According to a research conducted by Itamar Simonson, Professor of Marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, a couple of months ago, giving explicit options of comparisons could have a reverse effect on the consumer perception of the products and offerings. Simply put, if you ask the consumer to compare your brand with another competitor in the market, over any parameters (say, price, application, etc.), it could lead to negative outcomes in the purchase pattern of the consumers.

Comparative advertising, which can be either implicit (when a consumer takes the initiative to evaluate two or more products) or explicit (specifically directed by the seller or advertiser), has long been used by marketers to frame choices in ways that are favorable to their products.

When we say “product placement at the retail outlets” – we are essentially factoring two important elements – the eye span and the comparative evaluations. In this context, placing products in close proximity would ensure a subconscious comparison of the products based on the parameters laid out by the consumer.

In other cases, there is an explicit direction towards comparison, which is pushed by the advertisers. Be it price-based, market-based, delivery or service based, consumers are made to assess the effectiveness of the advertised brand after comparing it with established players in the market (or the mind of the consumer).

Incidentally, when such orientations or evaluations are ‘fed’ to the consumers, they tend to put greater weight on the comparative disadvantages rather than advantages of each option. They could feel that they might be cheated and false promises might be made, and therefore the risk element is attached from the very first step itself (Evaluation of Alternatives).

Since evaluations post-comparisons are much stronger and influential on the purchase decisions for the consumers, there is a greater amount of risk attached to such approaches and that’s why Marketers need to be slightly careful on this front.

Consumers would be more risk-averse and would like to take a middle route if possible. They do not want to be on the lower end of the offerings due to the deliverables.
Such apprehensions are more profound in case of service-oriented offerings and deliverables.

Such a trend in buying-behavior affirms that the life of mid-range products is still not over and even though some marketers are pretty bullish on a choice eventually between price-sensitive consumers on one hand and quality-sensitive on the other, I think it is time to revise our basic presumptions once again!

[Source: Explicit Comparisons May Scare Off Consumers; November 2005; Stanford BusinessStanford Graduate School of Business]

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