempt (Romeo et al. 1996). Despite the extensive literature on the role ofcounter argumentation in persuasion, there is little research into the content of the type ofcounter information that is most likely to create resistance to a message.What Constitutes an Effective Counter Claim? We focus on a crucial dimension of differentiating between various counterclaims: whether the counter claim undermines the ad claims or contains negativeinformation about other unrelated attributes. Commonly, public health campaigns informconsumers of the health risks associated with various products without undermining theclaims with which such products are promoted. However, little empirical research hasexamined the effectiveness of these strategies in comparison to a strategy in which thecounter claims refute the message claims. The structural alignment theory (Gentner & Markman, 1994, 1997; Markman andMedin, 1995; Medin, Goldstone, & Markman, 1995) classifies attributes into threegroups: commonalities, alignable differences, and nonalignable differences. Thestructural alignment theory further suggests that in choosing among alternativesindividuals primarily rely on alignable differences rather than nonalignable differences.For example, when consumers learn about new brands, they tend to compare theirattributes to the attributes of familiar brands. Consequently, they are likely to prefer thenew brand over a familiar brand only if the new brand is superior on the attributes withwhich the familiar brand is promoted (Zhang and Markman 2001; Zhang, Kardes, andCronley 2002; Zhang and Markman 1998). Research in several domains provide further evidence for the effects ofinformation alignment. For example, early inoculation research suggests that refuting thespecific claims in a forthcoming attack is likely to result in stronger resistance to theattack than considering unrelated information in support of the initial belief (McGuire1964; McGuire and Papageorgis 1962). In another domain, persuasive appeals tend to bemore effective when the nature of the appeal matches rather than mismatches the basis ofthe attitude. For example, attitudes based on affect are easier to change with an affect-based appeal, while cognition-based attitudes are more susceptible to cognitive appeals(Edwards 1990; Edwards and von Hippel 1995; Fabrigar and Petty 1999). Research alsodemonstrates that when a brand is positioned in an abstract way (e.g., “The best penmoney can buy”), general counter claims (“There is nothing special about this pen”) arelikely to cause greater judgment revision than counter claims about specific attributes(“The package was too difficult to open”). When a brand is positioned in a specific way(e.g., “Omega 3 provides sloped design and optimal balancing”), counter claims aboutspecific attributes are likely to be more damaging (Pham and Muthukrishnan 2002).
4 Despite the existing research on information alignment, the relative effectivenessof undermining the message claims vs. providing negative information unrelated to themessage claim has not been examined before. Yet, applying previous research oninformation alignment to resistance processes, it seems that an effective way toundermine the impact of an ad would be to provide counter claims that are aligned withthe claims of the ad rather than provide negative information unrelated to the ad claims.The present research tests this question and examines variables that may moderate theeffects of information alignment in creating resistance. The role of source credibility Starting with the Yale approach to attitude change (Hovland and Weiss, 1951;Hovland et al., 1953), the role of source credibility in persuasion has been subject toextensive research (Eagly et al., 1978; Fein et al., 1997; Mills and Jellison, 1967; Priesterand Petty, 1995). Yet previous research has not examined the role of the credibility of thesource of a counter message in the process of resistance to persuasion. How sourcecredibility influences the effects of information alignment has not been examined either.Moreover, in previous research examining the effects of information alignment (Fabrigarand Petty 1999; McGuire 1964; McGuire and Papageorgis 1962; Pham andMuthukrishnan 2002), the counter message typically came from a trusted source. Thus, itis not clear what would be the relative effectiveness of aligned and nonaligned counterclaims when the source of these counter claims is not perceived as credible. Research on biased assimilation (Lord, Ross, and Lepper 1979) suggests thatconsumers are likely to be more biased and more critical toward information that isinconsistent with existing expectations. According to the biased assimilation theory(Lord, Ross, and Lepper 1979; Edwars and Smith 1996), when people are presented withan argument, information relevant to the argument is automatically activated. If thisactivated information is inconsistent with the argument, people are more likely toscrutinize the argument and search for information that undermines its validity. Theoutput of this search is then integrated with other (less biased) considerations to form ajudgment. Applying the conclusions of the biased assimilation research, we can expect thatconsumers will be more biased and critical when presented with aligned counter claims(and thus forced to reconcile between two opposing views) than when presented withnonaligned counter claims. Accordingly, when the counter claim comes from a distrustedsource, aligned information will be evaluated more negatively and will be less effectivethan nonaligned information. STUDY 1 In recent years, advertising of health care products has rapidly increased. Theaggressive marketing by the pharmaceutical industry has been cited as one of the leadingcauses for the recent increase of misuse and abuse of prescription drugs (Volkow 2006;United States General Accounting Office 2003). This explosion in health productsadvertising is accompanied by an increase in the technical difficulty of the informationwith which health products are promoted. Both drug and supplement advertisements rely
5on scientific jargon to persuade consumers (Haard, Slater, and Long 2004) and claim topromote health or prevent disease in ways that may confuse the consumer (Vladeck2000). Furthermore, companies are eager to bring the results of medical studies topotential consumers, often before the results have been subject to replication or to thescrutiny of the larger scientific community. For example, in 2007, the Federal TradeCommission investigated claims made by the manufacturers of Airborne that its productcures and prevents colds. Investigations revealed that the clinical trials used to supportAirborne’s claims about its effectiveness were actually conducted without any doctors orscientists (ABC 2008). Furthermore, experts cautioned against the safety of the productwarning that Airborne may provide too much vitamin A. While the package directscustomers to take three pills of Airborne per day, just two pills provide 10,000 IU, themaximum safe level of vitamin A for a day (Airborne Settlement 2008). Study 1 implemented a similar context by examining the effectiveness of alignedand non-aligned claims promoting a new allergy drug. We created an ad for a new brandof allergy medication called Levatin. One of the versions of the ad promoted the productas highly safe. Another version promoted the product as highly effective. We thenexperimentally crossed the specific content of the aligned and the nonaligned claims.That is, for each of the two versions of the Levatin ad, we tested the effects of aConsumer Reports message which presented counter claims undermining either theeffectiveness or the safety of Levatin. This allowed us to test whether we were able tosuccessfully calibrate the strength of the aligned and nonaligned counterarguments foreach of the ads. Moreover, the crossed design of the study allowed us to ensure that anydifferences in the effects of the two types of counter claims could not be attributed to thespecific information in the two counter claims. Consistently with our conceptual analysis, we expected that when participants arepresented with a counter message from a highly credible source such as ConsumerReports, the aligned counter claims would be more effective regardless of the specificinformation in the ad. However, although we expected that the majority of ourparticipants would perceive a message from the Consumer Reports as credible, we alsoexpected individual differences in participants’ perceptions of the credibility of theConsumer Reports message to moderate the effects of counter claim alignment. Our goal was to test this prediction in a context that maximally captures thereality in which consumers encounter negative brand information. Accordingly, weincorporated several features in the design. First, because typically there is a delaybetween exposure to an ad and exposure to negative brand information, we conductedstudy 1 in two sessions one week apart. During the first session, participants saw theLevatin ad. During the second session, one week later, participants saw the ConsumerReports counter message. Second, consumers typically encounter brand informationalong with information about various other brands. Thus, during each of the two sessions,participants saw and evaluated the Levatin ad and the Consumer Reports message alongwith several other unrelated messages. Third, to recreate the natural circumstances inwhich consumers encounter brand information, all of the study materials were presentedon a website specifically designed for the purpose of the study.Method
6 Stimuli. Study 1 focused on two attributes frequently promoted in ads for healthproducts – effectiveness and safety. To examine the relative importance of these twoattributes, we asked 263 undergraduate students: 1) When choosing a medication (e.g.allergy medication), how important is it for you that it is proven effective? and 2) Whenchoosing a medication (e.g. allergy medication), how important is it for you that it isproven safe? Both attributes were rated as highly important and no significant differencesbetween the two attributes were observed, F(1,263) = 1.16, n.s., Msafety = 6.93 (scale: 0 to8, SD = 1.62), Meffectiveness = 6.83 (SD = 1.56). In order to control for differences in the information provided by the aligned andnon-aligned counter claims we created two versions of an ad for Levatin which eitherpromoted the product as highly effective or highly safe. The ad promoting Levatin as highly effective reported results of studies revealingthat Levatin was effective for 93% of the patients. It contained the headline: “Levatin forallergy symptoms. Clinically proven effectiveness.” Below the headline was a picture andthe following message: “To ensure the effectiveness of our product, we put Levatin to astringent clinical trial. The results were incredible. 93% of the participants taking Levatinexperienced significantly reduced allergy symptoms.” Along with this text was a chartindicating the percentage of cases with improved symptoms. The second version of the ad promoted Levatin as a safe way to relieve allergysymptoms; it reported results of studies demonstrating that 99% of the participants takingthe drug did not experience any side effects. The text of the ad was “Levatin for allergysymptoms. Clinically proven safety. To ensure the safety of our product, we put Levatinto a stringent clinical trial. The results were incredible. 99% of the participants takingLevatin experienced no significant side effects.” For each of the two Levatin ads we created two versions of a message fromConsumer Reports Healthwatch. We modeled the message after a section of theConsumer Reports magazine in which the magazine reproduces ads and other brandinformation and points to misleading or omitted information. Accordingly, we created amessage that reproduced the Levatin ad and then presented information that corrected thead claims (Appendix A). The specific content of the Consumer Reports message varied depending oncondition. For participants who saw the ad positioning the product as highly safe, thealigned counter claim reported results from larger and better-controlled studiesdemonstrating that 30% of the patients taking Levatin experienced significant sideeffects. The non-aligned counter claim reported studies showing that 35% of the patientscontinued to experience the symptoms they had prior to taking Levatin. The reverse wasthe case for participants who saw the effectiveness ad. The aligned counter messageclaimed that 35% of the patients continued to experience the symptoms they had hadprior to taking Levatin, and the non-aligned version reported studies demonstrating that30% of the patients taking Levatin experienced significant side effects. This 2 (ad claim)by 2 (counter claim alignment) between-subjects design allowed us to control for thespecific information provided by the aligned and non-aligned counter claims. To ensure equal strength of the claims in the two aligned counter messages weconducted a second pretest. Fifty four participants viewed one of the two versions of thealigned counter message and responded to questions. We assessed participants’evaluations of Levatin by asking them to rate 1) their overall impression of Levatin (from
7negative to positive), 2) how they would evaluate Levatin, overall (from unfavorable tofavorable), 3) how likely they would be to consider taking Levatin if at some point theyexperience allergy symptoms, 4) how likely they would be to buy Levatin if they foundthemselves shopping for an allergy medication, 5) how likely they would be torecommend Levatin to a friend who is deciding on which allergy product to take, and 6)how much they like Levatin (from not at all to very much). These items fit well in asingle scale (Cronbach’s Reliability α = .86). Perceptions of the credibility of theConsumer Reports article were then assessed with the following questions: 1) Howhonest is the Consumer Reports message? 2) “To what extent do you feel you can trustthe information presented in the Consumer Reports message? 3) To what extent do youfeel that you can believe the information presented in the Consumer Reports message?and 4) To what extent do you feel that the Consumer Reports message accurately portraysLevatin? (α = .91). Finally, we asked participants: To what extent do you think theConsumer Reports message disproved the original claim of the ad? All of the responseswere provided on a scale from 0 to 8. The pretest did not reveal any significant differences in the effects of the twoaligned counter claims on brand evaluations (Meffectiveness = 2.38, Msafety = 2.36, F < 1),perceived credibility of the Consumer Reports message (Meffectiveness = 5.00, Msafety = 5.27;F < 1) and the extent to which the counter message disproved the original claims of thead (Meffectiveness = 5.20, Msafety = 5.15, F < 1). These results provided confidence that thetwo counterclaims provided comparable information. Procedure. During two consecutive sessions, one week apart, 45 male and 77female undergraduate students evaluated a series of messages presented on a websitedesigned for the purpose of the study. Most of the messages were filler ads unrelated tothe study with the exception of the Levatin ad that was presented during the first sessionand the Consumer Reports counter message that was presented in the second session oneweek later. To reduce demand characteristics, one of the filler messages also came from aconsumer protection organization and contained information about call phones. Participants were able to access the experimental web site from their home orother locations with internet access. This allowed us to simulate the natural circumstancesunder which consumers encounter information about health products. To further reducedemand characteristics we informed participants that during the two experimentalsessions they would view various messages and advertisements that appeared in a one-week period in various media (e.g. magazines, web-pages, or newspapers). We furthertold participants that we were interested in their reactions to the messages that hadappeared that week, so after each message they would be asked some questions. During the first session of the study, participants saw a set of three messages. Thesecond message in the session was the Levatin ad, which was presented for 30 seconds.After examining each message, participants responded to a series of questions. Thisallowed us to obtain a baseline measure of the evaluations of the Levatin and test theeffects of the different counter messages while controlling for the initial evaluations ofthe advertised brand. One week later, participants completed the second session of thestudy, and reviewed a set of two filler ads and the Consumer Reports counter message,which appeared second in the session and was presented for 75 seconds. Again, afterexamining each message, participants responded to a series of questions.
8 After completing the study, participants were eligible for a drawing to win $50 ifat the end of the study they responded correctly to a set of questions related to theinformation in the ads. Dependent Variables After presenting the Levatin ad at session 1, we assessed message beliefs byasking participants 1) To what extent do you think Levatin can effectively reduce allergysymptoms? and 2) To what extent do you think Levatin has significant side effects. Then,we assessed participants’ evaluations of Levatin with the items used in the pretest(Cronbach’s Reliability α = .95). One week later, during the second session of the study, participants saw theConsumer Reports message (along with several filler ads) and responded to a set ofquestions. We assessed message beliefs again using the items from session 1. Then, as amanipulation check, we asked participants to rate the extent to which they thought theConsumer Reports message disproved the original claim of the ad. We also assessedevaluations of Levatin with the same items used in session 1 (Cronbach’s Reliability α =.94). Participants then rated their perceptions of the credibility of the Consumer Reportsarticle by responding to the following questions: 1) How honest is the Consumer Reportsmessage?, 2) To what extent do you feel you can trust the information presented in theConsumer Reports message?, 3) To what extent do you feel that you can believe theinformation presented in the Consumer Reports message?, and 4) To what extent do youfeel that the Consumer Reports message accurately portrays Levatin? (α = .95). Thedependent variables were measured in the order they were described above. All of theresponses were provided on a scale from 0 to 8. At the end of the study participants indicated their gender and whether they haveused allergy medication in the past. Then they responded to the questions related to thedrawing of the $50 prize (e.g. What was the dominant color in the Levatin ad?, Which ofthe following brands was not advertised in the set of ads that you saw during theexperiment?). At the end we included a set of questions intended to address participants’awareness of the purpose of the study (e.g. Do you have any questions about this study?,What do you think the purpose of the study was?, Did you find any aspect of the studyodd, confusing, or disturbing?, Do you think that there might have been more to the studythan the stated purpose?). Most of the participants indicated that the study examinedresponses to advertising. However, none of the participants guessed the hypothesis of thestudy. The post-experimental questionnaire also revealed that none of the participantsfound any aspect of the study confusing or disturbing.Results Preliminary analysis. Analysis of participants’ initial brand evaluations duringsession 1 revealed no significant effects of claim of the ad (safety vs. effectiveness,F(1,118) = 2.35, n.s.). Analyses of participants’ initial beliefs in the ad claims revealedthat participants who saw the effectiveness ad perceived Levatin as significantly moreeffective in relieving allergy symptoms than participants who saw the safety ad, F(1, 120)= 8.75, p = .01, Meffectiveness = 5.57, Msafety = 4.58. Similarly, participants who saw thesafety ad believed that Levatin has less side effects than participants who saw theeffectiveness ad, F(1, 120) = 18.30, p < .01, Meffectiveness = 4.14, Msafety = 2.68. There were
9no significant differences in the extent to which participants believed the claims of thetwo ads, as measured by ratings of Levatin’s safety (among participants who viewed thesafety ad) or effectiveness (among participants who viewed the effectiveness ad), F < 1. Consistent with the purpose of our manipulations, participants perceived the twoaligned messages as disproving the claims of the ad to a greater extent than the two non-aligned messages (F(1, 118) = 38.70, p < .01; Maligned= 6.25; Mnonaligned = 3.56).Furthermore, as indicated by the nonsignificant effect of ad claim (safety vs.effectiveness), F < 1, and the nonsignificant interaction between ad claim and counterclaim alignment, F(1, 118) = 1.44, p = .22, participants rated the two aligned countermessages corresponding to the two Levatin ads as equally disproving the claims of thead. Brand Evaluations. Our main hypothesis predicted that across the two Levatinads, the aligned counter claims would result in greater change in participants’ evaluationsof the brand than the nonaligned counter claims. To test this hypothesis we conductedanalysis of covariance with participants’ evaluations of Levatin during the second sessionas a dependent variable and Levatin evaluations measured at session 1 as a covariate. Theanalysis revealed a significant main effect of counter claim alignment, F(1, 117) = 6.44, p= .01. The main effect of ad claim (safety vs. effectiveness, F(1, 117) = 1.55, p = .22)and the interaction between ad claim and counter claim type were not significant (F(1,117) = 1.02, p = .32). According to these results, the aligned counter claims resulted in agreater decrease in the evaluations of Levatin regardless of their specific content. Whenthe product was advertised as highly effective, a counter claim about the ineffectivenessof the product lowered participants’ evaluations of Levatin to a greater extent than acounter claim about possible side effects, Mnonaligned adj. = 2.59, Maligned adj. = 1.77. At thesame time, when Levatin was advertised as a safe way to relieve allergy symptoms, thesame information about low effectiveness was less detrimental than information aboutpossible side effects, Mnonaligned adj. = 2.07, Maligned adj. = 1.71, Figure 1. To examine whether changes in ad claim beliefs mediated the effects of counterclaim alignment on brand evaluations, we calculated ad claim beliefs based onparticipants’ ratings of Levatin’s safety (for participants who viewed the safety ad) oreffectiveness (for participants who viewed the effectiveness ad). First, we tested theeffects of counter claim alignment on ad claim beliefs at Session 2 including initial adclaim beliefs as a covariate. The results revealed a significant main effect of counterclaim alignment on ad claim beliefs, F(1,117) = 80.52, p = .001. The aligned counterclaim resulted in lower beliefs in the ad claims than the nonaligned counter claim. Amarginally significant interaction between counter claim alignment and ad claim,F(1,117) = 3.55, p = .06 revealed that this effect was stronger when the ad claimed thatLevatin was safe. However, the effect of counter claim alignment on ad claim beliefs washighly significant for both participants who saw the effectiveness ad (Mnonaligned adj. = 4.96,Maligned adj. = 2.85, F(1,48) = 22.42, p < .001) and the safety ad (Mnonaligned adj. = 5.70,Maligned adj. = 2.33, F(1,68) = 70.09, p < .001). To test the mediating role of message beliefs, we conducted an Analysis ofCovariance with the evaluations of Levatin after seeing the counter message as adependent variable. Counter claim alignment and belief in the ad claim after viewing thecounter message were included as predictors. To control for differences in the initialevaluations of Levatin, we included Levatin evaluations at session 1 and belief in the ad
10claim at session 1 as covariates. The results revealed that once controlling for changes inad claim beliefs, the effect of counter claim alignment was no longer significant, F(1,117) = .92, p = .76. Instead, it was replaced by a significant effect of ad claim beliefs onbrand evaluations, F(1, 117) = 12.00, p < .001. According to this analysis, the effects ofcounter claim alignment on Levatin evaluations were mediated by changes inparticipants’ beliefs in the ad claims. Moderating Role of Counter Message Credibility. We first compared participants’evaluations of the four versions of the Consumer Reports message during the secondsession. Analysis of variance revealed no significant differences in the perceivedcredibility of the aligned and non-aligned counter messages, F(1,120) = 1.33, n.s. Themain effect of type of ad and the interaction between the two factors was not significanteither (F’s < 1). This allowed us to include in the analysis as a continuous variableparticipants’ perceptions of the credibility of the Consumer Report message along withcounter claim alignment, type of ad, and the covariate ratings from session 1. The results revealed a significant positive effect of counter message credibility onparticipants’ evaluations of Levatin, F(1, 117) = 5.53, p = .02. This effect, was furthermoderated by a significant interaction between counter claim alignment and credibility ofthe counter message, F(1, 117) = 5.17, p = .03. The main effect of ad claim and theinteraction between ad claim and counter claim alignment were not significant, Fs < 1. Asthe regression lines depicted on Figure 2 demonstrate, among participants who perceivedthe Consumer Reports message as credible, the aligned counter claims resulted in morenegative evaluations of Levatin than the nonaligned counter claims. However, amongparticipants who did not trust the Consumer Reports message, the nonaligned counterclaims resulted in lower evaluations of Levatin than the aligned counter claims. We further tested whether changes in participants’ beliefs in the ad claimsmediated the interaction effects between counter claim alignment and perceivedcredibility of the counter message. Thus, we first examined the effects of counter claimalignment and counter message credibility on ad claim beliefs at Session 2. Initial beliefsin the ad claim were included as a covariate. The results revealed a significant interactionbetween counter claim alignment and counter message credibility, F(1,117) = 9.20, p <.01. These effects were not moderated by type of ad, F’s < 1. Second, we examined the effects of counter claim alignment and perceivedcredibility of the counter message on brand evaluations by also including in the model adclaim beliefs at session 2. Again, initial brand evaluations and initial ad claim beliefswere included in the analysis as covariates. The results revealed that once we included adclaim beliefs in the equation, the interaction between counter claim alignment andcounter message credibility was no longer significant, F(1,117) = .006, p = .94. Instead,it was replaced by a significant effect of ad claim beliefs on brand evaluations, F(1,117)= 14.11, p < .001. According to this analysis, changes in participants’ beliefs in theclaims of the ad mediated the interaction effect of counter claim alignment and countermessage credibility on brand evaluations. Additional Analyses. To examine the role of product involvement in the effects ofthe two types of counter claims, we tested if previous use of allergy medicationmoderated the observed differences between the effects of aligned and non-alignedcounter claims. Thus we conducted an Analysis of Covariance with Levatin evaluationsafter seeing the Consumer Reports message as a dependent variable, previous use of
11allergy medication, counter claim alignment, and ad claim included as predictors. Initialevaluations of Levatin were included as a covariate. The results revealed that after seeingthe Consumer Reports message, participants who had previously used allergy medicationevaluated Levatin more negatively (Madj.. = 1.85) than participants who had not usedallergy medication in the past (Madj. = 2.50). However, past use of allergy medication didnot moderate the effect of counter claim alignment on Levatin evaluations, F(1, 113) =.92, n.s.Discussion The results of study 1 revealed that for an ad that positioned the product aseffective, counter claims about low effectiveness resulted in greater resistance thancounter claims about low safety. However, the opposite was the case for an ad thatpositioned the product as safe. Because the specific information about safety andeffectiveness was the same across conditions, these results show that the differences inthe effects of aligned and non-aligned counter claims were not driven by the differentialstrength of their specific content. Study 1 further demonstrated that although the aligned counter claims had anoverall stronger negative effect on the evaluations of Levatin than the non-alignedcounter claims, this difference was significant only when the counter message wasperceived as highly credible. However, it should be noted, that in Study 1 we measured,rather than manipulated, participants ratings of Consumer Reports message. Thus, furtherevidence should be obtained by manipulating the credibility of the source of the message. STUDY 2 In study 2, we experimentally manipulated the credibility of the source of thecounter message. We expected that aligned counter claims would result in greater changein the evaluations of the brand when they came from a credible source. However, whenthe source of the counter message is not credible, nonaligned counter claims would leadto greater resistance. In study 2 we also aimed to provide stronger support for our conclusions andextend the generalizability of the findings by testing the hypotheses in a different contextand a different product - an energy drink called Delight that was produced by a localcompany – Cornucopia Beverages. We chose the context of energy drinks becauseconsumption of such drinks is prevalent among the college population from which oursample was drawn. Moreover, energy drinks are frequently advertised with misleadingclaims about their effects on performance and endurance while failing to informconsumers of the negative health effects that such products can have (Pierre 2000). In addition, we aimed to increase the validity of our conclusions by incorporatingseveral elements in the design of study 2. First, to reduce demand characteristics, we didnot ask participants to evaluate the target brand immediately after seeing the countermessage. Instead, after seeing the counter message participants saw and evaluated anunrelated ad. Then, they saw the Delight ad again and evaluated the brand in response tothe ad. Second, in contrast to study 1, the ad did not provide any specific evidence insupport of its claims. Instead, it simply stated that the product contains special ingredients
12that either help maintain a healthy lifestyle (in one version of the ad) or provide energy(in the other version). Third, to extend the generalizability of the findings from study 1, we did notreproduce the original ad in the counter message nor we repeated the claims of the ad inthe counter message. Instead, we created a general counter messages about energy drinksconsumption without even mentioning the target brand. Method Study 2 employed a 2 (ad claim) X 2 (counter claim alignment) X 2 (countermessage source) between subjects design. Four hundred and sixty three college studentsparticipated in the study (206 male; 257 female). We told participants that the studyexamined how consumers form preferences about different products and provided themwith the following instructions: “In order to recreate the natural environment in whichconsumers learn about products, you may see some of the ads multiple times.Furthermore, since consumers typically encounter product information from varioussources, you may see messages from public organizations, consumer advocate agencies,or different competitors. Because the purpose of the study is to recreate the naturalexperience of evaluating products, please respond to the questions about each of theadvertised products according to your first impressions”. The study was conducted in a laboratory using MediaLab software. During theexperimental session participants saw a set of messages. The second and the seventhmessage in the set was the Delight target ad which was presented for 30 seconds. Thefifth message in the set was the counter message, which was presented for 45 seconds.The rest of the messages were unrelated filler ads. After examining each message,participants responded to a series of questions. Stimuli. In order to control for differences in the information provided by thealigned and non-aligned counter claims, we created two versions of an ad promoting abeverage called Delight Energy in one of the versions and Delight Vitamin in the otherversion of the ad. The first version of the ad promoted Delight Energy as an excellentsource of energy with the following message: “Special formula enhanced with potentingredients to give you the energy you need. “ The ad also displayed the name of themanufacturer of Delight Energy – a local company called Cornucopia Beverages”(Appendix B). The second version of the ad promoted Delight Vitamin with thefollowing message: “Special formula enhanced with B-vitamins to help you maintain ahealthy lifestyle.” The two ads were equivalent in all regards except for the text in thecopy and the name of the product depicted on the bottle. We created two versions of the counter message both of which had the headline:“Think natural before consuming another beverage.” One of the versions of the countermessage claimed that energy drinks do not provide long-lasting energy. It included thefollowing text “Manufacturers of energy drinks are eager to tell you how good theirproducts are. What they don’t tell you is that the energy from these beverages is likely tolast only a few hours and then you may feel even more tired. After only a few hours thesedrinks will make you feel exhausted and unmotivated to remain active. For high energythroughout the day drink natural fruit and vegetable juices.” (Appendix B). The secondversion of the counter message claimed that energy drinks are not healthy. It had the
13following text: “Manufacturers of energy drinks are eager to tell you how good theirproducts are. What they don’t tell you is that these beverages contain artificial ingredientsthat are harmful for your body. These ingredients can accelerate heart rate, increase bloodpressure, and cause severe dehydration. To keep your body healthy, drink natural fruitand vegetable juices.” Importantly, none of the counter messages contained specificinformation about the advertised product Delight. To manipulate the credibility of source of the counter message, below the copy ofthe counter message we included either “Brought to you by your friends at V8” alongwith the V8 brand logo or “U.S. Department of Health and Human Services” along withthe logo of the organization (Appendix B). Dependent Variables. To assess participants’ evaluations of Delight after the firstexposure to the ad we asked them to 1) rate their impression of Delight Vitamin / DelightEnergy and 2) indicate if they would consider buying Delight Vitamin / Delight Energy.The two items were highly correlated, r = .572, p < .001. To assess initial beliefs in theclaims of the ad, participants who saw the Delight Energy ad rated the extent to whichthey believed Delight Energy can give them the energy they need. Participants who sawthe Delight Vitamin rated the extent to which they believed Delight Vitamin can helpthem maintain a healthy lifestyle. After evaluating several filler ads participants saw one of the four versions of thecounter message. We assessed their perceptions of the credibility of the source of thecounter message by asking them whether they thought the Manufacturer of V8 / U.S.Department of Health & Human Services is a trustworthy source of information.Participants then viewed another set of filler ads and saw the Delight ad for a secondtime. They evaluated the brand again by responding to the following questions: 1) Howwould you evaluate Delight Vitamin / Delight Energy, overall? and 2) How likely wouldyou be to consider buying Delight Vitamin / Delight Energy (r =.71, p < .001). Allresponses were provided on a scale from 1 to 9. At the end of the experiment we assessed involvement with the product categoryby asking participants to indicate how often they consume energy drinks on average (e.g.,one beverage per day, a few beverages per week, one beverage per week, a few beveragesper month, less than one beverage per month). Participants also indicated their genderand responded to a post-experimental questionnaire which included suspicion checkquestions. None of the participants guessed the hypothesis of the study or found anyaspect of the study confusing or disturbing. Results Preliminary analysis. Examination of participants’ initial ratings of the twoDelight ads revealed a significant difference in the initial evaluations of Delight, MDeightVitamin = 5.66, MDelight Energy = 5.49, F(1,459) = 4.95, p = .03. We controled for thisdifference in subsequent analyses by including this variable as a covariate. We alsoexamined participants’ evaluations of the four versions of the counter message. Analysisof variance revealed that participants rated V8 as significantly more credible than theU.S. Department of Health and Human Services, MV8 = 3.6, MDHHS = 2.2, F(1,461) =73.96, p < .001. No significant differences were observed in the credibility of the sourceof the aligned and the non-aligned counter messages, F(1,455) = 1.05, p = .40. The
14interaction effect between counter claim alignment and counter message source on theperceived credibility of the source of the counter message was not significant either, F <1. Brand Evaluations. We predicted that when the counter message came from acredible source, aligned counter claims would be more effective in reducing brandevaluations than competing information about another attribute. However, when thesource of the counter message was not credible, nonaligned counter claims would havestronger effect on brand evaluations than aligned counter claims. To test this hypothesis,we conducted an Analysis of Covariance with evaluations of Delight at the secondviewing of the ad as a dependent variable and initial evaluations as a covariate. Theanalysis revealed a significant interaction between counter claim alignment and countermessage source, F(1,458) = 6.56, p = .01. This effect was not moderated by ad type(Delight Energy vs. Delight Vitamin), F(1,445) = .48, p = .45 or participants’ scores onthe social desirability scale, F < 1. As the means displayed on Figure 3 demonstrate, when the counter message camefrom V8, the aligned counter claim had a stronger undermining effect than the non-aligned counter claim, F(1,269) = 4.33, p = .04. When the message came from the lesstrusted source US DHHS, the non-aligned counter claims resulted in marginallysignificant greater change in participants evaluations of Delight, F(1,186) = 2.84, p = .09.Furthermore, consistent with the biased assimilation hypothesis, credibility of the sourceof the counter message had a significant effect on brand evaluations when the messagecontained aligned counter claims, F(1,236) = 4.36, p = .04. However, when the countermessage contained nonaligned counter claims, source credibility did not influenced theeffectiveness of the counter messages, F(1,223) = 2.27, n.s. Ad Claim Beliefs. Analysis of covariance with ad claim beliefs after the secondexposure to the ad as a dependent variable and a covariate initial beliefs, revealed asignificant effect of type of counter claim, F(1, 381) = 4.09, p = .04. The aligned counterclaims resulted in greater decrease in participants beliefs in the claims of the ad than thenonaligned counter claim, Madj. aligned = 5.51, Madj. nonaligned = 5.93. This main effect wasqualified by a marginally significant interaction between type of counter claims andcountermessage source, F(1,385)=3.29, p= .07. The interaction between type of ad, typeof counterclaim, and counter message source was not significant, F < 1. When the message came from the more trusted source V8, the aligned andnonaligned counter claims had similar effects on participants’ beliefs in the ad claims, F< 1, M adj. aligned =5.53, M adj. nonaligned = 5.58. When the message came from the less trustedsource US DHHS the aligned counter claims had a greater impact on participants beliefsin the specific ad claims than the nonaligned counter claims, F(1,114) = 5.81, Madj. aligned= 5.59, Madj. nonaligned = 6.38. This pattern suggest that the superior effect of nonalignedcounter claim in reducing brand evaluations in the low credibility source condition wasnot driven by changes in participants beliefs in the specific ad claims. Cognitive Responses. Analysis of participants’ cognitive responses did notindicate significant differences in the valence of participants’ thoughts about the brand,F’s < 1. We further examined differences in participants’ thoughts indicatingdeceptiveness of the Delight ad. The results revealed significant interaction between typeof counter claim and source of the counter message, F(1,455)=3,628, p = .057. When themessage came from V8, the aligned counter claim resulted in a greater number of
15thoughts about the deceptiveness of the Delight ad than the nonaligned counter claim(Maligned = .27, Mnonaligned = .21). The opposite pattern occurred when the countermessagecame from the U.S DHHS. When the source of the message was not perceived ascredible, the nonaligned counter claim resulted in greater perceptions of deceptiveness ofthe advertiser than the aligned counter claim (Maligned = .34, Mnonaligned = .). Theinteraction between type of counter claim and message source was not moderated by adtype (energy vs. vitamin), F(1,451) = 1.09, p = .30, or order of the thought listing task, F(1, 451) = .09, p = .76. Additional analyses. Product involvement measured by participants’ history ofenergy drinks consumption did not moderate the effects of counter claim alignment andsource credibility on the evaluations of Delight, F(1,454) = 1.39, p = .24, companycredibility, F(1,454) = .26, p = .61, and beliefs in the ad claims, F(1,454) = .07, p = .79. Discussion Study 2 replicated and extended the results of Study 1 with a higher-involvementproduct. Study 2 examined the effect of aligned messages that did not mention theparticular brand and did not explicitly undermine the specific claims with which thespecific brand was advertised. Yet, even when the aligned counter claims did not have astronger effect on participants’ beliefs in the specific ad claims than the non-alignedcounter claims, the aligned counter claims had a stronger effect on the evaluations of thebrand. This finding suggests that when the countermessage comes form a credible source,aligned counter claim will result in greater resistance even when they do not undermineconsumers’ beliefs in the specific claims of the ad. Indeed, participants in the alignedcounter claim condition reported more thoughts about the deceptiveness of Delight thanparticipants in the nonaligned counter claims condition. When the message came from the more trusted source, the aligned counter claimswere more effective than the non-aligned counter claims. These results were consistentwith the findings from the previous studies where the source of the message wasConsumer Reports. However, when the counter message came from the less trustedsources we found that the non aligned counter claims were more effective. These findingssuggest that organizations that are not perceived as credible would be more effective increating resistance by providing information that is not aligned with the target message. We manipulated the credibility of the source of the counter message by having themessage come either from the government institution U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services or “your friends at V8”, a manufacturer of vegetable juices that washeavily advertised during the time we conducted the study. Our data suggest that onparticular topics, government institutions can be perceived as less credible sources ofinformation than popular commercial companies. Perhaps such a result may be expectedgiven the recent decline among consumers in deference to government institutions(Flatters and Willmott 2009). As government agencies are been politicized to the point ofbeing characterized by many as no longer impartial, as it has been the case with the USFood and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),consumers are likely to become increasingly distrustful of government organizations. At the same time, our findings also suggest that just because a message comesfrom a commercial company, doesn’t mean that it will be perceived as less credible.Indeed, when we asked three hundred and five participants from the same subject pool as
16the participants in study 2 to evaluate the trustworthiness of various organizations, theratings of V8 were as high as the ratings of Consumer Reports, MV8 = 5.9, MCR = 6.2,F(1, 305) = 1.84, p = .18. GENERAL DISCUSSION Consumers are increasingly exposed to messages promoting products withpossible harmful effects. Thus, organizations concerned with consumer welfare areincreasingly more involved in providing consumers with counter persuasivecommunications designed to prevent consumption of such products among vulnerablepopulations. Yet, little scientific knowledge is available to advise such organizations onwhat type of counter claims would be most likely to make these efforts successful.Spurred by this gap in the consumer research literature, the present investigationexamined the relative effects of (1) counter information that undermined the specificclaims of the ad promoting the product and (2) equally negative information aboutproduct attributes not mentioned in the ad. The results revealed that when the source of the counter message is perceived ascredible, counter claims that are aligned with the ad claims will be more effective increating resistance than equally negative information that does not specifically addressthe ad claims. Such a conclusion is consistent with research demonstrating that anti-smoking advertisements reinforcing negative smoking stereotypes (e.g., “smokingstinks”, “how to spot a nerd”) can offset the effects of common tobacco ads depictingimages of young, attractive, glamorous, and sexy people who are having fun (Pechmannand Knight 2002). Our findings are also consistent with examinations of variousantismoking campaigns suggesting that whereas messages depicting the negative healtheffects of smoking have been generally ineffective, one of the most successful ways todecrease tobacco consumption was to provide evidence for the deceptiveness of tobaccoadvertising (Goldman and Glantz 1998). The results of this investigation, however, have a broader set of implications forpreventing consumption of a variety of harmful products. Skin cancer, for example, is themost common form of cancer (Glanz, Saraiya, & Wechsler, 2002). Yet, despite relativelyeasy prevention, skin cancer rates are on the rise, which is due in part to increasedexposure through the use of tanning beds. Indeed, tanning bed use is a major risk factorfor both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer (Geller et al., 2002; National CancerInstitute, 2005). Regular users of indoor tanning are eight times more likely to havemelanomas as compared to never users (Westerdahl, Ingvar, Masback, Jonsson, &Olsson, 2000, Glanz, Saraiya, & Wechsler, 2002). At the same time, to speed the tanningprocess, suntan bed manufacturers have developed tanning beds that produce higherlevels of UVB rays and thus increase the risk of skin cancer to users by (World HealthOrganization, 2003). To protect consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO)warned that there are adverse health effects associated with tanning bed use andsuggested that no person under 18 should use a tanning bed (World Health Organization,2003, 2005). Our findings, however, suggest that a different approach should beconsidered. To counter the appeals of youth and beauty used by the tanning industry,messages designed to reduce tanning should make consumers aware that tanning can
17prematurely age and wrinkle skin. When they come from a credible source, such alignedcounterclaims may be more effective than the messages currently available. In other domains, our findings suggest that messages promoting nutritious eatingshould undermine the appeals of fun, happiness and being “cool” with which unhealthyfood products are advertised (Folta, Goldberg, Economos, Bell, & Meltzer, 2006;Harrison & Marske, 2005). Messages promoting safe driving should undermine thecommercial depictions of joy and excitement of high speed. Finally, anti-debt campaignsshould attack the specific appeals of luxurious lifestyle and freedom used by creditlenders. Yet, these strategies are likely to be effective only when utilized by organizationswith high credibility. In addition to providing evidence for the effectiveness of directly undermining thespecific claims with which a product is promoted, the present research also revealed thatsuch strategy has a particular advantage when provided by a trustworthy source. That is,the aligned counter claims had an overall stronger negative effect only when the source ofcounter message was perceived as highly credible. This finding is particularly importantfor the goals of the present research, as it suggests that the use of aligned information isparticularly suitable for organizations recognized as concerned with consumer welfare.Having the trust of the consumer as an important asset, such organizations can effectivelyemploy aligned counter claims and be successful in reducing consumption of harmfulproducts. Along with these practical implications, the present research advances theconsumer behavior literature regarding (1) the study of resistance to persuasion and (2)the role of information alignment on judgment revision. Previous research has examineddifferent forms of information alignment. For example, studies demonstrate thatalignment of affect-based or cognition-based information plays an important role injudgment revision (Edwards 1990; Fabrigar and Petty 1999). Other studies haveexamined the effects of alignment of general versus specific brand positioning and thetype of negative information (Pham and Muthukrishnan 2002). The present investigationadvances these findings by examining the effects of alignment between the specificcontent of the original claim and the new information. The present investigation also contribute to the structural alignment literature byrevealing conditions under which information alignment influence judgments. Thestructural alignment research has suggested several variables that are likely to increasefocus on alignable differences. For example, disproportionate focus on alignableattributes is reduced with increased involvement (Zhang and Markman 2001).Furthermore, because the comparability of options increases when their attributes arethought about abstractly (Johnson, 1984), decisions that have distant future consequences(relative to near future consequences) involve an increased consideration of nonalignableattributes (Malkoc, Zauberman, and Ulu 2005). We advance these findings bydemonstrating that the credibility of the source of a message may be an importantvariable moderating the structural alignment effect. One important feature of the present research is that although the aligned counterclaims refuted the specific claims of the ad, they did not contain direct evidence formanipulative intent. Yet, the aligned information resulted in a greater decline in theparticipants’ ratings of the company credibility which mediated the differential effect ofaligned and non-aligned counter claims on brand evaluations. This finding is consistent
18with previous research suggesting that morally relevant facts about actions’ outcomes(e.g. effects on other people) are particularly likely to prompt spontaneous inferencesabout the actor’s beliefs and intentions (Leslie, Knobe, and Cohen, 2006; Knobe 2005;Young and Saxe 2009). Future research should examine the effects of informationalignment in the presence or absence of direct claims for the deceptiveness of the ad, assuch additional information may amplify the effect of directly undermining messageclaims. Alternatively, directly claiming that an ad is dishonest may have a backfiringeffect. As the present studies do not address these possibilities, further research is neededto examine the role of implied and directly claimed deceptiveness on brand evaluationsrevision. We examined the effects of aligned and non-aligned counter claims bothimmediately after presenting the counter message and at subsequent presentation of thead at a later point. Future research can examine the effects on aligned and non-alignedcounter claims on subsequent presentations of the ad. Because the effectiveness of thealigned counter claims was driven by changes in the credibility of the sponsor of the ad,subsequent presentations of the ad claims may further decrease participants’ evaluationsof the brand (Petrova et al., 2010). Changes in the perceived credibility of the companycan also influence evaluations of subsequent advertising from the same company. Thisprediction is consistent with results from the inoculation studies (McGuire 1961) inwhich the refutational defense created resistance not only to a subsequent exposure to thesame arguments, but also to a subsequent exposure to different arguments. Furthermore,research shows that the effects of revealing the deceptiveness of a message can transfer toother messages by the same or different sources (Darke and Ritche 2007; Darke,Ashworth, and Ritchie 2008). A possible direction for future research is to examine ifsimilar effects would be observed when the counter information refutes the claims in anad without providing evidence for its deceptiveness. Across studies, we tested our hypotheses with both high and low involvementproducts. We also specifically tested the role of product involvement as measured byparticipant use of the product category. Across studies, product involvement did notmoderate the effects of counter claim alignment. Yet, research can further examine therole of product involvement in the effects of different types of counter claims. To theextent that counter arguing a message requires cognitive resources, we can expect theobserved effects to be more likely among consumers who are involved with the productcategory and thus have the motivation and ability to process the message systematically(Romero et. at., 1996). Furthermore, under distraction or cognitive load individuals areless likely to engage in systematic processing of persuasive messages (e.g., Petty, Wells,& Brock, 1976; Osterhouse and Brock, 1970). Thus, messages presented in fast pace orwhen individuals are overloaded with information are particularly difficult to counterargue. In the present research we used print ads presented on a screen for a certain time.Since consumers typically have less time to generate counterarguments with TV ads, it ispossible to observe different effects with different presentation formats. As a final note, although this research was motivated by the goal of helping publicorganizations in protecting consumers from products with harmful effects, it provides aninsight regarding the design of successful marketing communications. Previous researchhas suggested that it is more profitable for a company to provide information that itsbrand is superior on attributes advertised by the competitor than to provide information
19about unique attributes (Zhang and Markman 2001; Zhang, Kardes, and Cronley 2002;Zhang and Markman 1998). We advance these findings by demonstrating that thecredibility of the company may be an important variable moderating this effect. We alsoprovide insight about the harmful effects that negative information can have on brandevaluations. In today’s environment, negative information is easy to distribute, whetherby news reports, internet chat rooms, blogs, brand communities, consumer protectionorganizations, or competitors. It is becoming increasingly important for companies toensure that their marketing communications can sustain negative brand information fromsuch sources. It is also becoming increasingly important for managers to be aware of theways in which consumers revise their evaluations when information undermining thebrand position becomes available. By promoting their products with information that istruthful, credible, and not likely to be refuted in future challenges, marketers can ensurethe long-term success of their brands.
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27 FIGURE 1 STUDY 1. EFFECTS OF COUNTER CLAIM ALIGNMENT ON BRAND EVALUATIONS 3 Nonaligned 2.8 counter claim 2.6 2.4 AlignedBrand evaluations counter claim 2.2 2 1.8 1.6 1.4 1.2 1 Effectiveness Safety Ad claim
28 FIGURE 2 STUDY 1. EFFECTS OF COUNTER CLAIM ALIGNMENT AND COUNTER MESSAGE CREDIBILITY ON BRAND EVALUATIONS Nonaligned 7.00 counter claim Aligned counter 6.00 claim 5.00Brand evaluations 4.00 3.00 2.00 R Sq Linear = 0.131 1.00 R Sq Linear = 0.002 0.00 0.00 2.00 4.00 6.00 8.00 Counter message credibility
29 FIGURE 3 STUDY 2. EFFECTS OF COUNTER CLAIM ALIGNMENT AND CREDIBILITY OF THE COUNTER MESSAGE SOURCE ON BRAND EVALUATIONS 6 5.9 Nonaligned counter claim 5.8Brand evaluations 5.7 Aligned 5.6 counter claim 5.5 5.4 5.3 5.2 5.1 5 Low High Credibility of the source of the counter message