Is consumer arrogance driving word-of-mouth recommendations?

Discussion
Photo: @klebersmith via Twenty20
Jul 10, 2020
Tom Ryan

A new study from Michigan State University finds consumer arrogance often drives word-of-mouth and suggests that marketers may be able to leverage this “bragging” tendency.

“Arrogance is when you broadcast your superiority to others, whereas consumer arrogance is broadcasting your superiority to others via consumption,” said Ayalla Ruvio, professor of marketing at MSU and the lead author of the study, in a statement. “Whether it’s, ‘I got a better deal on a product than you,’ or, ‘Look at my new car,’ it’s all about showing others how great a consumer you are, better than them.”

In five studies, researchers found that triggering people’s sense of consumer arrogance makes them more likely to engage in word-of-mouth communication.

The tendency, however, was found to be a double-edged sword for marketers.

“While most consumers prefer to engage in positive word-of-mouth communication and talk about their consumption triumphs, we found that consumer arrogance fuels both positive and negative word-of-mouth communication,” Prof. Ruvio said.

Their sense of arrogance will lead consumers to share negative information if they regard their consumption experience as a failure. In such cases, negative word-of-mouth communication will help them reaffirm their sense of superiority, especially if the failure occurred in the presence of others.

Researchers said the findings should provide marketers with a strategic mechanism to add to their arsenal of managerial options for how to engage in the marketplace, particularly on social media.

“It is predicted that in 10 years, the conventional world of marketing will disappear and will rely only on word-of-mouth marketing — especially for those of the younger generation who do not trust marketing messages from companies, and rely on influencers, recommendations and other forms of word-of-mouth communication,” Prof. Ruvio said. “This is why the social phenomenon of consumer arrogance is critically important to understand.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of the concept of “consumer arrogance” and its link to word-of-mouth recommendations (and criticism)? Can marketers leverage such bragging tendencies?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"As every medium becomes a marketing medium, authenticity and transparency will suffer."
"I think if brands are actively trying to target that specific type of word-of-mouth recommendation, it’s likely to backfire."
"This is further proof that most WOM is just “cheap talk” and shouldn’t be taken very seriously as a meaningful indicator of the overall health/value of a customer base..."

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20 Comments on "Is consumer arrogance driving word-of-mouth recommendations?"


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Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

So Gen Z will believe those WOM messages will all be authentic, unpaid for, and believable? Sounds like a stretch.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I find the idea that conventional marketing will disappear in 10 years rather ludicrous. Sure it may become less important, sure it may evolve and become different, and sure it will be part of a wider mix. But disappear completely? No, I don’t buy it. On top of this the idea that everyone trusts influencers is a non-starter. Our own studies have shown people have a very mixed degree of faith in influencers and many, including younger consumers, positively hate influencer marketing and view it as fake and inauthentic.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

So does this mean that we will see less use of celebrities and so-called celebrities to sell product? I remember discussing an article here a few months ago where normal consumers (not celebrities) were more credible when talking about their product experiences. The question I have is where the line is between being confident and being arrogant about what you are selling. At what point does it become a negative?

Scott Norris
Guest

Credibility is indeed the key word. Would I trust George Clooney’s word on men’s fashion? Yes, yes I would, because he’s shown us over decades that he’s always well-dressed. Would I trust some college kid? It totally depends on the body of work he’s put out — a random take is only worth a random glance….

Peter Fader
BrainTrust

So this is further proof that most WOM is just “cheap talk” and shouldn’t be taken very seriously as a meaningful indicator of the overall health/value of a customer base (or the products/services they buy). Retailers should be very skeptical of conclusions drawn from such data or decisions made using it.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I’m sure I’m in the minority here (again!), however arrogant people turn me off. So, since the masses love these creeps, go ahead and leverage them for your brand!

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

Ralph you are not the only one. Arrogant spokespeople don’t make me want to spend money on a car, a pair of jeans or a cup of specialty coffee.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

No Ralph, you’ve got (at least) two in agreement. Based on my amateur research, I’d say at the moment about 40% of people like arrogance … and the percentage seems to be dropping.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Word of mouth is said to be the number one thing that brings new customers to your business. If customers like you they tell their friends, but I have a hard time believing that in 10 years the conventional world of marketing will disappear.

Yes Gen Z relies on what their friends have to say and that influencers can be convincing. But I think we have to give them more credit. They are smart kids who do more than look at social media. Like every other generation they will find their own way to best choose products and services.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

The underlying problem is that word-of-mouth marketing can and will still be driven by companies. As every medium becomes a marketing medium, authenticity and transparency will suffer. Ultimately that will only undermine already declining consumer trust in all messaging.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust

“It is predicted that in 10 years, the conventional world of marketing will disappear and will rely only on word-of-mouth marketing” seems like a bold stretch and the fact that it is followed with a qualifier (“especially for those…”) sort of contradicts the statement.

I certainly don’t disagree with the concept of consumer arrogance leading to word of mouth boasting, but marketers will find much more success if they are able to trigger WOM marketing which is excited and inclusive, with the person spreading the word wanting to invite people IN to their circle, rather than the braggadocious “I got a better deal than you” form, which won’t lead to healthy brand affinity (not to mention the personal relationships…).

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

The concept of “consumer arrogance” doesn’t sit well with me. I think if brands are actively trying to target that specific type of word-of-mouth recommendation, it’s likely to backfire. However word of mouth recommendations in general (between friends and family, less so from “influencers”) are still a powerful source of new business for many retailers. Small and local businesses, in particular, benefit greatly from positive word of mouth and can be devastated by a few negative social media posts. However I don’t agree that conventional marketing will disappear in 10 years. It will continue to change and evolve, but brands will never stop seeking additional exposure.

Raj B. Shroff
BrainTrust

I think brands have to tap into how they make (or want to make) their customers feel. If they tap into that correctly, brand loyalists will talk about it, photograph it, or just show up with it. And that will attract others who feel the same way. Having people broadcast their “superiority” seems pretty off-putting but there is a segment of the world out there for whom it works.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

So I am sitting at the stop light in my Toyota when a guy pulls up next to me in a beautiful black brand new Corvette, revs his motor (that’s how guys say “gotchya”) as he looks at me and frowns like I’m a loser. So I thought I should visit the Chevy dealership now — NOT.

I know intimidation works in some categories on various age groups (certainly not all) and that will never change. Does that mean that television advertising strategies will be to intimidate me? I hope not, I’ll switch channels so fast the ad agencies will get ulcers.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

One study proves nothing. Influencer marketing will surely grow, but conventional marketing isn’t going anywhere. Brands that continue to maintain and build authenticity will still leverage outbound marketing effectively, that is unless influencer marketing goes awry, especially via consumer arrogance, then all bets are off.

Rachelle King
BrainTrust

This is a slippery slope to hitch your marketing bandwagon. Yes consumer arrogance can (and likely will) have an impact on many brands – either positive or negative. The challenge is, their reaction is often based on a single moment in time along the purchase journey that brands really have no control over (as much as we like to believe we can control every second of every experience along journey, we can’t).

Even more, research suggests the driver behind some posts may have less to do with the brand and more to do with self-esteem and the need to drive likes or engagement on social media. Another space brands can’t control.

Marketers should be cautious about leveraging consumer arrogance in any meaningful way. Definitely watch it but know that it can backfire as fast as it can ignite word-of-mouth. This has to be balanced with more constructive methods of driving WOM that brands can influence.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

I’m tired of arrogance and bragging. The concept that having a certain product can make one “superior” and will entice other consumers to buy is not likely to replace intentional marketing for relevant brands.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

What is conventional marketing? I believe WOM is part of conventional. We’ve been relying on what “four out of five doctors recommend” since I was a kid (decades ago). The WOM and consumer arrogance is an interesting topic. While someone once said, “All PR is good PR,” a good comment or review, even if it’s laced with arrogance, can — in most instances — be better than none.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

What do I think of it? It makes me cringe. There.

That having been said, I don’t doubt there’s some truth in it, but what a “half empty” view. For every person who brags, isn’t there one (or more) who simply wants to share good news with people?

Whatever and however companies might choose to make use of reviews, I don’t think saying “we’re going to leverage arrogance” is going to get a very good one from people.

Xavier Lederer
BrainTrust

There may be a more subtle type of “consumer arrogance,” that doesn’t imply consumers bragging about their brand new car, and which triggers pretty efficient word-of-mouth. In the gifting space, the # 1 customer segment is “Heavy Gifters,” who love spending time to find unique gifts for their recipients — to show how much they care about their gift recipients. One way to make a gift unique is knowledge: this is not “just a bottle of beer,” this is “beer brewed by Belgian monks in a tiny village that few people know of;” this is not just “a sweater,” this is “a sweater made from Peruvian wool from a grass-fed alpaca farm that we visited last year.” We are certainly being arrogant when we expose our knowledge when giving these gifts, but with the intention to show how unique and important the recipient is to us — which is often how it is perceived by the recipient. And the impact on word-of-mouth is invaluable.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"As every medium becomes a marketing medium, authenticity and transparency will suffer."
"I think if brands are actively trying to target that specific type of word-of-mouth recommendation, it’s likely to backfire."
"This is further proof that most WOM is just “cheap talk” and shouldn’t be taken very seriously as a meaningful indicator of the overall health/value of a customer base..."

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