Is neutral really neutral? The effects of neutral user-generated content on product sales

Tanya Tang, Eric Fang, Feng Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article aims to specify the performance implications of neutral user-generated content (UGC) on product sales by differentiating mixed-neutral UGC, which contains an equal amount of positive and negative claims, from indifferent-neutral UGC, which includes neither positive nor negative claims. The authors propose that positive and negative UGC only provide opportunities for consumers to process product-related information, whereas both mixed- and indifferent-neutral UGC affect consumers' motivation and ability to process positive and negative UGC. The results of three studies using multiple measures (text and numerical UGC), contexts (automobiles, movies, and tablets), and methods (empirical and behavioral experiment) indicate contrasting premium and discount effects such that mixed-neutral UGC amplifies the effects of positive and negative UGC, whereas indifferent-neutral UGC attenuates them. Empirical evidence further indicates that ignoring mixed-or indifferent-neutral UGC leads to substantial under-or overestimates of the effects of positive and negative UGC. The effects of neutral UGC on product sales thus are not truly neutral, and the direction of the bias depends on both the type of UGC and the distribution of positive and negative UGC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-58
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Marketing
Volume78
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014

Keywords

  • Indifferent-neutral user-generated content
  • Mixed-neutral user-generated content
  • Opportunity-motivation-ability framework
  • Product sales
  • User-generated content

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing

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